UK Gambling Commission Creates Framework to Protect Children

  • New framework to protect children from gambling harm will feed into future research
  • Children's health, relationships, and finances can all be damaged by gambling
  • New checks on customers' ages, identities, and addresses come into force next week
  • Number of problem gamblers in the UK thought to have fallen slightly
Slot machine with UK flag
The new framework for children will inform future policy on how to address the negative impacts of gambling on their lives.

Damage to Health and Relationships

The UK Gambling Commission has today published a new framework that examines how gambling harms children and young people. The UKGC’s new age verification policy comes into effect next week, and the commission has also published new statistics on problem gambling.

The children’s framework is part of the UKGC’s National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, which launched a week ago. A framework for adults negatively affected by gambling was published in July 2018.

The framework uses research to understand how gambling affects children and young people across a broad range of issues. These include relationships, health, and even financial situation. A dedicated website has also been set up.

Today’s published framework was the work of several interested agencies: the UKGC, GambleAware, the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, and research body Ipsos MORI. A follow-up will aim to measure gambling harm.

The UKGC’s program director for safer gambling, Helen Rhodes, said: “Gaining a better understanding of the impact of gambling on children and young people is a key priority for the commission. Childhood and adolescence is a key stage of development and any harm experienced at this stage in life can be detrimental to the future development, confidence, and potential of young people.

“This newly released framework will provide critical insight into the range of harm that young people in Britain can experience and will help greatly in concentrating the national strategy’s prevention and education initiatives where they will have the most impact.”

The report’s contributors have invited “other researchers to build further evidence,” said Clare Wyllie, GambleAware’s director of research.

Age Checks Come Into Force

The UKGC’s new ID and age checks come into effect next week, on May 7. The rules, updated to include online platforms and lotteries, require gambling operators to verify a customer’s age and identity before allowing them to gamble. The check also includes customers’ addresses.

Operators that have not completed the verification procedures for existing customers before May 7 will have to stop that person from gambling until the check-up is done. The measure aims to improve how operators can spot and even block problem gamblers. The ID checks will also help customers to self-exclude if they are experiencing gambling problems.

Gambling companies have been told that if they cannot verify a customer before the deadline, they have no legal right to confiscate that player’s funds.

The markets regulator in the UK last year confirmed that “consumers are legally entitled to money which they have deposited in their account, to winnings made with money they have deposited and gambled, and winnings made from a bonus where the relevant conditions have been met.”

Number of Problem Gambler Numbers Falls

The UKGC offered more good news today, when it published its biannual statistics on the gambling industry. The survey of gambling habits indicates that the number of problem gamblers has fallen slightly. The research, which covered the period April 2018 to March 2019, showed that problem gambling was at its lowest rate since 2014.

Among those who responded to the survey, just 0.4% were identified as having gambling problems, down from 0.7% in 2017. And 1.3% were identified as being “at risk” of becoming a problem gambler, down from 2% in 2017. Nationwide, the UK currently has an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers and two million “at risk” gamblers.

The UKGC was quick to reinforce the message that preventing harm from gambling was still vital.

Its spokesperson said: “While the data is statistically stable, it’s positive that we’re not seeing evidence of growing numbers of problem gambling. However, this cannot be used as a reason to reduce our focus on addressing overall gambling harms.

“That is why the newly published national strategy to reduce gambling harms sets out a clear vision to make better and faster progress to reduce gambling harms.”

The UKGC also pointed out that the Populus, which collated the statistics, had used a short version of the problem gambling severity index (PGSI). The regulator uses the full version, which it said was “more robust” in producing reliable figures.