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Is The UK Gambling Market Going to Become Over-Regulated?
Earlier this summer, I wrote a piece about why restricting gambling advertising in the UK would be a foolish move. A group of anti-gambling MPs in my home country have been on something of a warpath this year. The generational review of the UK Gaming Act has raised a lot of questions about what the future of restrictions in the UK should be like. The same group of MPs has suggested that further restrictions such as stake and monthly limits should be put in place. Needless to say, I think that they are heading into questionable waters.
A Change in Attitude Towards Gambling
I've recently returned from a trip to the UK and it seems as though gambling has once again become a hot topic. Whenever I tell someone I work in the gambling industry, I can expect one of two reactions. First, I either get people enthusiastically asking me for tips and tricks (spoiler: I don't have any) or I'll get people asking me about the ethics of gambling and whether I feel okay working in the industry. The latter of these always surprises me. Perhaps more than it should, but the frequency of that response is getting higher.
The UK, we are told, is undergoing a gambling epidemic. More people are gambling than ever before, and the very idea that someone would even gamble is becoming increasingly treated with disdain.
What appears to have happened is that the distinction between someone like myself who enjoys the occasional spin of the reels or flutter on a match at the weekends, and someone who has developed a serious gambling problem has been lost. I have to ask myself why I get the reaction I do. I understand that gambling is, and always will be, a little bit taboo, but this lack of nuance seems extreme. For me, over-regulation and anti-gambling advocacy are to blame.
There is no doubt that the UK Gambling Commission is one of the top regulators in the industry. Many of the measures that they have brought in, notably banning the use of credit cards, I wholeheartedly support. However, the more regulation that comes into place, the more stigmatized gambling becomes in the country, and the more problems you create.
Regulation or Prohibition?
The regulation that is being brought in to protect at-risk players begins to feel like a little bit of punishment to casual players. The anti-gambling coalition which has formed in the UK parliament has put forward the idea of stake limits at online casinos. While some would argue that this is good, I would argue that this is closer to prohibition than regulation. The proposed limit is €2, which, as most players or bettors will tell you, is ridiculously low.
No other industry is restricted in such a way. Granted, a pub will probably stop serving you once you've had too many, but this is not the law and I'm sure many people would be annoyed if a limit on drinking or smoking was brought in.
Implementing these kinds of laws will do nothing but force gamblers into unlicensed black markets. I spoke about this when I discussed the banning of UK gambling advertising. For many gamblers, particularly slot players, there are thousands of options out there that they can use. Anybody with access to a VPN will have no problem using casinos that fall outside of the UKGC's restrictions. This then becomes a pointless game of whack-a-mole for the British authorities.
Is there a Middle Ground?
The solutions that are being provided to gambling problems in the UK don't tend to think of the bigger picture. All these do is drive players into the hands of offshore operators and stigmatize casual players. The mentality is clearly one of anti-gambling and not of making sustainable changes in the industry. The solutions for me, lie in the use of our data. We know how much of it is collected by companies, so why not use this to help target those who are genuinely at-risk, as opposed to casual punters.
One effect of this is that casual players are just turned away in general. While some anti-gambling activists would argue that this is a good thing, this seems counter-intuitive. Gambling, when done correctly, is an enjoyable pass time. By stigmatizing the entire industry, you cost British operators millions of pounds. In turn, the British sporting industry and economy suffer from this.
Let me say that I believe the majority of the regulations brought in by the UKGC are for the greater good. Know your customer protocols and credit can ban make sense to me. I do, however, think that there is a limit, and over-regulation is a slippery slope. Some of the ideas coming out of the British parliament border on draconian and will do nothing but damage the industry.
There is no doubt that gambling laws in the UK should be reviewed from time to time. Sustainable steps to help control problem gambling should be encouraged. Trying to bludgeon the entire industry into submission is not going to help these problems though. The anti-gambling voices are making an impact on the UK and its attitude towards gambling, and this can not be a good thing in the long run.
This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.