Friday September 13,2013 :  HAVE YOUR SAY ON NEW U.K. LICENSING CONDITIONS (Update)
 
Gambling Commission releases details of consultation – deadline for comment is December 4
 
The UK Gambling Commission appears to be making a detailed and conscientious effort to get player input on its License Conditions and Codes of Practice for remote gambling operators as it moves towards next year's secondary licensing regime for offshore operators wishing to access the British market.
 
Earlier this week the Commission advised that it would be publishing the framework for its consultative phase on the licensing conditions, creating an opportunity for interested parties – including players – to submit their thoughts and suggestions .
 
In a statement, the regulator said that the proposed changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) will be of interest to all gambling operators, to gambling customers and to bodies or individuals with an interest in the regulation of gambling, and particularly standards to ensure fair and open gambling.
 
The proposed improvements include well thought out amendments relating to the handling of complaints and disputes, information requirements, the key issue of protecting player deposits and cooperation with the Commission.
 
The Commission has set a deadline of December 4 2013 for submissions from the public.
 
In addition to Thursday's document, the Commission will also be carrying out a number of consultation meetings and workshops throughout September to November, and plans to host the following two formal workshops at its office in Birmingham in order to discuss the proposals set out in the consultations:
 
18 October: A one day workshop on the proposed amendments to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice, focussing on changes relevant to the non-remote sector.
 
25 October: A one day workshop on the proposed amendments to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice, focussing on changes relevant to the remote sector.
 
Space will be limited at these formal workshops. However, the workshops won’t be the only opportunity to engage in the process which will include a full 12 week consultation period on the main proposals. The Commission is also considering a number of smaller meetings to engage on specific issues. Further details on these will be made available shortly.
 
The Commission acknowledges that in the past it has taken a caveat emptor approach for all forms of funds held with operators, and currently places no specific burden on operators to protect customer funds in the event of insolvency.
 
However, it notes that there have in recent years been some high-profile cases where customer funds were put at risk by the collapse of a remote gambling company.
 
"In some of these cases, customer funds have been lost or have only been reinstated some time later when another company has taken on the assets and liabilities of the collapsed operator. While these cases involved licensees regulated overseas and very few of the larger remote operators are currently licensed here, the same issues arise in principle with those licensed here," the document notes, adding that this is an area on which it is focusing to protect players.
 
"A change in approach for remote gambling operators particularly may be appropriate for several reasons," the document explains.
 
"The remote gambling sector that the Commission regulates is likely to grow significantly. The Commission currently regulates approximately 15 percent of the UK remote gambling consumer market, because some operators based offshore are permitted to offer gambling to UK customers under current legalization.
 
"The total value of funds held in customer accounts by all those operators which we regulated averaged GBP 162.32 million."
 
The Commission expects the total value of customer funds held by Commission licensed operators to substantially rise with the 2014 implementation of new laws requiring offshore operators to take out UK licensing, and it poses the following questions:
 
* Do you agree that the Gambling Commission should prohibit remote gambling operators from co-mingling customer funds with company funds?
 
* To what extent is it appropriate for remote gambling operators to be required to segregate customer funds into a separate customer account, but add no extra level of protection?
 
* Do you agree that it would inappropriate for the Commission to require all operators to protect customer funds by means of insurance?
 
* Do you consider that the Commission should encourage or require any category of remote operator should to implement an independent trust account?
 
* Do you agree that the Commission should not require its licensees to create a reserve held by the regulator?
 
* Do you consider that the preferred option of requiring remote gambling operators to – at a minimum – segregate customer funds into a separate customer account is appropriate?
 
The Commission appears to be considering several different options for preventing operators from using player deposits as cash flow, including:
 
* Segregated bank accounts
* Quistlose Trusts
* Insurance Against Insolvency
* Independent Trust Accounts
* Mandatory Reserves Held by Regulator
* Possibility of restricting segregation of accounts to specific higher risk gambling genres ie poker.
 
Other issues the Commission places on the table for discussion include requirements for operators to disclose an assessment of the level of protection of customer funds they offer to their customers, under a standard rating system, and how prominently this information should be displayed.
 
The Commission has clearly put a considerable amount of thought and effort into the consultation document, and it is recommended that players as well as operators and other interested parties read through and consider the proposals before submitting their own comments.