UK Data Protection watchdog to investigate targeted advertising in gambling sector

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The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 14 July 2022 launched its ICO25 Plan setting out how the ICO will prioritise its work and regulate over the next three years.

The ICO has stated that it is seeking to channel more resources into safeguarding the most vulnerable members of society. The document said the ICO would investigate the use of targeted advertising (adtech) of gambling on social media and the use of personal information within the gambling sector.

As reported here, the Information Commissioner said that he had signed off an investigation into use of targeted advertising tools in gambling promotion. The ICO has stated that it is committed to engaging with various stakeholders to develop controls and guidance. The consultation on ICO25 will be running until 25 September and will be followed by explanations of the actions the ICO is taking to meet its targets.

It is worth noting that the UK’s gambling regulator in May announced penalties against two gambling operators on charges related to anti-money laundering and responsible gambling deficiencies. UK Gambling Law is currently under review with new proposals to be expected anytime soon by a parliamentary panel.

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Earlier this month, the UK government has said it will publish a White Paper on gambling reform in the coming weeks. The government announced the review of the 2005 Gambling Act in December 2020 amid concerns that too many people are suffering significant harm from betting addiction.

In June, the Gambling Commission announced that it will move away from a dedicated manager system. Earlier a new guidance was issued on customer protection to operators. New rules regarding at-risk customers were announced in April and are expected to come into force on 12 September 2022.

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An NHS survey in 2018 showed there were about 245,000 problem gamblers in England. A Public Health England study last year estimated there are 409 suicides a year associated with problem gambling. Campaigners want a new levy on the industry to fund research and treatment for problem gamblers.