How Changing Gambling Laws in the UK will Affect the Industry

There is plenty of ongoing debate about the affect of gambling in the UK. After being largely deregulated in 2005, it has boomed and become increasingly common place. Questions are being raised in the Houses of Parliament over legitimate concerns over the wellbeing of British gamblers, and strong calls are being made to impose stricter legislation. You read a quick overview of the status quo here, which if changed could stand to impact the UK gambling industry in a meaningful way.

Gambling is imbedded into many aspects of our lives today; from the high street with betting, bingo and casino chains to sports – you can’t watch a football event without being bombarded with gambling related advertising. Because of this the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is committed to ensuring the industry changes to protect the vulnerable while eliminating any chance of criminal activity through gambling.

Betfred hit the headlines earlier this year when research carried out by the Guardian revealed how the owners, Conservative party donors Fed and Peter Done, made millions from a company treating gambling addicts! Last year, a popular online bingo brand (Tombola) came under attack when an advert for their gambling products appeared in the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here app – an app designed for both adults and children.

In 2019, the UKGC showed the gambling industry they meant business when they handed out fines totalling a record £19.7m after operators failed to monitor problem gamblers and stop money launderers. The biggest single fine of £7.1m was paid by Daub Alderney, an operator who failed in all aspects of monitoring players who were deemed a gambling risk and also when it came to anti-money laundering rules.

New Year New Change?

Fast forward to 2020 and you’d have thought the gambling industry as a whole would have learned its lesson, but this is not the case. In Q1 of 2020, the UKGC handed out fines totalling more than £25m and according to data from Gambling Industry Fines, five companies made up that sum between the period of January and March. That sum is only set to soar after a record £11.6m fine was handed to Betway in March due to the popular sports betting operator accepting stolen money from high-rolling VIP customers! At the time, a UKGC spokesman said: “Betway could not provide evidence of any social responsibility interactions being carried out with this customer,” after the customer deposited some £494K over 11 separate accounts with the company. This was despite previously excluding themselves from being able to gamble.

A cross-party group of MPs’ have been calling on the government to act and to review current gambling legislation because the rules already in place don’t seem to be working. A number of safety measures and tighter controls for the sector have been proposed, one of which includes a ban on gambling adverts. In 2018, Sky TV announced they would be rolling out a feature whereby their customers would be able to ‘opt-out’ of viewing gambling ads and even went as far as revealing it would be widely available in 2019. Well, it is 2020 and we are still seeing those adverts.

The latest updates from the parliamentary group include the following proposals:

  • A maximum stake limit of just £2 for online slot machines
  • Banning of all gambling adverts both online and on TV
  • Affordability checks for customers
  • A new ombudsman
  • Game design controls
  • Ending of VIP schemes

These proposals are from the same group who were behind the cap on FOBT’s (fixed odds betting terminals), so chances are they’re going to get what they ask for. Affordability checks on customers are something the online bingo sector are already implementing, with SOF’s (source of funds) checks being carried out on new and existing customers. Many believe operators have no business asking where they get their money from, but it’s law! The UKGC rules state that operators are obliged to enquire as to where the funds for gambling are coming from and this means providing employment evidence and even bank statements, but why? To eliminate any money laundering and criminal activity and to establish whether or not the player can afford to gamble.

Statistics show that on 2019, the UK gambling industry was estimated to be worth £11.3billion. Tax revenue from gambling is roughly £3billion. Every year, approximately £1.5billion is spent on advertising. A shocking statistic also reveals as many as 55,000 children in the UK have a gambling addiction. Approximately 300,000 people in the UK are considered to be ‘problem gamblers’ and 100,000 jobs are said to be supported by the gambling industry in the UK alone.

Will any of the proposed changes have an impact on the gambling industry in years to come? Unlikely. The gambling sector is an adaptable one, but if there were changes to the maximum amount you could spend per spin, high-roller machines would need to be scrapped or replaced with a more pocket-friendly engine.

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