80% of gambling affiliates still not compliant with regulatory checks

Figures revealed today by AgeChecked, a leading supplier of age verification solutions to the gambling industry makes alarming reading for compliance officers and board directors of igaming businesses. A survey conducted on behalf of AgeChecked has revealed that 80% of the affiliates polled have taken no action to update their websites following the new UK Gambling Commission rules on free-play age verification – less than 10% of affiliates have implemented age checks on their sites.

Affiliates are not directly regulated by the Gambling Commission. However, the licence-holding operators are held accountable by the Commission for the actions of their affiliates. According to the Gambling Commission’s report produced in Autumn 2018, there are an estimated 55,000 problem gamblers aged just 11 to 16 in the UK which represents a quadrupling of the figure over the previous two years.

This figure is regularly cited in the press, as the sector comes under ever-closer scrutiny. High profile failures of compliance, often involving affiliates, are widely reported, and rarely in a way that reflects the repeated challenges the sector faces in keeping up with the technical demands of compliant operations. With a new Gambling Act now being contemplated, the industry as a whole has a shared interest in avoiding bad PR which will shape the policy environment in which the new law is drafted.

AgeChecked Head of Sales, Rachel Butcher, said “Because the affiliate market is not unregulated by the UKGC, it does not have the same focus on changes to the regulations as the operators do. Their focus is generating as many leads as possible. Affiliates who are aware of the regulations have understandably expressed concerned that age checks could put off customers, however to date we have found that conversion rates are not being negatively affected. In fact, it seems that age verification can actually improve customer commitment to a site.

One AgeChecked client – a leading affiliate serving the UK market – reported a dramatic 40% increase in conversions amongst clients after their ages had been checked, far outweighing what they described as a reduction in overall traffic passing the initial age check.

By having available a wide range of methods for checking age, AgeChecked conducts 90% of its checks directly on the affiliate site itself, simply using basic data the customer is asked to provide in order to proceed to the restricted area of the site. Only if those automated checks cannot verify age, are customers asked to give a bit more detail or use an alternative proof of age, such as a driving licence. In these cases, the new data is compared to the data originally provided to the site, helping both affiliates and operators to combat bonus abuse or self-exclusion evasion attempts, for example, by highlighting fake names and other details.

In addition to improving conversion rates, affiliates are able to provide operators with customers who are already guaranteed to be 18 or older, which will, in turn, improve the rate at which such customers are monetised.

So, while affiliates are not regulated themselves, it is now very clear that they need to think and act as if they are, to give operators the confidence to trust them with their own compliance record. Affiliates can protect their market by vigorously and rapidly implementing the new requirements for age checks which able both free-to-play and cash betting games. If sites continue to bury their heads in the sand on these new rules, even when their obligations are carefully explained, then the affiliate sector will inevitably face an uphill battle in selling their services to operators.

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