How and why gambling regulation is going to change in the UK

The UK gambling industry has enjoyed massive growth in recent years. However, not everyone is happy with that. The need to limit the amount of harm gambling can cause has seen increasing regulation in Britain.

Previous decades saw a more relaxed attitude towards gambling. The number of High Street betting shops rose, and then their opening hours extended. The shops are no longer behind frosted windows, and you can’t walk down a High Street without seeing a series of flashy adverts advertising their latest offers.

The growth of online casinos, online slot websites and sportsbooks has also caused increases in problem gambling, so more action is being taken to reduce this.

How bookmakers publicise their sports betting has been highly controversial. The number of television adverts for sports betting and online casinos have seen massive growth. The fear of this advertising attracting new customers, particularly youngsters being introduced to gambling, began to cause great alarm.

Action had already been taken to try and reduce the amount of advertising. When lockdown arrived this year, there was the danger of all that additional spare time being spent at online gambling sites. The pressure led to the suspension of the adverts and more emphasis placed on promoting responsible gambling. The UK Gambling Commission recently announced a partnership with Facebook aimed at limiting the number of sportsbook and casino related advertisements.

Another primary concern was the amount that can be spent on fixed-odds terminals in bookmakers. A long campaign finally saw legislation introduced that reduced the maximum stake from £100 to just £2. A good move, but with companies losing large amounts of revenue from the machines, more emphasis has now been put on their online operations, so more regulation in that area will be required.

This year has seen a ban on using credit cards to fund online gambling accounts. Research shows that 22% of people using credit cards for such purposes had some form of a gambling problem, whether it be betting on sport or casino games.

The UK Gambling Commission continues to work hard to reduce the amount of harm that gambling can cause. One of the areas they are looking at is the use of VIP incentives. The online gambling industry is a highly competitive one. Therefore, to entice new customers to join, mainly those likely to be gambling large amounts of money, they offer VIP programmes full of bonuses, gifts, and hospitality.

The Commission believes some of these programmes cause an increase in at-risk behaviour. September 2020 saw the UKGC announce “strict new guidance” aimed at cleaning up “the malpractice of so-called VIP schemes”. They have seen far too many cases of high-value customers not being protected by online bookmakers.

Now online gambling sites will have to carry out a closer examination of whether those offered VIP statuses can afford to gamble at such high levels – and not had previous problems with gambling. They must also verify information received and carry out checks on any signs of problems developing. This has already been described as the last chance for the companies to prevent future problems.

More action is also likely to be taken against online gambling sites that don’t fully integrate the self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP. There isn’t expected to be any reduction in the number of actions proposed against sportsbooks and casinos. The desire to reduce the number of cases of gambling problems isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and nor should it. Sites that don’t toe the line in crucial areas will find more regulation heading in their direction.




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