While the long-awaited UK Government White Paper on gambling reform has been finally published, there’s still a lot of work to do. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) are working alongside the government to implement the contents of the review.
Four consultations have been published by the UKGC. These will become effective in July 2023 and include several of the topics that are covered in the White Paper. These being: remote games design financial risk, age verification in premises, giving customers additional control over direct marketing sent out by sites and vulnerability checks for remote operators.
It is believed that the closing date for these consultations will be sometime in October of this year.
The White Paper covered a wide range of issues relating to gambling in the UK. While some will affect land-based venues, a lot of the focus is aimed at online casinos. These were not covered in the 2005 Gambling Act. Therefore, the new proposals aim to bring the UKs gambling laws into the digital age.
Proposals included the setting of lower stake limits for online casino games. This has been welcomed by anti-gambling campaigners but not so by those operators who run UK online casinos. Such a move was seen in High Street bookmakers shops and caused a drop in revenue and redundancies to be made. Similar action being taken against slot games at online casinos would severely affect profit figures.
Executive Director of the UKGC is Tim Miller. He has said that fully implementing the proposals in the review “will be a job of several years.” An important reason for this is “evaluating the impact of any changes.” He stressed however that the UKGC are still “determined to make progress at speed.”
This is alongside their daily work of ensuring that those given licenses by the UKGC comply with the rules set down. Failure to do so will continue to be clamped down on. The UKGC has already issued fines worth millions of pounds to gambling companies.
The Tories have taken their time to get to the point when a White Paper has been published. Their intention was to release it last year but the chaos in Downing Street changed all of that. Further delays took place before it was finally published in April 2023.
The UKGC is the statutory advisor to the Secretary of State on gambling. This has seen them play an important role in the review of the UKs gambling laws. They have spent a long period of time collecting evidence that was used to determine the final contents of the White Paper and more will be gathered in the months ahead.
One area of concern is the bonuses that are offered by sites. The UK gambling industry is a highly competitive one. It’s a continual battle for online casinos to attract and then keep new customers. Attractive welcome bonuses are initially offered and then more offers to ensure customers keep visiting the site. The UKGC are concerned that some of the offers aren’t as good as they may sound.
High wagering requirements for example can make it difficult to withdraw any winnings from the bonus. There are also concerns that the bonuses offered can lead to excessive or harmful gambling.
A key area of the White Paper is the need for affordability checks for possibly vulnerable customers. Are the amounts being wagered at online casinos at a level that customers can actually afford? The White Paper calls for more checks to be made dependent on how much a player is gambling and losing. The amount will be lower for younger gamblers.
Recent years have seen the UKGC attempt to ensure that there are checks made on customers whose spending levels and losses are high. Failure to do so will soon see action taken against them.
While some support this measure there is the fear it may cause some gamblers to head in the direction of the unregulated gambling market. Online casino customers who don’t have a problem with their gambling are against any affordability checks being made against them.
The UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes believes that the White Paper contains a “coherent package of proposals.” These are ones that he believes can “significantly support and protect consumers, and improve overall standards in the industry.”
Will everything run smoothly though? One factor that may have to be taken into consideration is the upcoming General Election That’s likely to take place in the second half of 2024. If we are to believe the current opinion polls, the General Election could well see a change of government. Returning a Labour government might just see opinions on the gambling laws change.