How will the UKGC tackle underage gambling in 2019?

A blog post by Alex Lafferty, Business Development Director

At the end of April, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will conclude its most recent consultation, which will have significant implications for UK licensees and their customers.

The aim of the consultation is to strengthen age & identity verification criteria for gaming operators regulated and operating within the UK. Ultimately, to protect customers and tackle important issues such as underage gambling, identity fraud and money laundering.

Age verification has been a hotly debated issue in recent months, and it isn’t just important to the gambling community. There are also broader concerns from the government and general society that those under the age of 18 are not given access to gambling websites. A recent study shows that the number of child gamblers has quadrupled in just two years.

So what does the future hold for age verification for the UK gambling industry post April 2019?

72-hour rule

In line with UKGC regulations, operators currently have a 72-hour window to verify the age of newly acquired customers. This is a point of contention as it means underage gamblers can potentially access harmful content within this timeframe.

So, from a practical perspective, what will happen? It’s highly likely that in April 2019 AV (age verification) will become enforced from the point of customer deposit, rather than within a specified timeframe.

Alternatively, AV checks may also be enforced at the point of customer registration, which would be the most reliable way to ensure underage gambling does not take place.

The UKGC will ultimately take a final view on where and when this AV check takes place within the customer journey. Having spoken at length with our own customers, we’re confident that the vast majority of the industry will welcome a change to the existing 72-hour AV rule. It promotes the ethos of responsible and safer gambling, whilst ensuring the protection of children from accessing harmful online content.

Frictionless acquisition funnel

We work with the UK’s biggest gambling operators, and a key theme we keep hearing is the idea of a “frictionless acquisition funnel”. This essentially means customers can be on-boarded as quickly and effortlessly as possible.

More friction equals less conversion, which ultimately leads to less depositing players and a negative experience for the customer, which no one wants. The introduction of AV at point of registration or deposit is not a huge obstacle for operators to overcome. A solution can be found by slight modifications to the customer journey, utilising additional quick response fixed data points, or as a final resort, collecting a document for proof of age.

Free-to-Play Games

Another likely outcome of the consultation in April is that Free-to-Play (F2P) games will be affected. At present, AV checks are not mandatory for F2P games, so whether or not there is a prize involved for competing, those under the age of 18 can access this type of content.

The UKGC is concerned that F2P products are predominantly used by the industry as a means to convert customers into paying (P2P) players. With this in mind, our view is that April’s consultation will bring in measures to ensure AV checks are conducted on all free to play customers upon registration.

At this stage, we can’t be sure exactly what policy amendments the UKGC will finalise within the April consultation. But we do know that customer safety, responsible gambling and player age verification will be top of the agenda.

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