The Operator-Regulator Relationship and a Workable Affordability Framework

Adam Doyle (l.), head of gaming at TruNarrative, examines the current operator and regulator relationship in the UK, and finds a need for better communication, operational agility and—above all—some realistic, achievable industry goals.

The Operator-Regulator Relationship and a Workable Affordability Framework

According to a GambleAware survey, 2.7 percent of the British adult population (some 1.4 million people) are problem gamblers. Other experts argue this number is actually closer to just 0.7 percent.

Whilst the jury is out on the actual figure, in May 2021 the UK Gambling Commission updated its consultation on introducing affordability thresholds and required actions for players betting online. Specifically, it shared the feedback on its Remote Customer Interaction Consultation, following concerns from some 13,000 respondents.

Opinions from the industry were that of shock at the prospect of turning the experience of placing a bet into something akin to applying for a loan.

Compliance Requirements: A Constantly Moving Target

Against the legacy of the now 16-year-old Gambling Act 2005, there are clearly several new regulatory issues to consider. They include: what metrics define affordable gambling for any given individual? What measures should be imposed to verify or monitor affordability? And how should operators manage & execute remote customer interaction?

The response to the Commission’s initial proposal for a £100 fixed limit cap saw it quickly reconsider and seek further opinions.

There is little doubt in the industry that new regulatory requirements will be imposed soon, but any new regulation should take into account the practicality of implementation and have a realistic time frame.

It is likely that these will include effort to reduce significant losses over both short and long term; assessment of overall financial vulnerability; and processes to prevent players being harmed by their level of gambling.

Additionally, operators expect any new regulation to change and evolve over the coming years.

Change Is Inevitable

In any regulated industry, change is inevitable. The ability to respond quickly, and introduce new operational procedures and processes, is a per-requisite for survival and legal compliance.

Take, for instance, the Gambling Commission’s guidance in May 2021 for online operators2, issued to address the Commission’s analysis of the impact that COVID-19 is having on consumers and the industry during lock down. Multiple requirements included interacting with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play; reviewing thresholds and triggers for new customers; conducting affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds, temporarily blocking play where warranted; and implementing continual monitoring of their customer base to identify changes in play, spend or behaviors.

These are not, patently, trivial demands. To put that in sharp context, I know operators for whom making the above changes took some six to twelve weeks—enough time for the goalposts to have been moved again.

Regulatory Agility Shouldn’t Require Code

For most gaming operators, introducing systemic changes creates a significant IT burden. Older proprietary business systems require new changes to be developed, coded, tested, and potentially integrated. The process can take time, as well as consuming costly IT resource.

Moreover, new regulations will require the implementation of new technology, including advanced decision-making across and multiple new data sources.

Meaning such system agility and open architecture will need to become the norm, not the exception.

Let’s Talk (About The Real World)

Providers of regulatory technology like me in my role at TruNarrative can play an integral role in helping to inform and guide regulators when making policy decisions. No-one wants to see vulnerable players placed at risk, and there are several ways technology can help achieve a socially responsible, yet workable and economically viable, online gaming environment.

But for those who may not have access to the technology they need, the process of changing to accommodate waves of new regulation takes time, money and resources that the operator may not have.

Achievable Implementation Matters

In summary, new regulation is inevitable and essential to ensure the ongoing protection of players. Change should be formulated in partnership with regulators, operators and technology companies, to ensure robust and timely compliance with any new regulation. We need to ensure both established and smaller operators have access to the data and technology to stay compliant and protect players.

Do you agree? Let me know.

About Adam Doyle

Adam Doyle is a specialist in identity, risk and compliance within the regulated global gaming sector. Adam has experience heading up the Gambling Division for GBG & now TruNarrative, and also held a role as a sales director for the platform provider Bede Gaming, providing him an industry leading understanding from both sides of operator / supplier relationship.

At TruNarrative he has helped multiple high profile operators streamline player onboarding, expand into new jurisdictions across Europe and the US and maintain compliance with current & future regulation.

Get in touch: