More and more countries are legalizing online gambling. Online casinos can therefore be granted a license in several countries if they comply with the applicable laws and regulations. But what distinguishes a permit from the Netherlands from a permit from the United Kingdom. In any case, it is known that some countries have stricter procedures than others. In general, the UK Gambling Commission is known as one of the most reliable and strict, but is it? Today we are going to find out if online gambling regulations are strict in the UK.
History and its purpose
To better understand the English gambling market, it is useful to first look at the history. While online gambling has only been a thing of the last few years in many countries, it is not the case in the UK. Since the beginning of 2000, it has been possible to bet virtually on sports matches in England.
The United King Gambling Commission (UKGC) was established to license and regulate companies seeking to enter the gambling market. This committee was established under the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate commercial gambling in the United Kingdom (UK) and thereby protect consumers. In 2014 there was an update in the legislation that focuses on the online gambling market as amended by the Gambling Act 2014. The UK is one of the first countries to properly enshrine gambling in law. In 2007 the UKGC assumed full powers, taking over responsibility from the Gaming Board for Great Britain. The Commission is a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The UKGC is responsible for regulating arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, slot machines and lotteries. It is also responsible for remote gambling which includes betting online, by telephone and other communication devices using the equipment, that offers or advertise services to the residents of Great Britain. The UKGC is also the licensee that licenses and regulates the British National Lottery in the UK under the National Lottery Act 1993.
The UKGC states that it is its mission to make gambling fairer and safer. They do that by licensing and regulating in the public interest and providing advice and guidance. They want a fair and safe gambling market where all consumers and the interest of the wider public are protected.
In the UK the Gambling Commission is responsible for several things. They license, regulate, advise and provide guidance to the individuals and businesses that offer gambling in Great Britain. The UKGC’s main objective is to protect the players and make the market as safe as possible for them. But how does the UKGC regulate license holders? They do this by checking the license holders. If the conditions in the permit or laws and regulations are not complied with, they will proceed with enforcement. That can be done in different ways. This varies from holding a conversation to imposing a fine or revoking a permit.
The UKGC has published their strategy for the upcoming 3 years. They have a few strategic objectives for the next years:
- Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling
- A fairer market and more informed consumers
- Keeping crime out of gambling
- Optimise returns to good causes from The National Lottery
- Improving gambling regulation
What becomes clear from the UKGC’s strategy is that it will in any case not be easier to get a permit. The player is even more put at number 1. The UK gambling market has already been considered one of the toughest and will at least maintain this title for years to come.
Although it has been said for years that the British market would be the strictest market to enter, that changed on April 1, 2021. If it is up to online casinos, the Dutch Gaming Authority has taken over the baton for the strictest watchdog. But the UK is one of the strictest. The gambling law in force from 2014 is seen as a turning point in the gambling market in the UK. The rules became stricter and better for consumers. Many businesses closed down or were driven out of the British gambling sector as a result of the ever-increasing requirements and very high standards. At this time only the really big gambling companies could meet the requirements set by the Gambling Commission of Great Britain. This led to considerable consolidation in the UK online gambling segment. The market became pro-player.
To apply for a license from the UKGC as a casino, the casino must meet many strict requirements. You can apply for and obtain permits in various countries worldwide, but the rules differ per country. The UK gambling authority is one of the strictest authorities that can grant a license. A casino needs a license to demonstrate reliability and integrity. The UKGC guarantees that the online casinos, games, the financial settlement of player accounts and consumer rights are handled and safeguarded. There are also requirements related to the technical properties of online slots and other games to check whether they are fair. The payout percentage of games is monitored, and studies are conducted into the house edge while playing.
Incidentally, these studies are all conducted by independent companies that specialize in this work. Furthermore, for an application, companies must be able to demonstrate that they are financially healthy and that there is a business plan with a strategy for the future. From a financial point of view, this means that companies must have a substantial buffer to be able to pay players in the event of problems. The buffer that has been set up for this must also be replenished to always be ready for the worst. The size of the buffer also depends on the size of the company and the turnover. Furthermore, casinos must offer an exclusion option. With this, players can indicate that they want to be excluded from online gambling, because of possible gambling addiction. For that reason, the websites of online casinos also often provide information about getting help with gambling problems.
Until recently, the casinos were able to do a lot in terms of sponsorships, promoting online gambling, etc. People were therefore confronted with the online gambling industry in all kinds of ways. If you want to watch the Premier League with your family in England, you will be confronted with various online casinos. In the Premier League alone, 9 out of 20 sports teams are sponsored by a casino. The names are printed large on the front of the t-shirts. But, in 2021, this seems to have reached a turning point. In the year 2020/2021, the government commissioned an investigation into the reassessment of the games of chance policy. The Government is set to ban betting firms from sponsoring football shirts following its review of gambling laws.
And this seems to be the beginning of an end of an era of gambling promotion. Although the government wants to take more measures, this does not seem very likely. However, more and more attention is being paid to responsible gambling and protecting the player. We are curious to see what measures will be taken to guarantee the protection of the player. In a world that never ends, anything can happen.
When the online casino is licensed, it does not mean that they have free play and can do whatever they want. The casinos that have a license are under strict supervision. If they do not comply with the law, the casinos can expect a warning or hefty fines. In February 2022, the casino BetVictor was fined £2 million for violating its licensing rules. During a one-year investigation, this casino did not come off well. The necessary shortcomings were revealed. This would involve implementing policies, procedures, and controls to combat money laundering.
Leanne Oxley, Gambling Commission Director of Enforcement, said: “As a gambling regulator our focus is on ensuring that gambling in Britain is fair, safe and crime-free, and BetVictor failed consumers by breaching rules aimed at achieving these objectives.
“Non-compliance – no matter what the reason – will never be a viable business option for gambling businesses. We will always be tough on operators who fail in this way.”
And BetVictor is certainly not the only casino to have been fined by the UKGC. Sky Betting was fined £1.7 million in March. And in February, casino 888 was fined £9.2 million. What is clear in any case is that the UKGC is not afraid to take enforcement action.
Criticism of the UKGC
On January 24, 2022, the Parliamentary All-Party Betting & Gaming Group (APBGG) published a report containing the results of an investigation into the Competence and Effectiveness of the Gambling Commission. The Parliamentary All-Party Betting and Gaming Group are made up of a group of MPs with a common interest in the UK gambling industry. The group believes that gambling should be legal and well-regulated but is critical of several elements of the current UK gambling policy. The advice and wishes of APBGG do not have to be followed by the British government.
The investigation was launched after many complaints about the performance of the UK Gambling Commission, the group states on its website. The APBGG opened an online platform where providers could submit their complaints anonymously. In September last year, the APBGG announced that it would launch an investigation into the UKGC. Operators were given five weeks to submit their complaints. In particular, many complaints have been submitted by the license holders about the actions of the committee during the corona pandemic. The Supervisor would have acted excessively.
The report shows that the results are judgmental for the Commission. The report contains several examples where the committee clearly overstepped its powers and conducted itself in a way that no regulator should or as was intended when the Commission was created by the Gambling Act 2005. The APBGG said that the following: “The Commission has allegedly committed multiple breaches of almost all the sections of the Regulator’s Code and to add insult to injury, appears to be offering the British gambling industry, an incredibly poor level of service often combined with incompetence and a basic lack of knowledge of the industry it regulates.”
The APBGG argues that real changes should be made, but as written, parliament does not have to do anything about this. It is therefore questionable whether the Commission will do anything with this report. In any case, there is a lot of criticism of the regulator.