Affordability checks are coming, whether gaming operators are ready or not

Affordability checks are coming, whether gaming operators are ready or not

Keeping players safe online is right for players and gambling operators. All participants in the gambling industry have a social responsibility to create this safe environment.

Affordability, or the question of how much money can a player afford to spend on gambling, is a key part of this safe environment.

Verifying the identity of a new customer is an essential part of onboarding a new customer however it doesn’t tell the operator how much they can afford to spend. Asking the customer to provide documentary evidence of income creates friction for the customer, requires manual checking by the operator and is open to abuse by the customer - is it a genuine document?

The Benefits of Robust Affordability Checks

Understanding affordability helps you protect players from gambling beyond their means. With the right affordability solution, there are also fringe benefits of creating a single customer view and enhancing your corporate social responsibility

Responsible gambling and creating a safe environment for players is a corporate social responsibility for everyone in the gambling industry. Gambling operators have taken steps to promote responsible gambling by tightening checks on the identity of their players, ensuring that underage players cannot open accounts and improving checks on how much players can afford to spend.

1. Single Customer View in Gaming

In February 2020 the Gambling Commission encouraged the online gambling industry to build a ‘Single Customer View’ (SCV) programme across all their brands, which could enable a comprehensive view of their customer’s online gambling behaviour, thus limiting gambling harms.

While this reduces the risk of overspend with a single operator it does little to stop at-risk players opening accounts across multiple operators and losing more money than they can afford to lose. According to the Gambling Commission online gamblers have an average of three online accounts with 56% of online players having more than one account. The solution here, therefore, comes from the proposed sharing of behavioural data between gambling operators in order to identify individuals who may be ‘at-risk’ of gambling related harms. As it currently stands, there are no plans on behalf of the Gambling Commision to mandate a shared SCV solution, but there is the expectation that the industry will begin to develop, test and eventually adopt this cross-operator SCV solution. Industry leaders are being invited to do so in collaboration with the Commision and the Information Commissioner’s Office, within a Sandbox environment.

2. Assessing Customer Disposable income in Gaming 

In its 2020 Enforcement report the Gambling Commission highlighted the need for a better understanding by operators of how much disposable income their customers have, to provide a guide for gambling spend:

It said: “Twelve months ago, we recommended that operators reassess their framework on triggers to consider their customer base and individual customer’s disposable income levels as a starting point for setting benchmark triggers.

The intention behind this was to ensure vulnerable customers were identified as early as possible and interacted with appropriately. Despite this recommendation, the compliance and enforcement teams have continued to review cases where, in the last twelve months, individuals have demonstrated gambling-related harm indicators and still been able to continue to gamble without effective engagement.

Furthermore, these individuals have funded their gambling without satisfactory affordability checks and appropriate evidence being obtained.”

Robust and digital affordability checks create a powerful, frictionless, way to assess a customer’s ability to pay and play.

Statistical, demographic data can be deployed in the first instance to provide a view of affordability. For granular, individual, customer level checks then current account turnover provides a view of funds in and out of a current account to verify the stated income. Of course, this check is only undertaken with the customer’s consent.

Using this data, a gambling operator can take a considered view as to how much money they can allow a customer to spend before imposing restrictions.

'Now is the time'

Affordability checks can also contribute to identifying potentially fraudulent customer behaviour, for example using gambling to launder the proceeds of crime, by identifying unusual spend patterns.

GBG Senior Business Development Manager Rebekah Jackson said: “Rather than waiting for the Gambling Commission to impose affordability checks, now is the time to protect your customers and your business by implementing digital affordability checks when customers sign up or their spend behaviour changes.”

Safeguard customer spending

Protect players from gambling beyond their means and enhance your commitment to responsible gambling.