The popularity of the internet has grown significantly in the past 15 years, and online gambling has grown with it. The United Kingdom is one government trying to stay on top of the trend with a complete review of gambling in the UK.
The review will result in changes to the Gambling Act of 2005, which controls all aspects of the UK gambling industry.
Understanding the UK Gambling Laws
Practically all forms of gambling are legal in the UK. Brits can bet on anything from horses, to matches, to bingo and lotteries. You can even find odds on the next election. That’s why the UK has the most regulated gambling industry in the world.
But who regulates gambling in the UK? The United Kingdom operates under the legal purview of the Gambling Act of 2005, the latest version of a law established in 1960. A Gambling Commission and a Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) operate under the Act. The DCMS is conducting the UK Gambling Act review.
Licensing vs. Listing
The Gambling Commission issues strict licenses for online gambling operations. But it also publishes a “white list” for operators licensed in other jurisdictions such as Malta, Gibraltar, or Isle of Man. Being on this list means that a license with an entity such as the Malta Gaming Authority earns the UK Gambling Commission’s checkmark of approval.
The 2005 version of the Gambling Act was the UK’s first attempt to update laws during the internet age. But changes in wagering habits, technology, and the expansion of internet wagering have prompted the need to revise UK online gambling laws.
What To Expect From The Review
The review addresses several areas of online gambling, most of them concerning problem gambling. But it is safe to expect changes that will affect internet bettors in some ways. Here are some of the notable aspects of wagering that the UK government is studying:
Affordability Checks – Just like getting a loan at the bank, you may have to undergo a check of your finances before a site lets you sign up, particularly if you want to put in a lot of money. Even current customers who deposit or gamble erratically may be limited or blocked.
Not to mention the intrusiveness of this, the argument against it is that it would send even responsible gamblers to sites outside of the UK.
VIP Schemes – Some people see VIP programs at online casinos and sportsbooks as ways to encourage outlandish betting. So there is a good chance that the DCMS review will encourage some restrictions or extra warnings to players.
Site’s Responsibilities – Just how much responsibility does an operator have to keep you from gambling too much? That is the issue the review addresses under the legal term “duty of care.” Problem gamblers have sued businesses for letting them lose too much. And despite the Responsible Gambling and self-exclusion measures that websites have employed, the UK government may still want to require further restrictions.
Advertising – Advertising and promotion of gambling have advanced over the past decade, and the review will consider the possibility of adverse effects. It will look at business names and logos on player jerseys for their influence on children, as well as online and TV ads. There is also a concern about the relationship between sports and gambling.
Bet to View Streaming – With their high-tech setups, many sports betting sites offer live streaming of various sports events. Some sports fans go to those sites to see a game and are willing to bet for the privilege. The DCMS review wants to make sure that this is under control.
Limits, Speeds – The review will also consider bet and prize limits as a way to curtail problem gambling. The speed of a game, particularly slots, will also be scrutinized.
Other areas that will get a look include the Gambling Commission powers, blockchain and cryptocurrency payments, risk of black-market invasion, and various aspects of lotteries. The government has already announced it will raise the age for playing the National Lottery from 16 to 18.
Brexit Impact on the Gambling Industry
The DCMS review appears timely in terms of Brexit, which took effect on Jan. 1. But cutting UK business ties to the European Union will not necessarily have a big impact on the UK casino.
UK gambling laws and those of the EU have always been separate so that a Brexit casino will remain the same legally.
Some aspects of Brexit will have an indirect effect on players. For instance, the Gibraltar gambling industry could be affected because Gibraltar may become less of a haven for online casino and sports betting operators.
Spain and Gibraltar have an ongoing feud over border crossings, and about 60% of Gibraltar’s online gaming workers live in Spain and cross the border for work. If border crossing was restricted or cut altogether, some of the 30 gambling-related companies located there might have to look elsewhere for a home.
Taxes and market relations are also at issue since companies pay a smaller tax in Gibraltar than in the UK.
Then there is the prospect of other countries leaving the EU, especially if the UK is economically successful. Europe’s gambling industry could change because companies in the UK and other independent countries could interact more.
The DCMS will complete the review on March 31, and it will be up to Parliament to act on any suggestions.
If they seek significant changes in the gambling law, expect significant pushback from the industry, especially in the areas of affordability checks and advertising.
And the industry has powerful arguments. Gambling annually contributes more than £14 billion in taxes to the government, and no one wants to chase off customers because of over-regulation. Plus, the percentage (currently 0.7%) of UK punters who are considered problem gamblers has not risen significantly in several years.
Gambling is a big part of British culture, and it’s not going anywhere soon. But don’t be surprised to see some changes that will alter our gaming habits.