Online gambling regulations

Following on from the Electronic Commerce Act 2000 and the UK’s first case of database infringement, the Government has just published a review of the regulations on online gambling which will have implications for online shopping and data protection in general. Helen Brown talks to Barry Fishley, the IT partner for Weil Gotshal and Manges about the new proposals …

“The government review of online gambling regulation, published this week, may not be noticed by too many lawyers,” says Barry Fishley, partner in Weil Gotshal IT department, “but it may have implications for all sorts of online shopping and data protection issues. It seems to me that it’s all good news for the consumer.” This is good news, when you consider that an estimated £500 billion will be gambled online around the world.

“The review follows directly on from last year’s Electronic Commerce Act, and is pretty sensible. They’re aiming to regulate and clarify things as far as is practical.”

“One of the interesting angles,” says Fishley, “is that they have said that they will be testing all of the UK online gambling systems for resilience and security. It will be interesting to see what standards they will be requiring and also, if this is going to be done by the Gambling Commission. Then we need to ask who’s going to finance that commission. It would be a pretty major operation.”

The other issue raised is that of data and database protection. Fishley explains that “This review reinforces the Data Protection Act 1998 in that it makes clear that information given to online gambling operators cannot be passed on to other companies without consent. For example, if you ask for credit with an online gambler, your details would be of particular interest to other credit advisors and lenders.”

“Although we will have to wait for more details as the government take this forward,” says Fishley, “this heightened awareness of data protection and consent implied by the review does also apply to any online shopping sites and so on. Of course, if your data protection rights are infringed in this way the level of compensation an individual could claim would be relatively small.”

This review comes just after a ruling on the UK’s first case to consider a contested claim of database infringement. The British Horseracing Board Limited (BHB) maintain a detailed database of racing fixtures. David Meredith, partner at Kemp Little (a firm which advises online gambling operators) says that, “The BHB receives around £1million per year in database license fees from the racing industry and the media. Bookmakers can access this information indirectly from data feeds provided by the BHB’s licensees.”

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