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UK Gambling Commission Amends Requirements of Social Responsibility Code on Customer Interactions

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The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued an update on the introduction of its new remote customer interaction requirements and guidance. The regulator has also advised gambling operators to consider the contents of the announcement, as the body has now shifted the date on which some requirements will come into force and a consultation has been announced.

In April this year, UKGC published a set of new requirements to ensure companies do more to identify customers at risk of harm – Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.4.3 – and guidance to assist operators to comply with the requisites followed in June. Both the requirements and the guidance were due to take effect on September 12.

While the regulator notes the industry requested an extension to the timeframe for implementing these requirements – due to the technical challenges some companies indicated they are facing in delivering full compliance by the deadline – it has now decided that the majority of the new requirements will still come into force as planned, on September 12.

“Remote gambling operators are already subject to a duty to conduct effective customer interaction, and the new requirements reflect the minimum steps that we consider are necessary to meet that duty,” UKGC noted. However, the UKGC has also decided that certain requirements will not be brought into effect in September.

These now excluded provisions include a requirement to take timely action where indicators of vulnerability are identified and to take account of the Commission’s approach to vulnerability as set out in the UKGC’s guidance; and a requirement to prevent marketing and the take-up of new bonus offers where there are strong indicators of harm.

“In light of this extension, the Commission considers that it would be beneficial to use the time now available to conduct further consultation on matters to be addressed in the guidance associated with SR Code 3.4.3, by way of a consultation on the guidance document itself. Therefore, the requirement to take into account the Commission’s guidance on customer interaction for remote operators will also not be brought into effect in September,” UKGC said.

The UK gambling regulator said the guidance is “a living document” that is intended to be amended over time. As part of the consultation, the body will be “particularly interested” to hear about good practice in implementing the requirements, “based on the lessons learned by operators” during the period between April and September, and to hear about “any implications arising out of recent research, evidence and casework.”

“Consultation is likely to be launched during late September and will last six weeks. All views expressed in response to this six-week consultation will be carefully considered before a decision is taken on the contents of the guidance on the new requirements,” UKGC said.

Subject to consultation, the Commission’s provisional intention is to publish the guidance on the requirements “in December 2022,” with it taking effect approximately 2 months after publication.

“In the circumstances, we consider this will allow the industry a reasonable period to consider the guidance before it takes effect,” the Gambling Commission noted.

“It is the Commission’s intention, subject to consultation, to bring the remaining requirements of SR Code 3.4.3 and the associated guidance into effect on February 12, 2023,” UKGC concluded.

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Olympic Casino Faces Another Fine in Lithuania

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The Lithuania Gambling Supervisory Authority has issued another fine to UAB Olympic Casino Group Baltija following a further breach of advertising laws in the country.

The Authority fined Olympic Casino €25,000 after it found the operator featured information on its website about how customers could watch live sports events on Setanta Sports, but also encouraged users to bet on sports.

The text in question set out how customers would watch live coverage of events such as the Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A football leagues, as well as WTA tennis and Nascar motor-racing in the US.

While the promotion stated that coverage of events would be free, it also included text in relation to how customers could make deposits and withdrawals to and from their account on Olympic Casino. The advert included phrases such as “Be part of the game”.

Assessing the case, the Authority ruled the promotion was in breach of article 10, paragraph 19 of the Law on Gambling of the Republic of Lithuania, which relates to encouraging people to participate in gambling.

The Authority said the information about the possibility to watch events for free was not considered a gift, but information with which the operator sought to draw attention to its services, as well as to persuade and encourage people to participate in gambling.

However, the Authority also noted that the decision was not final and could be subject to an appeal by Olympic Casino.

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Compliance Updates

Kindred Challenges the Coercive Fine in Norway

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Kindred Group, via its wholly owned Maltese subsidiary Trannel International Ltd, has been informed that the Norwegian Gaming Authority has decided to reinstate the coercive fine against Trannel International despite the changes Kindred Group has undertaken.

Over the past month, Kindred has made wholesale changes to the brand to meet the compliance standards set out by the Norwegian regulator – which were detailed in a cease-and-desist letter handed to the subsidiary in 2019.

The changes included removing all Norwegian flags from the website and channels, changing the language on all sites from Norwegian to English, discontinuing all advertising and marketing activities in Norwegian and stopping the offer of talking to Norwegian-speaking customer service agents.

However, even with the new changes, the regulator is persisting with the “non-enforceable” fine, which Kindred believes has no legal basis and will challenge in the courts.

Kindred said in a statement: “Trannel firmly disagrees with the NGA’s assessment as it is entirely legal for Norwegian residents to access and use international gambling services, which are licensed in the EU/EEA area and offered within a safe and secure environment, Kindred will continue to accept customers residing in Norway passively.

“The NGA does not have jurisdiction over Trannel as the company is domiciled in Malta and duly licensed by the Maltese Gaming Authority. Therefore, Kindred is confident that the coercive fine cannot be enforced by the NGA outside of Norway.”

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Compliance Updates

Stanleybet Group Secures Retail Licence for Betting in Andalusia

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The Stanleybet Group has secured a sports betting retail licence to operate in the Spanish region of Andalusia.

The group has been looking at expanding in the Spanish market for some time, with a retail base in Malaga currently set to open in Q1 2023.

Stanleybet Group CEO Giovanni Garrisi said: “We had started the process for obtaining the license already in 2019, then the pandemic event inevitably slowed down the procedures. In the meantime, we continued to dialogue with the Andalusian authorities, to complete the process once everything returned to normal. Now, after obtaining the retail license for sports betting also in this other highly regulated European country, we are ready to expand into a new market, Spain, which offers great opportunities for our sector. Andalusia represents an extremely vast market with a very high development potential. We will start from Malaga, where we are already working on the opening of the first shop, scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, and then continue in the other cities.”

Antonio Stanzani, Stanleybet Country Manager for Spain, said: “The Spanish model envisages two types of shops; the ‘tienda de apuestas’, a betting agency opened directly by the operator and the ‘salon de juegos’, a slightly broader definition that includes the shop opened by private third parties, with the affiliation model. Our business model, already successfully applied in other countries, such as Belgium and Cyprus, includes both types, because we believe that flexibility is one of the factors that have led us to succeed in various markets. Our first shop will be a ‘tienda de apuestas’, to imprint and export our style also in Andalusia, but we are already in contact with several Spanish entrepreneurs who have chosen Stanleybet to start thriving and lasting partnerships in the betting and gaming industry, in which we have been a leader since 1958.”

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