The Gambling Commission (“Commission”), in alignment with the Government’s Gambling White Paper, has been advancing its initiatives on financial risk checks, a critical measure to identify and support players at financial risk due to gambling. This progress is part of the wider consultations launched in summer 2023. In response to the significant public interest in these measures, the Commission has worked closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to ensure that the implementation of these checks is as seamless as possible for the majority of players involved. 

The approach to these financial risk checks has been bifurcated into two distinct strategies. Firstly, frictionless financial vulnerability checks will be employed to detect signs of financial distress, such as bankruptcy or a history of unpaid debts, using publicly available data. These checks will initially be implemented at a higher threshold, transitioning to a lower threshold over time for smoother consumer adaptation, without necessitating the disclosure of personal details like postcodes or job titles.  

Secondly, the Commission proposes enhanced financial risk assessments for situations involving unusually high levels of losses. This will involve a pilot program to test data-sharing methods with credit reference agencies and gambling businesses. Spanning 4-6 months, this pilot will engage a variety of operators and focus on refining the process without immediate action based on the data. 

The pilot program is designed to gather essential information for future decisions and to ensure that operators continue to apply existing consumer safety measures. The data collected during this period will guide the final implementation strategies post-pilot. The Commission’s approach is underpinned by five guiding principles 

  1. Refining the final requirements through pilot feedback,  
  2. Ensuring a frictionless assessment process for most players,  
  3. Supporting players at risk of harm,  
  4. Viewing financial risk assessments as part of a broader harm prevention strategy, and  
  5. Conducting a separate, thorough evaluation of the policy focused on consumer experiences and perspectives. 

In acknowledging the complexity of balancing the protection of vulnerable individuals with the freedom for others to gamble safely, the Commission emphasizes that financial risk checks are only a part of a comprehensive strategy. This strategy aims to enhance consumer protection and elevate industry standards, aligning with the broader objectives of the Government’s White Paper proposals.

Upcoming Debate in Parliament  

Adding to this context, Member of Parliament (MPs) will debate a petition concerning financial risk checks for gambling on Monday, 26 February 2024. This debate, sparked by a petition with over 103,000 signatures, calls for the abandonment of planned affordability checks. Critics argue these checks could be discriminatory, potentially assessing risk based on factors like postcode or job title. 

Christina Rees MP, a member of the Petitions Committee, will open the debate, which will see participation from MPs across parties and a government minister’s response. The Government, in its response to the petition last November, emphasized its commitment to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks. 

This upcoming debate underscores the ongoing discussion about the balance between effective regulation and individual freedoms in the realm of gambling, highlighting the diverse opinions and complexities surrounding the implementation of financial risk checks.