SMcArthur warned online gambling operators that as the industry is going through “uncertain and unsettling times” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he expects operators to be “very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty,” and if the Commission sees irresponsible behavior, it “will step in immediately.”

Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), wrote a public letter to online gambling firms acknowledging the impact that the response to the coronavirus outbreak has had on the industry in Great Britain and reminding operators that consumer protection “must be paramount.”

According to McArthur, the Commission has been drawing up an initial assessment on the impact recent events will have on the gambling industry and “assessing how we should approach our own work over the coming months.”

The social distancing measures that have been imposed this week in Great Britain now mean that anyone other than key workers will be at home for most of the day, and according to the UKGC, they are already seeing reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming, and virtual sports.

As a result of these recent events, risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased, McArthur says, so operators must be especially aware that protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling needs to remain “a major priority.”

As regards consumer protection, the commission said operators must be very mindful that some customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom, so they are expected to “act responsibly, especially around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions.” and “step in if they are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.”

McArthur then referred to responsible marketing, saying the commission expects operators to “onboard new customers in a socially responsible way,” warning them not to “exploit the current situation for marketing purposes.”

“You should be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gaming products to customers who signed up with you in order to bet and we expect you to ensure that your affiliates are conducting themselves appropriately.”

McArthur went on explaining they expect online firms to work with the Commission in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with “both the letter or the spirit of the regulatory framework we have set.”

Finally, he warned operators that if the UKGC sees irresponsible behavior, they will step in immediately. “Whilst I know that the current climate is unprecedented, gambling operators must play their part in making sure that people are kept safe.”

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