The gambling market generated €108.5bn of revenue Europe-wide in 2022; an increase of 23% on 2021 driven partly by the post-pandemic reopening of land-based casinos and betting shops.
However, players flocking to online casinos during Covid-19 lockdowns, in addition to advances in technology, meaning people have access to ‘virtual casinos’ on their smartphones 24 hours a day, have also fueled a rise in the iGaming industry. The market is now expected to be worth $92.9 billion worldwide by the end of 2023 – nearly double the size it was in 2019.
In Europe, iGaming now constitutes 35% of market revenue overall. National differences vary significantly, however. Sweden has the largest proportion of online gamblers (80% of total market) followed by Latvia (75%), Lithuania (67%), Romania (65%) and the UK (65%).
As the market grows, the impetus on operators to protect players from potential harms associated with gambling also increases. Although serious problem gambling rates remain stable and relatively low (0.1% - 0.6%), governments around the world are asking operators to take on more of the responsibility for preventing harm.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how responsible operators are protecting users from potential harm with KYC solutions that aim to prevent problem gambling before it takes hold.
Regional variations in approaches to reducing gambling harm: Current regulations and forthcoming legislation
The UK is home to Europe’s largest gambling market.
In the UK, betting companies are required by law to take certain measures to prevent harm and the UK has been at the forefront of the push to use technology to promote safer gambling.
In 2018, it implemented the Gamstop self-exclusion program which encourages individuals who recognize they have a problem to self-exclude from multiple gambling websites with a single registration. To date, more than 315,000 people have registered for its services as the provider has collaborated with a wider range of services to offer the best protection to the consumer.
The UK Gambling Commission also encourages operators to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect problematic behavior and intervene.
Forthcoming gambling reform legislation in the UK is likely to include the imposition of a mandatory levy on operators to pay for addiction treatment and tougher powers being given to the Gambling Commission to fine operators where they are deemed to have failed to protect customers from risk.
The Netherlands currently takes a similar approach to the UK, with a self-exclusion system KRUKS and use of advanced technology to help identify and assist players at risk.
In September 2023, however, the Netherlands National Rapporteur on Addictions (NRA), which advises the Dutch government on addiction prevention, submitted 22 recommendations to the Ministry of Justice on how to limit and prevent online gambling harm. Its recommendations include:
- Creating a high-quality monitoring system to better track online gaming and gambling-related harm
- Imposing operator liability if they fail in their duty of care
- Adopting player limits
- Further curbing advertising and marketing (with the possibility of a total ban)
- Restricting or banning “high-risk games” such as games with a short time between wager and result, and games in which the player has no influence, such as fruit machines.
The NRA also calls for a binding duty of care. Currently, every online gambling company fulfils its statutory duty of care in its own way. A response from the government is expected before the end of 2023 but it is thought likely at least some of the proposals will be put forward as legislation.
Sweden, like the Netherlands and UK has a self-exclusion system in place, Spelpaus, and uses technology to help limit harm to those identified as at risk. Similar to the Netherlands, Sweden also places a ‘duty of care’ on gambling operators.
In October this year, the Swedish online gambling trade body announced its support for a proposal by the Ministry of Justice to tighten credit rules which would mean gambling operators would no longer be permitted to promote third-party sources of credit to consumers wanting to gamble.
At the end of 2022, however, the Swedish parliament rejected a proposal to implement tighter advertising rules for higher-risk gambling products, saying it looked like an attempt to bring in a tiered system of regulation, to which they are opposed.
Belgium is stepping up its fight against harms caused by gambling addiction. In October this year, Belgium’s Federal Council of Ministers gave the green light to new restrictions designed to intensify efforts against underage gambling which centre around electronic ID verification for all players.
In July, Belgium implemented a ban on gambling advertising which effectively eliminated TV and radio ads and sports sponsorships.
All operators must now also include the mandatory preventative message – “gambling is addictive” – in all their communications and reference the Belgium gambling self-exclusion program.
Germany has a national self-exclusion register, OASIS which gives players the option of pausing or blocking access to online gambling sites. Legislation passed in 2021 also places certain restrictions on iGaming. For example, players cannot deposit more than €1,000 per month and stakes on slots are limited to €1 per spin. A centralised database collates player details such as name, date of birth, address and the amount deposited. Live casino games, progressive jackpot-slots and live sports betting are also banned.
The second largest gambling market in Europe is Italy. A gambling reform bill is currently making its way through the Italian parliament which will pave the way for improved player protection and standards. The reform will likely bring in caps on stakes and winnings, mandatory training on harm reduction for dealers and operators, and a strengthening of self-exclusion mechanisms.
Denmark has a strong focus on responsible gambling and uses data analytics to monitor gambling behavior. Operators are required to provide data to the Danish Gambling Authority which is then used to detect potential problem gambling patterns.
