With the explosive international growth of the iGaming industry, there are many opinions on the sector among both gamblers and those seeking to protect them. Punters have been praising the industry’s expansion, as it gives access to greater gaming options and better chances to win.
However, those looking out for players have been eager to make their worries known. These interested parties have many concerns about player safety, from problem-gambling fears to unease about the potential security issues related to betting online.
The UK government has been working hard to pass regulations that balance distrust in iGaming with the ability to create an environment where the industry can grow. However, a common question asked by both sides is whether the government is doing enough. Let’s find out.
The most prominent type of law used to ensure the security of players is licensing. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) oversees all the regulations and licensing of casino apps and websites, and these rules are strict for operators.
Only iGaming companies with valid licenses issued by the Gambling Commission are legally allowed to provide online gambling services within the country. Internationally, the UKGC is known as one of the most challenging governing bodies to get a license from.
The requirements to apply for a license are stringent. Depending on the operator, up to 34 documents must be submitted to the UKGC for approval. These could include audited financial statements, proof of funding, rules of play, business plans, bank statements of the previous six months and personal management license applications.
Additionally, operators seeking a license need to pay an application fee. Depending on the type of license required, the cost could range from £10,000 to over £100,000.
Because any operator hoping to enter the UK market requires a license under the Gambling Act of 2005, only legitimate online casinos are likely to jump through the various hoops to become licensed – thereby potentially reducing the number of unsafe sites.
New legislation passed in April 2023 gives the UKGC advanced powers – namely, the ability to obtain court orders against illegal casinos in the region and to work directly with internet service providers to block access to these sites.
The UKGC has made widespread use of regulation in an effort to make online gambling safe for those who may be predisposed to addictive or problematic habits. These efforts have taken different forms, and they are listed below.
Launched in 2018, GamStop is a problem gambling prevention organisation that players can use to add themselves to a self-exclusion list. By doing this, casinos are notified about problem gamblers and can restrict them from accessing their online gambling services and placing any wagers.
All casino websites licensed and operated in the UK are legally required to partake in the GamStop initiative and actively check player lists against those on the self-exclusion list. Failure to do so will result in fines levied against the operator.
As part of the 2023 changes to the National Gambling Act, the government made new provisions limiting online slot game stakes. Where previously no strict limit was imposed, meaning providers could offer high-stake games, the new regulations limit stakes to values between £2 and £15.
This regulation was introduced in response to incidents where UK gamblers lost well over £10,000 in only a few minutes. Avoiding the possibility of such situations recurring protects players and helps casinos avoid being caught up in money-laundering scenarios.
Previously, casinos could skirt their mandatory obligation to help fund problem-gambling rehabilitation by contributing a measly £1.
However, a new UK law makes casino operators pay fixed levies to be used towards the treatment of those suffering from problem gambling – including rehabilitation through the National Health Service (NHS). This law is intended to help alleviate the risk of financial ruin and provide a safer gambling environment in the country.
As many laws have loopholes that can be exploited, a new industry ombudsperson has been established by the UK government that players can contact should the need arise. This ombudsperson is responsible for dealing with disputes between gamblers and operators.
However, the ombudsperson is responsible for more than settling disputes. It can take to task any operator found lacking in fulfilling its duties to protect players – particularly if a gamer has suffered losses because of this negligence.
Another responsibility all operators are required to do under UK law is to perform checks on any punter who is flagged for spending erratically or excessively. Sometimes, an investigation may also be required when a punter is signing up for a new player account.
Mostly, these checks are done in the background without the player knowing. They consist of establishing the gambler’s credit score to ensure they are not racking up debt and verifying other information already available online.
In severe cases, gamers may be required to provide proof of funds before being allowed to continue playing. Once proof of funds has been established, operators may resume offering services. However, if proof of funds is not supplied, operators are obligated to prevent the gambler from accessing their services.
With an estimated 32.65 million adults in Britain using online gambling services, the protection of these players is of utmost importance to the national government. However, finding the fine line between protecting gamers and encouraging growth in the industry is not easy.
For those claiming the government is not doing enough, the evidence of new regulations and updates to existing laws proves that the government is working towards making online gambling safer.
With these steps, online casinos are vetted to ensure they operate according to the law and players at risk are also actively protected, helping the UK iGaming industry become one of the best in the world.