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Strict procedures for online operators

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Online gambling operators will have to keep tabs on problem gamblers and advise customers how much time and money they have spent on gambling websites under a draft Code of Practice published by the Gambling Commission on Friday.

Conditions and Codes of Practice, which will form part of a major shake up of the entire gambling industry, are due to take place in September 2007 when the Gambling Act comes fully into force.

The Act is designed to protect children and vulnerable people in the face of a sharp rise in gambling at internet casinos and on roulette machines in bookmakers. Its provisions apply to casinos, bingo clubs, lotteries and gaming machines, as well as betting and online gambling, which are being brought under the Gambling Commission's jurisdiction for the first time.

The draft Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice require that:

  • All gambling operators must have published policies and procedures for promoting socially responsible gambling. These must include how they will contribute to research, to education about the risks of gambling, and to the treatment of problem gamblers.
  • Information about responsible gambling and help available to problem gamblers must be prominently displayed wherever gambling takes place, as well as in discreet areas such as toilets. Online operators must make this information accessible on their home and login pages.
  • Operators must exclude people in cases where there are clear signs of problem gambling, and customers who feel they have a problem must also be able to exclude themselves.
  • Casino and bingo operators must introduce measures to control continuous and repetitive play, such as designing sites and implementing procedures to encourage breaks in play and making customers aware of the time they have spent gambling. Alcohol must not be used as an inducement to encourage people to gamble. Strict technical standards will be imposed to control the speed of gaming machines. Online operators must make sure that customers are aware of how much time and money they have spent on their sites.
  • Operators must train their staff about problem gambling and about dealing with customers who may be affected.
  • Operators must follow strict procedures to prevent underage gambling, including age checks on anyone who appears to be under 21. Specific rules will apply to casinos, which will be required to employ trained supervisors to keep anyone underage away from gambling. Online operators must carry out random credit card checks, and filtering software must be made available to allow adults to block access by children and young people.
  • Key staff such as managing and finance directors must be licensed by the commission, as must casino employees such as dealers and cashiers. The application process for those licences is an important step in keeping crime out of gambling.
  • The rules of games, odds, house edge and average return to the player must all be clearly displayed, and operators must have well-publicised complaints procedures that include an external, independent element.

"We will monitor all British gambling operators to make sure they comply with our rules," Gambling Commission chairman Peter Dean said. "We have the power to fine or revoke the licences of those who fail to do so, and to prosecute illegal gambling. We won't hesitate to use these powers if need be."

Responses to the consultation should be made by 2 June.

See: The draft Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (134-page/474 KB PDF)

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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