Author: Christian Farrugia, Senior Corporate Administrator

Date: 19 May 2021

In the local remote gaming sector, there is a somewhat common misconception that operators are at liberty to capitalize on their players’ inability to stop playing without any concern for their wellbeing, especially on those who are considered vulnerable. While gambling addiction and its consequences are very real, the idea that companies can blindly make the most out of their misfortunes is far from the truth. Today, we take a look at what measures are currently in place for this heavily regulated and monitored industry.

Player Protection Regulations and Directives

The Gaming Player Protection Regulations and the Player Protection Directive were both issued in 2018 as part of the overhaul of local gaming laws. Together (but not exclusively), they provide an overview of obligations imposed on locally licenced operators for the protection of those who register and place bets on their websites.

Before an operator can obtain a licence, it must first have in place several written policies and procedures that address their players, including advertising policies, how player funds are managed and how player complaints are handled. Subsequent (i.e. after a licence to operate is issued) audits are coordinated by the regulator to ensure that the operator has in fact implemented, maintained and updated the contents of its written policies and procedures, and continues to do so on an ongoing basis.

The terms and conditions, which form part of the pack of obligatory documents that the operator must retain, are to always be easily accessible and intelligible on the website. New registrants must accept them as part of their registration process and any changes must be communicated to players and accepted once more before they can continue playing. Game rules must also always be readily available on the company’s website.

Segregation of Players’ Funds

Players’ funds must always be kept segregated from the company’s own funds, in a separate ring-fenced player’s account. These monies cannot be attacked by the company’s creditors, and the financial institution with which the account is held must provide a written declaration confirming that it will not enforce or execute any claim against the players’ account and it will not combine it with any other accounts in respect of any debt owed to it by the company.

Players will always have a right to their available balances, which must always be clearly shown on the operator’s website, in the specified currency. Operators are also obliged to submit periodic reports to the regulator to show that, in the hypothetical scenario where all registered players were to withdraw all their balances at once, the operator would have the sufficient liquidity to comply with said requests. Any shortfalls must be made good for by the company through its own operating fund.

Player Complaints and Player Support

Operators must have a mechanism in place to handle and discuss player complaints in a timely manner. Players are also given the option to put forward their complaints with the regulator directly. In such instances, the regulator’s own player support unit would get in touch with the operator to have the matter addressed within a specified deadline. Said unit also has the right to escalate serious breaches to the authority’s compliance sector for further action.

Furthermore, operators must offer players the possibility to refer a dispute to an approved Alternative Dispute Resolution entity if the player does not feel satisfied with the conduct of the operator following the initial complaint. Contact details of the ADR entity should be made clear.

Problem Gambling

The company should also have the ability to detect potential problem gambling by training its staff to spot unsustainable or erratic gameplay and take the necessary actions to get in touch with the player and, if need be, suspend further play. Links to problem gambling and support websites should always be available on the website and players should also have access to means to help them determine whether they have a gambling problem or not.

Other obligatory features on the website include the ability to self-impose certain limits, on for example the amount of time one can play, the amount of bets one can place or the maximum amount of losses a player can incur, within a specific period of time. If a player decides to increase a limit to continue playing, said increase will only come into effect after a “cooling-off” period, which allows the individual to mentally break away from a potentially damaging momentum of continuous betting. A decrease in limits (therefore reducing exposure) should take immediate effect.

Players should be able to opt for a “reality check”, which is when the website provides periodic pop-ups to remind the client of how long he has been continuously playing, how much has been wagered and won/lost. The payer would need to manually close this pop-up as a way of acknowledging the content. Full-screen games must always display a real-time clock.

Another feature is self-exclusion, where a player who is feeling vulnerable can opt to exclude himself from playing any further, temporarily or permanently. During this period, the website would allow the player to log in and view general information and gameplay history but cannot accept any further bets. Furthermore, no marketing material can be distributed to the player during this time. This also applies to companies with more than one brand; if the player excludes himself via one brand, it becomes effective across the board.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of measures one must take to protect players’ welfare but provides an indication of the extent that this is integrated into the day-to-day management of any licenced gaming operation.

Should you require any further information or assistance on the matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to us personally on christian.farrugia@fenlex.com.

 

©Fenlex Corporate Services Ltd.

Disclaimer │ The information provided on this Update does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. All information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only.  This Update may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information and you are advised to seek updated advice.