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Are Strict Betting Regulations Harmful or Helpful?

February 17, 2020

- Grant Whittington

Online gambling is now the single biggest economic sector in the United Kingdom, or UK, generating thousand of jobs and millions in tax revenue. A lot of experts point to the UK as an example of how beneficial a regulated betting industry can be, suggesting other countries follow the same formula.

The UK’s Gambling Commission – the UKGC – commenced operations in 2006, and has since been responsible for monitoring and licensing all casinos and sportsbooks in the country, be they online or land-based.

In recent times, as concern for consumer safety, problem gambling and underage bettors has increased, the UKGC has enforced stronger legislation to protect children and vulnerable adults from gambling’s potentially harmful effects.

New Regulations

Now, there are plans for even stricter controls. From April, UK gamblers will not be able to conduct their transactions with credit cards. They’ll also have to participate in the GAMSTOP service from the 31st of March.

Other new rules will come into effect on the 7th of May 2020, which are intended to make gambling safer and fairer. Up to now, casinos and bookmakers have allowed people to make deposits and access free bets and no-deposit games.

After May the 7th, operators will have to verify age and identity before they accept deposits or allow any kind of betting, just as they currently do before authorising withdrawals. They’ll also need to explain all cashout requirements, including supplying additional documentation, when deposits are initially made and not when withdrawals are requested as they do now.

The Online Harms Bill

The Online Harms Bill is expected to be introduced in the British Parliament’s House of Commons shortly. Introduced in the 2019 edition of the Queen’s Speech, it aims to not only protect children but also to prevent the spread of any terrorism materials.

The Betting and Gaming Council, or BGC, which is the industry’s trade association in the UK is pushing to have the Online Harms Bill crack down on unlicensed betting operators as part of the security measures it takes. If this happens, it will benefit legal bookmakers and casinos but will also another layer of consumer protection for desktop and mobile gamblers.

Further Measures Coming Soon

In October 2019 the UKGC issued a challenge to gambling industry leaders to raise safety standards and reduce harm even more. In response, 3 working groups of experts have been formed. They’ll tackle online advertising, the use of VIP incentives and responsible product design. Tight deadlines have been set, and the Commission has said it expects to see significant progress by the end of March 2020.

Why Strict Regulation is Beneficial

Some people argue that gambling should not be legal, precisely because it can lead to problem behaviour, theft and underage players and bettors. However, the reality is that people will keep gambling, and the best course of action is to regulate the industry to maximise advantages and minimise disadvantages.

Other detractors might say that the UKGC’s numerous rules force people to use underground bookmakers and casinos, but the measures that are taken are all to ensure that gambling remains safe and fun – because problem behaviour is curbed, and because theft of identities and funds is prevented.

The UKGC is clearly set on protecting Britons who bet. Their new measures show their commitment, and so does their action when 6 sites offered unlawful feature buy-in facilities on their slots. After the Commission stepped in, all 6 operators removed the option. They also ensure, of course, that odds and game results are fair.

Even the annoyance that some individuals will feel at not being able to use credit cards after April 2020 is outweighed by the protection it will offer to vulnerable individuals. Overall, the Gambling Commission is an excellent watchdog that still allows for great betting opportunities, and the United Kingdom is lucky to have it.

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