The gambling industry in the UK is growing at a rapid pace. Between October 2017 and September 2018, the total gross gambling yield for the UK-based industry reached £14.5 billion.
And while some betting shops and bingo premises closed their doors, the number of gaming machines across the UK had a 2.4% increase.
The swift development of the industry is due, in part, to the growth of the online casino
marketplace as well as the liberalisation of gambling laws by the government under Tony Blair. The Gambling Act of 2005 had particularly strong implications on the future of the sector, opening the doors for TV advertising for sports betting as well as online casinos and poker. It also laid the regulatory groundwork for fixed odds betting terminals, which have recently come under criticism from British charities like GambleAware and have undergone changes in legislation.
Despite the new laws affecting fixed odd betting terminals in UK casinos and bookmakers on high streets (cutting the maximum stake from £100 to £2), the gambling industry as a whole is booming.
Income from remote betting sources, like online casinos, online poker and online bingo, have risen from £817 million in 2009 to £4.5 billion in 2017 — now accounting for more than a third of the industry. And 8,423 betting shops – as well as 1,639 licensed arcades – continue to operate across the country.
Regulating the rise
As the first country to introduce online gambling regulations, the UK’s gambling market has
reaped the benefits of straightforward and clear legislation. All forms of interactive online
gambling are legal as long as the providers of the service have been successfully granted a UK casino license from the local regulatory authority, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The legal gambling age in the UK is 18 years of age; this is the only condition for online players in the UK. While previously legislation required that players needed to wait 24 hours after signing up as a member to gamble, it was abolished as part of the 2005 act.
Still, there are many regulations issued by the UKGC that companies – including online casinos – need to abide by to ensure that they are operating correctly on both an ethical and legal level.
As a governing body, the UKGC are also tasked with the publication of guidance and advice as well as research — alongside licensing, compliance and enforcement. All operators who provide gambling services, both land-based and online, are required to be licensed. Lottery games, gambling software, betting, bingo and casino games all require a separate licence issued by the UKGC. Online casinos with a UK licence are held to a series of conditions issued by the UKGC; a licence can be revoked, or fines imposed, if the UKGC discovers that the operator has not complied with regulations.
Section 24 of the Gambling Act 2005 states that providers must ensure the following:
- Gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
- Children and other vulnerable people are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling websites.
- Assistance is made available to people who are, or may be, affected by problems related to gambling.
Tighter regulations in the future for UK casinos
Recent reports from the UKGC indicated a rise by 1% in gambling in the UK during 2018 — as many as 46% of the participants surveyed. The report also noted issues with how accessible gambling can be for minors; it revealed that 14% of children between the ages 11 and 16 had partaken is some form of betting during 2018 while using their own money. As a result of the findings, stricter age and ID checks came into effect in May 2019.
This new regulation, which involves ID checks and stricter verification before players can commit a deposit on websites, may actually have an alternative benefit to its users. According to the UKGC, 15% of all reported user complaints are due to customers struggling with withdrawal delays because they weren’t properly verified.
A comprehensive verification and ID check made during the registration process would eliminate withdrawal delays, as well as protecting children and teenagers who have been able to play online without the regulation in place.
It would also assist the UKGC with the prevention of money laundering and other criminal activities that may be committed through online casino websites, as well as offering the service providers themselves a wealth of data about their customer base — before they’ve even played.
As the gambling industry changes, so will the regulations that enforce the marketplace. These regulations will continue to ensure players get the most entertaining experience while service providers are operating both ethically and fairly.
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