UK: Gambling companies await law review

London Loves Business reports

The UK has a long history when it comes to gambling, and in past centuries, many forms of it were heavily controlled, regulating where you could participate. It is fair to say that gambling has never been the subject of an outright ban in Great Britain, and in the past 50 years, it has flourished. With the explosion in online betting, the UK is one of the more progressive and liberal domains in the world.

However, with that in mind, the UK government has proposed overhauling current gambling legislation. The UK Gambling Commission is exploring restrictions on online gaming companies to protect players from the harm further that gambling can cause.

In its manifesto at the 2019 general election, the Conservative Party pledged to review gambling laws in response to the mounting concerns being bought to the forefront, mainly from civil liberty groups and campaigners about how the gambling industry (which turns over around £14 billion every year) is regulated.

The results have been put on hold time and time again but are expected to be made public shortly. The big questions, though, are what is the UK Gambling Commission and what can we expect from it?

What is the UK Gambling Commission?

London based, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is an executive public body under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It is essentially a governing body that provides gambling licences to the UK’s best online casinos and sports betting sites. For example, STS Casino is licensed with the UKGC, thus protecting players with fair and responsible gambling and keeping data safe.

The UKGC enforces gambling legislation and regulates all commercial casinos, bookmakers, bingo halls etc., including the National Lottery. The Commission wasn’t just set up to regulate casinos and bookies but is also there to protect punters – a primary driver for the latest review.

What can we expect from the review?

The UKGC is keeping its cards very close to its chest at this time, but there is much speculation about what the new laws and legislation will be when it finally delivers its long-anticipated verdict.

  • Affordability – Punters may need to prove they have a source of income by way of a payslip or bank statement to show the UKGC that they have the means and funds available to continue playing and gambling at their current level. When a punter’s gambling characteristics change, and they make a large deposit or more deposits than they usually do, operators should check the source of these funds to ensure they are legal and the punter can afford it. Failure to do so may see punters booted from casino sites.
  • Sponsorship – Ministers are backing a proposed ban on sponsorship at sporting venues and on sports shirts. In terms of sponsorship, top football club revenues tend to come from betting companies
  • Advertising – It has always been the industries that are “cash-rich” that provide the most sponsorship for sports, especially football, that is watched by younger audiences. As it stands, the UKGC, along with the Advertising Standards Authority, feel that the amount of sponsorship (which is mainly gambling and casino centric after the alcohol and tobacco advertising bans in the late ‘90s and Noughties) is at levels that could prove to be dangerous. We can’t see an all-out ban, but advertising is likely to be kept under control and carry Gamble Aware warnings.
  • VIP Schemes – The hook that a lot of online casinos use is that of a VIP scheme, which means that you get better rewarded the more money you spend (and ultimately lose). The UKGC’s official review could mean these are soon to be a thing of the past, with the focus on banning these VIP schemes altogether.
  • Active Monitoring – Even now, whether you like it or not, every click you make when you are on an online casino is monitored by the casino operator. Under licensing laws, operators are required to monitor punters’ activity and step in if they feel that someone is displaying signs of a gambling problem. In some cases, this doesn’t happen as the more an operator intervenes, the less money they will make. Any amendments to this are likely to insist on closer monitoring, possibly even through an independent, impartial body.
  • Deposit Limits – Operators currently allow you to choose your own deposit limits, but to be honest, anyone with a gambling addiction is likely to set these high so they can keep on playing. Under the new legislation, it is likely that operators will need to enforce their own deposit limits, especially for new players, capping monthly deposits at something like £500.

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