Gambling may have been around for centuries, but in the grand scheme of things, regulations surrounding the industry are relatively new. Not only that, but rules regarding online gambling are even newer, with many calling for further rules and regulations to be put in place. We already know that there are likely to be some changes around the way gambling can be advertised online, but why are regulations updated so often, and is it something that is needed?
The On-Going Gambling Legislation Debate
Gambling legislation in the UK has always been a hotly debated topic – some will argue that the regulations aren’t strict enough while others will argue that they’re too strict. It’s one of the most carefully regulated in the country and the rules are always under review. While the need for the rules is clear, the rules themselves aren’t as easy to understand or put into place due to a network of complex systems that all need to be updated. Legislations are always changing and as such in the future it is likely that casino offers like these will come under even stricter guidelines. However, even before that happens there are companies already finding themselves in bother because they haven’t been operating under the rules that already exist so stricter guidelines could lead to even more companies being fined.
Gambling Businesses Receiving Fines
In 2020, fines paid by gambling-related businesses totaled over £44 million, which represented a 175% increase from the previous year. Crucially, a quarter of the fines handed out to businesses came from the UK Gambling Commission. This increased again in 2021 and the majority of the fines were once again issued by UK Gambling Commission.
So far in 2022 most of the fines handed out globally have been issued by the UKGC, proving that the rules are difficult and complex to follow. A lot of the regulations require strict automated processes to be in place, and if any of these fail then it leaves gambling companies liable for a fine.
Last year White Hat Gaming was fined £1.3million for failing to identify the source of one customer’s funds and failing to prevent overspending. As part of the UKGC’s regulations gambling companies must agree to place limits on any accounts that incur heavy losses over a short space of time, which White Hat Gaming also failed to do. Casumo was fined a whopping £6million for failing to follow anti-money laundering regulations and failing social responsibility.
Several multi-million-pound fines have already been issued in the first quarter of 2022. Sky Vegas, owned by the gaming giant Flutter, was fined for sending free spin promotions and marketing communications to gamblers that had self-excluded as well as users that had opted out of promotional emails. 888 was yet another gambling company to fall foul of the social responsibility rules – the business was fined just under £1million for failing to contact players who lost large amounts of money in a short period of time.
Companies That Have Not Yet Been Fined
While several companies have already received a large fine in the first quarter of this year, many others are putting money aside in anticipation of receiving a fine at some point in the next year. It’s clear that many companies are still having issues with compliance, but why are the rules always being updated?
Why The Need To Review Regulations?
One of the biggest reasons for the constant review of rules is that both consumers and the UK government have become more aware of the harm that gambling is doing to players and their families. Gambling addicts committing suicide after running up large debts has become a sad fact of life. More problem gamblers are asking for support and campaigners have raised a huge amount of awareness, resulting in policy reviews. Gambling companies have always been banned from advertising before 9 pm on UK TV channels. Despite this, bookmakers have been using a well-known loophole for decades while the government turned a blind eye. Bookmakers simply sponsor a football team or pitch hoarding and their brand is promoted during major sporting events, regardless of the time.
Another reason for the constant review of rules is the ever-changing nature of technology. When the Gambling Commission was created, social media companies were only taking their first steps. The internet wasn’t as widely used, and for the most part, bookmakers and casinos were still land-based. In the 19 years since the UKGC was founded, social media has become a hugely important part of life. Most people have at least one social media account and gambling is often done online in the comfort of the player’s own home. The UKGC has been very slow to react – to this day there is still very limited guidance about social media advertising, with guidance focusing more on the content of the ad and who it is aimed at rather than where it should be displayed.
The Future of Gambling Legislation
Technology is always evolving, as are the attitudes of the general public. With that, the UKGC has no choice but to continue to adapt and change the rules in an effort to move with the times. However, what this looks like in the future is hard to say. We know that in the near future it is likely that gambling operators will be asked to step up and take more responsibility for who uses their platform and how it is used. They are already encouraged to carry out affordability checks but as the online gambling industry grows it is likely their obligations will do too.
However, what gambling will look like in another 19 years’ time is anyone’s guess. The way we use technology is consistently changing, adapting, and growing and as such, so will things like access to online betting and various gambling services. As they have always done, the UK Gambling Commission will continue to monitor trends surrounding gambling and ensure that regulations keep up with this to keep everyone as safe and supported as possible.