Rumours abound as to the changes that the government will make on online gambling in the UK, but with no announcements made thus far, it remains to be seen what limitations will come into fruition.
Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported that VIP betting schemes, sports shirt sponsorships and casino bonuses are set to be banned, whilst online slots could be limited to £2 per spin. However, the Daily Mail have declined to reveal their sources, so for now they are strictly rumours. Ministers are expected to announce in a white paper later this year the full details regarding changes to the 2005 Gambling Act.
Why are Gambling Laws Being Updated?
In short, the current laws are out of step with the modern world. The Gambling Act 2005 was written into law before the advent of online casinos and in a time when many UK homes still did not have easy access to the internet. Fast forward to the current day, and over 90% of the population have access to high-speed internet from their homes, whilst over 75% of the population can use their smart phones to use the internet. The 2005 Gambling Act in its current form did not have the foresight to foresee the evolution of internet gambling.
Prior to the announcement of the intention to update UK gambling laws, Nigel Huddleston, the Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage stated that the government will make a “comprehensive review of gambling laws in order to ensure they are fit for the digital age.”
The globalisation of football, specifically the Premier League has also triggered Minsters to act. The number of gambling sponsors which have made partnerships with Premier League football clubs is at an all-time high. The feeling is that millions of children are exposed to online gambling adverts on a weekly basis. It is expected that sports teams will be banned from showcasing gambling companies on the front of shirts, but again, this has not been confirmed.
Online Gambling in the UK: As it Stands
The past two years have seen a large increase in online gambling activity in Swindon and across the UK. Last year, The BBC reported that internet searches for the term ‘online casino’ were at an all time high whilst SlotsHawk reported that some operators are using behavioural tracking on customers. In addition, numerous gambling operators announced record profits leading many to believe that much of the UK population was at risk of harm from online gambling, thus began the debate of whether to restrict online gambling or not.
The United Kingdom is one of the safest countries in the world for online gamblers. The 2005 Gambling Act created the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) which became the UKs gambling watchdog. For any gambling operators to be able to offer their services to UK customers, they must obtain a license to do so from the UKGC. The UKGC thoroughly checks all operators that apply for a license – therefore only safe and fair online slot sites and casinos are granted licenses to offer their services to UK gamblers.
Although nothing is certain at this stage, there are several restrictions that are expected to come into action.
- A maximum bet limit on online slot machines – As it stands, gamblers can bet up to a maximum of £500 on some online slot machines. There are reports that this will be limited to £2.
- A ban on VIP schemes – Currently, UK players can get access to VIP schemes offered by gambling operators, but some believe that these schemes exploit players.
- Limited bonuses for losing players – Online casinos often tempt customers with bonuses, but this may be deemed illegal when offered to losing casino players.
- A ban on gambling sponsors in sport – It is being widely reported that UK sports teams will no longer be permitted to feature gambling logos on their shirts.
Could Restrictions Cause Consequences?
The danger of too many restrictions is that UK gamblers may instead play at unlicensed gambling sites. If Minsters do ban VIP schemes and implement a maximum bet limit on slots, customers may turn to other websites that are not licensed by the UKGC. This may see UK customers in danger as they could find themselves playing at websites which the UKGC would usually deem unsafe.
Ideally, Ministers will find a middle ground between ensuring online gambling becomes safer but still allowing customers the freedom to gamble responsibly.