Ever since the Gambling Act 2005 took effect, UK players have had access to a host of licensed online casinos, regulated by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) with an iron fist. The UKGC is renowned around the gambling scene for its stringent set of rules, designed to protect vulnerable gamblers and ensure a level playing field for all players.
Guest author Joe Booth looks at the important changes that the UK gambling industry has experienced. To find out more about Joe Booth, click here.
Despite the strict reputation of the UKGC, the UK gambling industry has long been one of the most liberal in the world, raking in massive revenues year after year. According to the UKGC, the tightly-controlled nature of gambling in UKcasinos has led to continuous growth. Players feel safe gambling online, and casino operators are able to reach wider bases of players.
In this article, we take a closer look at the five most important changes made to the UK online gaming scene that have directly contributed to its thriving until today. You can read slots reviews and online casino reviews to help you select a good online casino in the UK.
Prioritizing Healthy Gambling Habits
Regulating the online casino industry can be a difficult juggling act. On one hand, the more revenue casinos generate, the higher the taxes that governments can collect to fund their programs. On the other hand, problem gamblers are a small slice of the population, but contribute a disproportionately large share to online casino operators’ bottom lines.
The UKGC must balance the needs of both sides to keep the highly profitable casino scene thrumming. It seems clear, however, that when both sides are in conflict, the UKGC generally takes the safe choice of prioritizing the needs of vulnerable players.
This preference can easily be seen in most of the major decisions enacted by the UK gaming regulator in recent years, many of which are discussed in the following sections.
Stricter Verification Rules
One of the key ways that the UKGC has tamped down on online casinos that prey on vulnerable players is to enforce a strict regime of identity and age verifications on players. The latest set of guidelines on this matter, implemented in early 2019, obliged operators to conduct verification checks on players before allowing any access to their sites. UK players must verify their identity, age, and location before they can deposit to their new casino account.
In previous years, underage players were often able to take advantage of a 72-hour verification window upon registration to play for real money, before being banned – much to the delight of unscrupulous online casino operators, who could then confiscate their casino bankrolls.
Age-Restricted Free Play
The UKGC contends that it is the nature of gambling games themselves that make them addictive, rather than the fact that people can play such games for real money.
This stance was made clear by the UKGC’s strictures on online casino games played with free virtual currencies “for fun”. Online casinos often try to draw in new players with free play slots. The regulator now imposes an age limit on free play slots, arguing that exposing younger players to such games may make them more susceptible to gambling in later age.
Credit Card Gambling Banned
One of the most traditional ways of funding your online casino account is through credit cards. In previous years, it was the easiest and most convenient way of making sure you always had enough on your account to play your games.
The UKGC banned the use of credit cards in early 2020. According to the online gambling statistics the regulator has found, gamblers who use their credit cards are much more likely to be problem gamblers than those who pay through other means.
They also found that such players typically have higher incomes than their peers, but score lower on gambling literacy. The UKGC contends that this combination of high income, good credit, and low gambling literacy increases the chances of problematic gambling behaviours among this population.
New VIP Club Rules
VIP Clubs often incentivize gambling habits that would be extremely risky for most players. The UKGC has stepped in to impose new rules on how VIP Clubs operate. Although UK players 18 years and older can gamble online, the UKGC mandates that VIP players must be at least 25 years and older.
Online casino operators are also tasked with ensuring that players hunting for top-tier VIP rewards can, in fact, afford their habits. Operators must verify the source of funds of these players to avoid incentivizing potentially problematic gambling behaviours.
The UKGC and the UK Government is also expected to overhaul the 2005 Gaming Act and make significant changes in the coming months.