5 Ways A New Gambling Act Could Change How You Bet
If you gamble online regularly then it’s more than likely that you have heard about proposed changes to regulation in the UK. The British government is currently undertaking a massive review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the piece of legislation which set the parameters in which the online gambling industry has thrived in the last decade and a half. During that time gross gambling yield has soared to around £15 billion annually off the back of huge advertising spends and improved mobile technologies.
But whilst betting firms have enjoyed huge success, the growth of a gambling culture has not come without its critics. A rise in the level of problem gambling has led some MPs, the media, and charities to demand more stringent regulation and a total overhaul of the 2005 Act now referred to as analogue legislation in digital age.
It is against this backdrop that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport is preparing to present a new bill before parliament in 2021 – 2022. There has already been much debate about what that bill should contain, with strong opinions voiced on both sides. Here we look at five key changes that might affect your ability to bet online after a new Gambling Act is passed next year.
Deposit Limits and Affordability Checks
Central to the argument for reform is addressing problem gambling in the UK and how to protect vulnerable customers from spending more than they can afford. And alongside this, the question of how this can be achieved without infringing on the liberties of those who want to gamble. The best solution seems to be to use affordability checks to assess whether a person can afford to spend above a specified amount.
But at what level should these be introduced?
It was recently suggested by the UK Gambling Commission that £100 per month might be an appropriate level to start asking for personal information like bank balances and payslips. Such a low level seems improbable but rule out nothing in the current climate. Whatever the outcome, just like in European counties like Sweden and Germany, expect some form of restraint on your deposit and loss levels from 2022.
Reduced Stake Limits
Hand in hand with deposit limits are stake limits, something that those who regularly play and spend big at any of the UK’s many online slot sites will object to. Slots, just like their offline counterparts, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), have been the subject of much ire from anti-gambling groups who claim that they are too addictive and encourage players to stake too much too quickly. FOBTs now only accept stakes of up to £2 per play and it seems likely that online slots will go the same way. These restrictions have already been mooted by the UK GC who may even act independently before a new Gambling Act to prevent operators allowing bets of more than £2 per spin.
Anti-gambling campaigners also like to point out that aggressive bonusing causes customers to spend more than they can afford at betting and casino sites. Many recovering addicts point out that when they tried to reign in their habit they would quickly be lured back by the temptation of a free bet or cash back on losses.
Bearing in mind everything is up for grabs in the new Gambling Act, a blanket ban on bonuses is not completely impossible though it seems unlikely at this point. Nevertheless, it is possible that new regulation may put a cap on how much an operator can dish out, so be prepared that you free bet quota my no longer be so generous.
An End to VIP Programs
The UK Gambling Commission has already introduced stricter controls on VIP programs and loyalty schemes, including excluding under 25s from being invited to join them and stricter screening of VIPs for affordability.
These loyalty programs for high spending customers are criticised because they potentially reward problem gamblers for maintaining their habits. However, on the other side of the fence many argue that just like in any other high value customer business, online gambling firms should be allowed to reward their players commensurate with what they spend, including really exclusive events tickets, luxury goods and account management. Just like bonuses, it seems unlikely that VIP schemes will be removed entirely. However, it is likely that much stricter screening and auditing will be introduced after a new Gambling Act.
Whilst changes in the rules around advertising may not directly affect your betting, it will have an impact on the culture of gambling in the UK. The proliferation of ads on TV and online, and the sponsorship of Premier League football has been heavily criticised for normalising gambling behaviour and introducing it to children before the legal age at which they can place a bet.
This is another highly controversial area to regulate. On the industry side many have pointed out that gambling sponsorship is a critical revenue stream for sports, particularly at the Championship and League One levels where the pandemic has hit clubs hard. It is likely that, just like in Spain, new rules may restrict how much exposure gambling brands can be given on TV and at sports clubs, but to avoid a cliff-edge drop in revenues a blanket ban seems unlikely.
Those are just five ways in which the proposed new gambling act in the UK may affect your ability to bet online. To find out more about upcoming changes you can check out the government website here.
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