The United Kingdom’s gambling industry has been hit with numerous scandals in the past year and a half. Incident after incident of money laundering, predatory advertisement, and other infractions have forced the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission to kick things into gear and come up with a new gambling policy. However, critics of this move are claiming that the industry is suffering under what turned out to be highly restrictive measures.
Problem Gambling as a National Phenomenon
Ever since the regulation of UK gambling markets in the early 2000s with the adoption of the Gambling Act of 2005, there has been a surge in gambling activities. The then newly regulated market was recognized as a potentially fruitful one for iGaming industry leaders, prompting numerous operators to start offering their services.
However, it wasn’t long before this island nation became too small for all the actors who wanted a piece of the pie. Fierce competition has made the prospect of a gray hat or even black hat practices feasible for some.
Like any true domino effect, one thing led to another, only to culminate in a massive spike in predatory practices, money laundering, and a whole slew of other illegal activities. Things got out of hand when UKGC found out that up to 450,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 bet regularly, with operators failing to prevent underage gambling.
As it turned out, underage gambling was just the tip of the iceberg.
What followed was the creation of a national gambling policy that aimed to curb all of these illegal or semi-illegal practices and keep the most vulnerable members of society out of harm’s way.
The New National Gambling Policy
The plan that UKGC came up with included a series of steps that would try and address the core of the issue. One of the largest changes that affected the entire market the most is the ban on the use of credit cards as payment for gambling.
What the commission has found is that the use of credit cards leads to problem gambling and accumulation of debt. By removing them from the equation, they’ve put a halt on the potential exploitation of up to 22% of gamblers within the country.
Another significant change was the requirement of ID verification for all players within the UK. No longer was anonymous gambling allowed. Such a move has curbed underage gambling but also put the onus on the operators to police themselves when it comes to who they offer their services to.
It is exactly that shift of responsibility from the player to the operator that has caused an uproar among the industry leaders.
From One Extreme to Another
Although there isn’t a single iGaming company out there who would criticize the UKGC for wanting to protect the players, the new national gambling policy didn’t go without its fair share of criticism.
Namely, the industry is accusing the UKGC of being too vigilant and creating a restrictive business environment for gaming providers as well as operators. iGaming companies working within the UK have reported massive changes in how they operate, with some claiming that the new policy is forcing them to walk on eggshells.
Such sentiment has been fueled even more by the UKGC’s crackdown on those who break the rules. The commission has issued scores of fines and warnings to operators within the country, as well as foreign actors who offer services within the UK.
This has, in turn, lead to companies completely withdrawing from the UK regulated markets. On the other hand, companies such as ActiveWins have decided to focus all of their attention on UK markets.
Despite the criticism within the industry, the UKGC continues to make changes to the national gambling regulation. All things considered, things are looking bleak for operators and providers who were used to loosely enforced rules.
Things are only made worse by the fact that there’s a growing current within the UK parliament that is lobbying for far more restrictive measures. Whether this faction will gain momentum is yet to be seen, however, their presence is definitely felt throughout the industry.
The Impact on Players
Although the mission of newly implemented regulations revolves around protecting players, some are pointing out to obvious side effects of such decisions.
Namely, one of the main pieces of criticism directed at the UKGC is that they’re not approaching the issue from the right angle. Industry leaders feel that the commission is incapable of adapting the new rules so that they match the evolving, highly technologically advanced market.
By applying misplaced, often analog solutions to the issue, the UKGC is essentially keeping a highly digital industry back. This in turn affects the selection of services and games players from the UK have access to.
Beyond the UK
One of the most alarming issues with the new UKGC regulations is the fact that other countries around the world are taking notes. In fact, there has been a significant change in the global gambling scene in terms of regulations within this past year. More and more national gambling regulatory bodies are taking on the ‘player first’ attitude first seen in the UK.
The real question is whether other nations will only extract the positive changes, or will they also implement solutions that might harm the gambling industry within their national borders?
The jury is still out on that one. It’s no secret that the developing global situation has created a positive environment for the growth of online gambling. Such an influx of players will amplify any regulatory changes, especially in key markets of Europe.
As for players in the UK, they will have to follow the industry news for further changes that are definitely coming. The UKGC plans on continuing with the implementation of new regulations across the board.
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