The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is under fire again, this time from law firm Mishcon de Reya, over changes made to its responsible gambling measures, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawyers said that new provisions set out by the commission presented operational challenges to the companies asked to introduce them, and that the process was carried through in contravention of licensing rules that say such alterations should only be introduced after consultation.

According to the lawyers, the new fresh guidance should be taken into account and shouldn’t be mandatory for gambling operators, but they expressed concerns that the UKGC is likely to regard these changes as requirements when it comes to enforcement.

The UKGC changes include demands that operators review their thresholds and triggers that they use to track the vulnerability of their customers, in order to make sure that they are reflecting the changed circumstances of many consumers going through the current lockdown. The changes require a reset for early warning signs in the areas of increasing time or money spent on gaming.

The commission has also asked for procedures to be put into place to continually monitor the gambling companies’ customer base, with the purpose of identifying customers whose patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks. Alongside these measures, operators are being asked to apply affordability assessments, limiting further play until these are complete.

Speaking about the changes, the law firm said that many in the industry would regard this as another example of the regulator applying stringent rules in the absence of any evidence to suggest that there was a significant increase in problem gambling. However, they also stressed that it was important for individual firms to comply in the short term:

“For the time being, licensees should take steps to implement the new measures. In the current political climate and in the interests of potentially vulnerable consumers, the industry needs to continue to act responsibly and be seen to be doing so.”

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