UKGC Fumbles Consultations Early On

UKGC Fumbles Consultations Early On

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has this week made early stumbles in the Gambling Review consultations as it hits a double whammy with an error in the online slot consult data, and the Gamblers Consumer Forum (GCF) contacted the UK’s statistics regulator to raise concerns over figures presented by the Commission.

Data Error with Online Slot Consultations

The first error concerns the data used to inform the online slot consultations, with the government admitting they had misquoted the rate of problem gamblers aged between 16-24 at 1.5%. This is the rate for males in that age group. The total rate across both sexes is 0.8%.

Due to the error, the government and UKGC have pushed the online slot consultations to discuss stake-per-spin limits, with suggested additional measures for players aged 18-24.

Despite the misquoted data, Health Survey England, 2018 noted the rate of problem gambling in this age group was 1%, making it the highest rate witnessed across all gamblers. This data has led the government and UKGC to conclude gamblers between these ages are the most at-risk group for gambling harm, thus needing more protective measures.

The White Paper, published in April, suggests slot limits per spin of £2 to £15 to “structurally limit the risks of harmful play”. It specifically targets the new rules at online slot machines as these games enable players to lose the most per gaming session. The online slot consultations are now scheduled to take place on October 4th.

Gamblers Consumer Forum Letter

In the second headline-making story of the week, also concerning a potential data issue, The GCF has written to the UK Statistics Authority for clarification on numbers released by the UKGC, including whether “over a million accounts will be impacted by putting in place stricter affordability checks”, or around 3% of accounts. The GCF has requested information about the methodology used to generate these estimates.

Thus far, the Commission’s consultations table suggests that 60,000 accounts would be assessed under the new rules, qualifying for binge gambling, with a further one million accounts qualifying due to significant losses in the preceding 12 months.

According to the GCF, “The proposed policy changes are predicated on the premise that ‘only 3%’ of betting accounts would be subject to checks…The CEO of the Gambling Commission has made this claim on several occasions, most recently in both the CMS Select Committee and in an open letter to Racing Post readers last week.

This figure is being used both to assuage opposition to affordability checks. As a means to promote the concept of ‘frictionless’ checks, despite the fact, based on evidence where affordability checks are already taking place, this is practically impossible.”

The GCF called into question the lack of details regarding the precise study and sample conditions, the lack of account for the COVID-19 pandemic on player behaviour and other areas.

The Commission stats and data analysis have been called into question just one week after they published clarification regarding affordability checks for operators, hoping for a more informed consultation process in the following weeks.

Unfortunately, with the Gambling Review bringing significant, profit-hitting changes to operators, the Commission and government need to ensure all their data is in order and their analysis evidence-led. Now is not the time for coming up short, especially with a general election in January and all eyes on gambling reform.

New PG Metrics in Town?

Regarding data and errors, UKGC chief Andrew Rhodes has recently called out the gambling industry for using the statistically stable rate of problem gambling across the population as reasoning for a continuing, and not increasing, level of protection.

Rhodes said that “nobody is well-served by statistics being misused to further an argument”, adding it’s misleading to label some gambling types as less risky and others more. The Commission is hard at work creating a new framework, better designed to collect accurate data on gambling harm.

The current collection method is viewed as misrepresentative due to collection problems; it’s based on the whole UK population rather than those who gamble, limiting its scope.

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