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Online gamblers who lose £500 or more a month to face extra checks

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Online gamblers who lose £500 or more a month are to face extra checks from August, the regulator has confirmed, as part of a large package of measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable customers.

The extra checks come in from 30 August, and the threshold for qualifying will fall to £150 of online betting losses a month from 28 February next year, the Gambling Commission said.

On 17 January, features of online casinos and poker platforms that give players the illusion of control, including “turbo” and “slam stops” will also be banned, alongside autoplay and sounds and visuals that celebrate returns less than or equal to the stake. A voluntary ban for some features has existed since 2021.

The latest checks have been introduced after the government published a white paper on gambling reform last year, which included proposals for a mandatory levy to fund addiction treatment, education and research, as well as the affordability checks and new online slot machine limits.

The white paper had proposed a lower cap of £125 on monthly spending to trigger extra checks, a figure deemed “workable” by Charles Ritchie, the co-founder of Gambling with Lives, a charity that supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide and campaigns for change.

Ritchie said: “We know that the onset of addiction can be rapid and that some gambling products harm half the people who use them. So the overwhelming message from people who have been harmed by gambling is that intervention needs to be early and effective.”

From August, operators will use publicly available data to identify customers who might be financially vulnerable, including those subject to bankruptcy orders or with a history of unpaid debts, but stopping short of including a customer’s postcode or job title.

Using the data, gambling companies could encourage customers deemed to be at risk from harm to set a deposit limit, or in more extreme cases, limit the amount the customer spends or close their account entirely.

The regulator also announced a pilot of financial assessments for customers at risk of losing large amounts in a short time. The assessments aim to cut down on instances of rapid financial loss, such as when one betting company enabled a customer to spend £245,000 in three months despite knowing that she was an NHS nurse earning £30,000, or another when a customer lost £70,000 over 10 hours a day after opening the account.

Ritchie said the lack of transparency on the trigger levels for these assessments and the format of the financial risk checks was disappointing. The white paper had proposed a trigger of £1,000 in losses over 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.

Ministers have insisted such checks should be “frictionless” for the consumer, using credit reference agency data rather than requesting payslips or bank statements as some operators do now. Stuart Andrew, the minister for gambling policy, said that only 20% of customers would face checks at the proposed limits and that this would take place in the background without the customer knowing. The pilot is expected to last six months.

Andrew Rhodes, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said the rules were being introduced after a consultation process with customers and other parties. “We have to get the balance right between protecting people from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm and respecting the freedom of adults to engage in an activity that the vast majority do so without experiencing harm,” he said.

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