UK Playing Catch Up with Gambling Reform

UK Gambling

It’s clear that governments around Europe are taking stronger action against the gambling industry. However, some are taking action much faster than others. In the UK, they are lagging well behind countries such as Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.

The gambling market has seen great change in the past couple of decades. Gamblers have so many different ways in which to place bets now. A major change of course has been the arrival of online gambling leading to 24/7 betting. Recent years have seen players able to be using their mobile devices for gambling purposes.

In the UK, the last major piece of gambling related legislation was way back in 2005. It is no surprise therefore that many rightfully see that Act as being “outdated.” The last General Election in the UK was held in December 2019.  The Conservative Party manifesto stated that there would be new legislation put in place and it would deal with the digital age we now live in.

We’re now in early 2023 and still no White Paper on gambling reform has been published, but several prominent gaming companies are withdrawing from the market – latest STSbet and Mansion. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) gathered masses of evidence but the chaos that was seen in Downing Street in 2022 led to the publication of the White Paper being put on the backburner.

We were so close to finding out the contents of the White Paper. It had been delivered to Downing Street but then the farce that saw three Prime Ministers in the space of a few months caused delay after delay to gambling reform.

There has been action taken against gambling sites. Not from the government but the UKGC and the Advertising Standards Authority.

The UKGC in particular have become far more stricter towards those companies they have issued licences to. Investigations that lead to the discovery of failings in areas such as social responsibility and anti-money laundering procedures lead to regulatory settlements having to be made. This included one of £17 million that was made by Entain last year.

Just how gambling companies advertise their product is a very controversial issue. Many campaigners are calling for gambling adverts to be banned or greatly restricted. The Advertising Standards Authority last year banned sports stars and other celebrities who could be seen as a role model to youngsters from appearing in gambling-related adverts.

There’s lots of talk about just what the UK government has in store for the gambling industry. Targeting online sites is an inevitability and Chris Philp who used to be the MP leading gambling reform did mention that online gambling and how much is wagered on slots is a major concern. However, he made those statements as he was resigning his position as a bid to force Boris Johnson out of office.

Stricter affordability checks on the funds of gamblers are expected. The offering of welcome offers such as these casino bonuses for UK gamblers and VIP programs are also possible targets as is reducing the maximum stakes on casino games.

However, it’s all speculation and a distinct lack of action. When the latest Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak makes policy statements, gambling seems to be way down the list.

On the continent it’s a very different story. Take the Netherlands for example who have introduced many measures as they create a regulated gambling industry. 2021 saw legislation passed because there were concerns about the number of unlicensed sites that were operating in the country.

That’s always a problem and countries want to reduce the number of sites that have no one to answer to and make customer safety a low priority.

Restrictions are also in place regarding when gambling adverts can be broadcast or shown on radio and television. The general rule is that unless linked with the sponsorship of a programme, they aren’t allowed between 6 am and 9 pm.

The UK has seen some change in this area but the rules are not perfect. Anyone watching the World Grand Prix snooker tournament will see numerous gambling adverts in full view in the arena.

In Spain, they have also taken action in regards to gambling advertisements and when they can be shown. Other restrictions have been introduced to make gambling safer in the country.

Germany has also introduced stricter regulation on their gambling industry with legislation passed in 2021. There have been restrictions placed on maximum stakes and also how much can be deposited each month.

The way in which countries deal with the use of cryptocurrencies also differs. The UKGC consider them a “high risk” product so aren’t keen on them being offered as payment methods. That’s not the case with the Malta Gaming Authority.

It seems at present that while the UK is showing signs of imposing stricter regulations, there isn’t enough being done by the government. When compared to other countries around Europe, the UK is certainly playing catch-up.

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