Home Casino How the UK online casino landscape could change in the near future

How the UK online casino landscape could change in the near future

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UK gamblers will soon be seeing some significant changes as the UK government takes a close look at the current gambling laws and sets out plans to bring them up to date. It’s seen as particularly important to overhaul UK gambling regulations given recent changes in technology, many of which have already impacted the industry and made gambling more easily accessible for the majority of the population.

Gambling laws in the UK have traditionally been lax. It’s easy to access online gambling sites, and while most casinos encourage responsible gambling, it’s generally seen as the player’s responsibility to self-regulate. There are very few restrictions on things like advertising and marketing within the industry, and the compliance rules that casinos must follow are not overly strict. This could, however, all be impacted by a new government white paper published in April 2023.

What is the UK gambling white paper, and why is it necessary?

“The white paper essentially aims to update the previous Gambling Act of 2005 that has covered gambling in the UK for the past several years,” states Emma Summer, from gambling payments site Paygamble.com. “It was seen as necessary because the landscape has changed so much since the early 2000s. New technology means gambling venues are available 24/7 from any mobile device, and it has made it easy for international tech companies to provide gambling facilities to anyone, anywhere in the world.”

At the same time, increased awareness of gambling-related harms, addiction, and mental health issues has meant that the responsibility to regulate gambling and support those negatively impacted by it has grown. The reduction of problem gambling is at the heart of the new white paper, along with increased consumer protection and the prevention of money laundering. The report also aims to make it easier to enforce existing regulations by giving more power to the UK Gambling Commission, which is responsible for ensuring fairness and transparency in the gambling industry, particularly when it comes to online gambling.

The government evidence gathered in support of the new regulations emphasizes the mental health issues intertwined with online gambling. In one study, 40% of online gamblers with mental health issues agreed that online gambling did not feel like spending real money to them, whereas only 26% of those without a mental health history said the same. The government also cited evidence from charities that those who suffer issues such as social isolation or cognitive dysfunction are particularly vulnerable to being attracted to online gambling and can potentially fail to understand the risks involved.

What does the white paper cover?

There are six main sections in the paper, covering a wide range of issues. The sections are:

  • Online protections – players and products
  • Marketing and advertising
  • The Gambling Commission’s powers and resources
  • Dispute resolution and consumer redress
  • Children and young adults
  • Land-based gambling

While land-based gambling is in there, the emphasis throughout seems to be on the specific problems caused in these areas in relation to online gambling. Things such as age verification are harder when people gamble remotely, and resolving disputes can be very challenging for customers when dealing with a casino that they can only access by online messaging. 

What are some of the specifics in the white paper?

In the area of online protections, the proposals include new account-level protections that will be the responsibility of casino operators and measures to make online products safer by design. These measures will include restrictions on game characteristics such as speed of play and maximum stake. This makes sense as it follows current UK restrictions prohibiting features such as autoplay and bonus buy options. Operators will also be required to take steps to empower all their customers to understand and control their gambling.

“More emphasis is being put on operators to identify problem gambling by monitoring customer activity, including issues such as binge gambling, high amounts spent at set times (such as payday), the time of day gambling occurs (for example, late at night), and payment issues such as failed deposits or the use of multiple gambling payment methods,” Ms Summer continues. “While attempts to address problem gambling are generally seen as a good thing, there are understandable privacy concerns about such close monitoring of customer accounts and individual gambling activity.”

Regarding marketing and advertising, the paper will aim to put tougher restrictions around things like bonuses and direct marketing and make advertising standards around the gambling industry stricter. This will include addressing compliance in content marketing, marketing that may appeal to children, developing safer gambling messaging, socially responsible sports sponsorship, and holding licensees accountable for the activity of their marketing affiliates.

In the case of children and young adults, the paper aims to offer stronger protections. Currently, 18 is generally the age at which casino gambling is allowed. While there are no plans to raise the age limit right now, the paper does focus on the importance of proper age verification in online gambling. There is also a focus on supporting young adults in the 18–24 age range who have been identified as a group particularly vulnerable to gambling issues due to factors such as higher impulsivity and more restricted financial resources.

In terms of empowering the UK Gambling Commission, the aim is to ensure that it “has the powers and resources it needs to pursue the licensing objectives, with the flexibility to meet challenges like the black market or boundary-pushing products.” In other words, there will be a clamp down on illegal gambling products and quite possibly on “grey area” gambling, which could well include unlicensed, offshore providers and their ability to access UK consumers.

Final thoughts

The UK has long enjoyed relatively liberal regulations around gambling. Still, the landscape has changed, and it makes sense to update laws, guidelines and responsibilities to match the current market conditions. While there may be some objections from both operators and players, there will also be many who welcome this attempt to better protect vulnerable consumers and limit potentially harmful practices within the industry.

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Christopher Stern
Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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