UK Gambling Commission Announces Radical Overhaul of Casino VIP Programmes

VIP LogoThe UK Gambling Commission has toughened their rules regarding the VIP schemes offered by online casinos in an attempt to eliminate ‘irresponsible incentivisation’ in the industry.

The governing body has released new guidelines by which operators must abide, with the overarching ambition to stop casino brands from introducing VIP schemes to high rollers that are protected by questionable terms & conditions.

The move has been made after the UKGC identified a clear pattern of firms exploiting high value customers (HVCs), failing to protect them in the same way that they do players who might be broadly classed as ‘non high value’.

Following a comprehensive consultation period, the Commission has announced that a raft of new measures will come into power on October 31. Their chief executive, Neil McArthur, said in a press release: “We have introduced these new rules to stamp out malpractice in the management of ‘VIP’ customers and to make gambling safer.

“Our enforcement work has identified too many cases of misconduct in the management of VIP schemes and this is the last chance for operators to show they can operate such schemes appropriately.”

What are the New VIP Guidelines?

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Any casino brand offering a VIP programme must now adhere to a series of new measures, otherwise they face the risk of action courtesy of the UKGC’s suite of available disciplinary powers.

These include:

  • Ensuring that customer spending is ‘affordable’ and ‘sustainable’
  • Assessing whether problem gambling behaviours, or heightened risk of vulnerability, are being displayed by an individual
  • Maintaining a database of each VIPs identity, occupation and source of income
  • Conducting ongoing checks to ensure the individual is spending an appropriate amount on their gaming

Crucially, the new rules also mean that operators have to nominate a designated individual to manage their VIP scheme – this person must hold a personal management licence (PML), and thus they are uniquely accountable for the integrity of the firm’s programme.

The consequences for not following the guidelines could range from conduct warnings and fines to licences being revoked, and McArthur has been quick to point out that the UKGC would even consider banning incentivisation schemes altogether. “Operators can be in no doubt about our expectations. If significant improvements are not made, we will have no choice but to take further action and ban such schemes.

“We understand that the number of customers signed up to ‘VIP’ schemes has already reduced by 70% since we challenged the industry to get its house in order, last year. Whilst that is a sign of the positive impact our innovative approach to collaborative working can have, these new rules are designed to ensure progress continues to be made to protect vulnerable customers.”

Getting Serious

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The changes to the VIP scheme guidelines is just one of a raft of changes that the UKGC is implementing as it looks to tighten the rules governing online casinos to ensure a safer and more responsible gaming environment.

These include a more robust approach to age verification and ID checks and enhanced customer interaction, in which casinos will be tasked with assessing risk in their players, identifying vulnerabilities and implementing a series of proactive – rather than reactive – measures to protect the most vulnerable.

The ban on credit card gambling was also a UKGC initiative to ensure that plyers aren’t spending more than they can afford.