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The Gambling Commission (UKGC) has set out to combat a “very high level of misunderstanding” on the topic of affordability checks for UK gamblers.

Affordability checks – or financial risk checks – are currently the subject of a consultation after their implementation was recommended by the government’s Gambling Act review.

The consultation was launched five weeks ago and has received more than 1,500 responses.

The topic has dominated column inches in publications such as the Racing Post while being widely discussed by politicians, with both MPs and punters expressing concern over the potentially intrusive nature of the checks.

UKGC CEO Rhodes has sought to alleviate some of those concerns in a blog post published today (7 September).

He said responses to the consultation so far prove a significant amount of “misinformation” has been spread on the subject of financial risk checks.

“What is clear from some of those responses, and from commentary in the press and on social media, is that there’s a very high level of misunderstanding about what these consultations actually say, particularly when it comes to financial risk checks,” said Rhodes.

“That misinformation covers things like suggesting that large numbers of people will be affected by the checks, that personal credit scores can be affected, or that they’ll be introduced in betting shops and on racecourses,” he added.

What do the proposals say?

The UKGC has described its financial risk assessments as frictionless and estimated they will apply to around 3% of UK gambling accounts.

These checks will take place via credit reference agencies and will not impact credit scores.

According to the UKGC, nearly all gambling customers, and especially high spenders, have a credit reference file which can be checked frictionlessly.

In cases where this can’t happen, a customer will be asked to consent to data sharing via a third-party open banking provider.

If the customer does not consent, they would then be asked to provide other evidence such as payslips and bank statements to operators for risk assessment purposes.

The UKGC estimates this would only impact around 0.3% of UK account holders.

Light touch or heavy handed?

The consultation is currently seeking views on two types of checks.

The first is a light touch financial vulnerability check, which would be carried out on around 20% of UK customer accounts, according to the UKGC.

These checks use publicly available data to identify customers who might be financially vulnerable, by being subject to a bankruptcy order, for example. Some licensed operators already conduct these assessments at the point of registration.

The UKGC has recommended these checks kick in at a £125 net loss within a 30-day rolling period or at £500 within a rolling 365-day period.

The second type of check is a more detailed financial risk assessment, to be conducted at “unusually” high loss levels to investigate the potential for harm.

The UKGC has recommended these checks apply where losses are greater than £1,000 within a rolling 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days, with lower thresholds proposed for gamblers aged between 18 and 24.

In conclusion

The UKGC has claimed its proposals will affect “only the very highest spending customers” where the impacts of harm may be severe.

It said the suggestion these checks would inconvenience a large amount of customers was a “key myth” it was looking to dispel.

The full list of questions, including concerns around the black market and the regulatory burden on operators, can be accessed here.

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