Legislative changes are expected in the not-too-distant future in Denmark, with a focus on initiatives to limit intense marketing for gambling products, and initiatives aimed at preventing gambling addiction likely to feature.
Finland’s state-owned operator, Veikkaus, has launched innovative responsible gambling initiatives including using player data to identify high-risk individuals and provide personalised interventions and support.
Malta, Gibraltar and Cyprus
iGaming regulations for responsible gambling across other European jurisdictions like Malta, Gibraltar and Cyprus place more focus on players themselves being able to self-identify risky behaviour and prevent potential harm but have either explored their own version of a self-exclusion scheme, or are monitoring the space closely.
What can operators do to promote safer gambling and comply with harm-prevention regulations?
Although the specific measures used to promote responsible gambling vary significantly from one country to another, there are some common themes and measures employed across nations:
- Self-exclusion programs that enable individuals to voluntarily exclude themselves from gambling activities;
- Tools that help players to set limits on their spending and losses, and control how much time they can spend gaming;
- Age verification measures to prevent minors from accessing gambling services;
- Financial protections such as keeping player funds in a separate account to ensure winnings are paid out and that player deposits are safe;
- Access to helplines, resources, information and support services for individuals with gambling problems;
- Education programs to raise awareness of responsible gambling;
- Policies to identify and assist players who may be experiencing problems with their gaming habits.
KYC: the key to harm-prevention
KYC is a vital tool in keeping gambling safe, fair, and free from crime. Robust and ongoing identity verification, authentication and KYC practices must, therefore, be at the heart of any responsible gambling platform.
By configuring multiple layers of the following identity and age verification signals, trust can be strengthened in player identities and their eligibility to join an iGaming platform.
Age verification technology using ID document verification and biometric data enables operators to determine whether the account owner is at or above the minimum legal gambling age.
Affordability checks, when deployed strategically, allow operators to observe patterns in user spending and earnings, which can help identify consumers at risk of falling into financial difficulties at a crucial early stage, before unsafe gambling habits have the chance to cause deep harm.
Proof of address
KYC matches proof of address documents against third-party sources as well as live photos or selfies supplied by the player to confirm the customer is who they say they are, and they are eligible to play.
Via the Mitek Verified Identity Platform (MiVIP), operators can set their journey configurations to include a questionnaire feature. Adding bespoke forms allows our customers to collect information of any kind from their end users, including data that can be helpful in assessing and measuring problem-gambling risk factors.
Database checks (exclusion lists)
The GamStop scheme relies on data collected through KYC. When player details are matched with the GamStop database, access is blocked instantly for either six months or indefinitely, dependent on the choice the user made when registering with GamStop.
Using a sophisticated combination of biometry that is extremely difficult to falsify, biometric authentication using face and/or voice recognition improves KYC processes and strengthens trust in a user’s identity.
By verifying the user owns the card they are attempting to receive a payout on, you can meet identity verification and AML obligations.
Contextual data, such as IP addresses and geolocation can be used to verify players and check their location eligibility.
In some European countries, such as Germany and Spain, Live video-ID is a mandatory part of the KYC process. Video-ID enables operators to increase their confidence in the identity of the person attempting to access their services.
The Mitek solution
In the UK, gambling laws are on the way which are likely to place increased responsibility on operators to protect vulnerable players. With other European nations likely to be watching UK reforms closely, now is an important time to ensure that your KYC is robust, compliant and future-proofed.
Strong identity verification and authentication procedures are foundational for operators wishing to manage their players throughout the lifecycle and protect them from harm – as well as protect their own reputation as a responsible gaming operator.
But KYC measures must, of course, be balanced with user experience expectations. When handled correctly, customers don’t need to compromise on safety, compliance or convenience.
With the Mitek Verified Identity Platform (MiVIP), you can meet your KYC and age verification obligations at onboarding and throughout the customer lifecycle without adding unnecessary barriers in the way of eligible players wanting to gamble responsibly. Affordability checks, for example, can be made without adding any additional steps during onboarding. Players can be moved through the KYC funnel more quickly by enabling faster database and document checks.
MiVIP is designed with multi-jurisdictional, and multi-brand, operators in mind. The platform has been specifically engineered to ensure player journeys can be quickly adapted and easily customised to align with varying regulatory obligation, including those measures designed to prevent customers from coming to harm.
MiVIP also builds in flexibility that allows you to adjust your KYC and AML practices as regulations change, future-proofing you from the upcoming likely legislative changes highlighted in this article.
Robust KYC practices are at the core of responsible gambling. Implementation of identity verification helps create a safer and more responsible gambling environment for consumers while ensuring operators comply with regulatory requirements.
Mitek is proud to work with our responsible gaming partners to help tackle unsafe gambling practices and keep gaming fair, safe, and free from crime.