The UK Gambling Scene was Changed Forever
December 4, 2020
2019 has been a landmark year in the UK for the gambling industry in terms of regulation. Introduction of new laws and upgrading of existing ones has changed the UK gambling scene forever. Let us take a look at some of these laws and how they have impacted or are likely to impact the gambling experience for players at online and mobile casinos.
Gambling Regulation in the UK: A Brief Background
Gambling has been regulated in the UK for the longest period of time, and the emergence of the online casino saw regulatory efforts in that domain as well with the passage of The Gambling Act 2005.
Further accountability and player safety measures were incorporated into the experience with the formation of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) and its emergence as the sole regulatory authority for all forms of gambling, including online casino gambling, in the country.
The UKGC has its own set of laws to govern and regulate all forms of gambling activity in the UK, but the need of the hour has been constant upgraded to these legislations and introduction of new laws to:
- Accommodate newer forms of gambling, like the mobile casino
- Increase player safety
- Reduce risk for vulnerable players
- Increase casino accountability
Introduction of Betting Limits for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)
The upgrades and new laws have been brought about by an influx of online gambling operators – local as well as international – in the UK market. One of the first of these new regulatory measures involved placing limits on the maximum bet per round on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
The reduction that was being sought was significant – from a maximum of £100 right down to £2 and a significant spike in taxation as well. The logic was simple: playing at these FOB Ts increased the risk of gambling addiction and suicide among vulnerable players.
The immediate impact on the industry reflected in the situation that William Hill, one of the most respected gambling operators in the UK: a loss of over 4500 jobs due to the closing down of more than 700 of its betting shops in the UK.
Of course, this downsizing in the UK market would directly boost its US operations. The company stated earlier that it was looking to minimize job loss by retraining and re-assigning its current staff. Many of those who were being relieved of their jobs would receive compensation and voluntary redundancies.
Imposing a Betting Limit on Online Slots Games
Another big bit of regulation is aimed directly at online slots games – the most popular of all forms of online casino games. New regulation seeks to impose a maximum bet limit of £2 on all online slots games. While this may not exactly be life-threatening, we suggest you sign up now before all the UK online casinos start using the newly minted KYC requirements.
That is not the only caveat – new regulation now also suggests that a third party ombudsman would vet each player and screen them to see whether they have the required finances to indulge in a healthy and safe gambling experience in the first place. They would be able to achieve this by carrying out affordability checks for every player.
This new bit of regulation is not the standard one-trick pony, because it also allows regulators greater control over something as basic as game design.
Restricting Advertisement for Bonuses and VIP Programs
The third significant step that has ensured that the UK gambling scene changes forever is the introduction of limitations for gambling ads. This would apply to all ads placed at online and social media platforms as well as on television.
What this would effectively translate to is a complete stop of the offering of incentives and bonuses to new as well as existing players as these are currently being seen as the classical ‘inducements to bet’.
The fallout, backlash – call it what you will – of implementing such radical policies could be disastrous, according to experts. And with good reason – a whole lot of sports advertising in the UK – anything from commercial broadcasting to sponsorships for football clubs – is powered by the gambling industry.
The impact would be deep when it comes to individual players too: most casinos make a whole lot of profit from their high rollers and VIP players. This has in turn led to speculation on the algorithms that help casinos run VIP programs for their players – big spenders ended up faster on the VIP programs.
Invalidating Payments Made through Credit Card
The UKGC has already introduced legislation to curb incidents of gambling addiction. One such move made it illegal for players to make payments into their online casino accounts with a credit card.
Fueling this regulation was verified data from the UKGC that put the number of UK players using credit cards to fund their online casino accounts and ending up with gambling issues and gambling debt at around 22%.
Payment providers, especially e-wallets like PayPal and Skrill, are already working their way out of a potentially messy situation by informing players with credit cards attached to their accounts to replace them with valid debit cards instead.
Earlier Regulation for Online Gambling: Steps to Curb Underage Gambling
Not all online gambling regulation is bleak yet; there is also new legislation to counter the menace of underage gambling. Anywhere up to 450,000 children in the age group of 11 to 16 years placed bets in the UK, according to latest UKGC statistics.
The UKGC now requires online casinos to conduct manual verification of age for all real money players. Casinos would now need to ask for documents to verify the identity and age of the player at the time of signing up. A compliance team would then vet these documents for authenticity.
What It All Adds Up To
What all of the above changes add up to is this – a more regulated and safer environment for players, especially the vulnerable ones. For the operators of course it will be a tricky path that could lead to loss of revenue in some cases.
One thing to note, though; there is chatter over the network of an improved Gambling Act designed to address all the issues mentioned above and also be geared up to accommodate gambling across multiple devices and upgraded tech.