As we enter a new financial year a few operators will be rubbing their heads as they eye up the fines issued by the Gambling Commission over the last few months. One of the more notable, although seemingly not directly relevant for the vast majority of operators, being the £3.15 million levied at Camelot UK Limited for failures relating to its mobile app. Whilst the fine for the soon to be outgoing national lottery operator is both relatively small and not relatable for a number of operators- it is important to look behind the headlines and discover what reasons, or failings, have been identified.
In the case of Camelot, the failings are actually multi-operator relevant. The first two failings relate to technological issues- a warning to operators that the regulator is interested in and will investigate such failures. Remembers changes to gambling facilities will likely be a key event notification.
The third failing is of particular note, the operator failed to prevent marketing messages going out to individuals who had self-excluded. Perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact none of those who had the marketing messages sent to them were then able to participate in the lottery. This goes some way to demonstrate the need for effective systems in place throughout, one failing did not lead to another arguable larger, failing. In the circumstances the Commission decided that whilst there were issues to address, ‘There was no evidence of reckless or negligent behaviour presented and nor was there any attempt to conceal’ in relation to governance and controls.
Sky Betting and Gaming also came under the spotlight this month for issues of self-exclusion, with a number of their own self-excluded customers receiving promotional marketing material. The Commission followed this fine up with a warning to all operators to check their policies and procedures are robust enough to prevent any occurrences of self-excluded customers being contacted in such a way. Such failings are in direct contravention of SRCP 3.5.3(2) which states that Licensees must, as soon as practicable, take all reasonable steps to prevent any marketing material being sent to a self-excluded customer.
Larger fines for wider failings relating to social responsibility and anti-money laundering handed out this month provide some hidden and helpful guidance for operators. With a great deal of anti-money laundering guidance being risk based, any operators seeking more practical guidance may find the news section of the Gambling Commission website of great use.
Take for example the finding of not effectively identifying players at risk of harm because their policies determined financial checks should be carried out after a customer had deposited £40,000. This is a clear steer to amend procedures to carry out such checks before a customer is allowed to play. Similarly the findings provide some useful tips of what is not acceptable in terms of customer interactions. Customer interactions of course vary from operator to operator and venue to venue, with so many factors at play determining how such an interaction is to be carried out. Some ‘what not to do’s’ are useful for staff training as well as updating policies-
- Failing to establish adequate financial limits and spends as triggers
- Not making customers aware of the full range of tools and options available to self-limit
- Not conducting proactive analysis of spend
- An email to customers without any further interaction required.
The most prominent findings in the case against Genesis Global Limited related to ‘meaningful’ customer interactions and only asking questions after the event. Once again a reminder for operators to use the Gambling Commissions guidance on customer interactions (identify-interact-evaluate) and ensure their staff are carrying out thorough interactions with customers. Being proactive is another key theme over the last couple of months, there is a lot of technology available to assist operators which can be explored- but as Camelot has demonstrated be careful not to rely solely on technology, if it fails a backup will be needed.
The need to evidence policies in practice is hammered home again by these findings. It is not enough to have a set of perfectly drafted policies and procedures gathering dust, they must be implemented and operators need to be able to evidence this.
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