UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), has reiterated the regulator’s vision for frictionless affordability checks in the British betting payments journey.

The UKGC has been engaged in extensive industry consultations since the publication of the Gambling Act review White Paper in April last year. Affordability checks, consisting of financial vulnerability checks and financial risk assessments, have been a key area of focus.

In a speech at the Westminster Media Forum, Rhodes asserted that betting operators will only have to implement enhanced checks after light touch checks have been utilised. In the UKGC and government’s vision, the vast majority of checks will be light touch.

In addition, authorities will only mandate its affordability check model after a pilot phase has been concluded. This trial period is scheduled to begin on 30 August, rolling out over another three phases. 

“These proposals are aimed at better identification of acutely financially vulnerable online customers,” Rhodes said. “The intention being to identify and support customers such as those subject to bankruptcy orders or those with a history of unpaid debts.”

Checks will begin on 30 August at a minimum loss of £500 a month, which will be reduced to £150 from 28 February 2025. In cases where more enhanced checks are required, the UKGC and government have previously outlined plans to use Open Banking technology for customer data sharing.

However, the prospect of enhanced risk checks has led to concern among some operators and other betting stakeholders. Many have raised worries that customers could be deterred from the regulated betting industry by overly intrusive checks. Horse racing stakeholders were able to amass enough signatures on a petition to see this debated before parliament.

Rhodes remarked: “In line with the government’s White Paper aims, these enhanced checks will only be introduced if the pilot proves they can be done in a frictionless manner, based on data-sharing.”

In addition to the checks, the UKGC also has plans for financial vulnerability assessments, as detailed above. These will also be subject to a pilot phase, during which the Commission will work with credit reference agencies and gambling businesses to assess consumer impact and inform thresholds.

“We expect our pilot to last six months,” Rhodes continued. “Following the pilot, we will then decide whether permanent rules will be implemented but this will not be done until the data-sharing is frictionless for the vast majority of customers who are checked.

“And to be clear, the assessments are not being rolled out in a live environment. It’s also important to remember that neither the light touch checks nor the financial risk assessment pilot will affect consumer credit ratings.”

The Gambling Act review White Paper was full of various recommendations for the future of British betting regulation, with suggestions relating to many areas other than payments.

Financial risk and affordability checks have been one of the most extensively debated topics, however, and the Commission has made ironing these recommendations out a key priority in the year since the White Paper’s publication.