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The UK Gambling Commission’s 2019 Shake Up

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Online gambling in the UK is on the up. The UK’s annual gross gambling yield, or GGY, is approximately £14bn and at least £5bn of that is derived from UK online casinos.

The UK’s gambling industry is, in fact, the biggest regulated gambling market in the world. It is thanks to the UK Gambling Commission that UK players now have a safe and fair environment in which to play their favourite casino games. And while it may seem contradictory, the strict rules and regulations imposed by the UKGC have actually helped the industry to grow and thrive. New rules were introduced in 2019, and these are specifically designed to protect against underage gambling and to ensure that self-excluded gamblers remain excluded. New rules are also in place to make withdrawals more straightforward.

In order to operate in the United Kingdom, online casinos are required to hold a licence from the UKGC. To obtain said licence, UK online casinos must adhere to a strict set of guidelines that encompass everything from fair play to online data protection. A quick look at a reputable review page will reveal just how many online casinos are active in the UK market, suffice to say, the competition is fierce.

The UKGC have worked hard to combat unscrupulous behaviour, and nowadays, if a casino has any hope of seeing off the competition it must gain a reputation for playing fair and keeping its customers safe. However, one area of casino operations that has continued to go on somewhat unabated is the way in which casinos deal with players during the withdrawal process. In the past, many casinos would offer generous bonuses and promotions in order to encourage customers to deposit their hard-earned cash and then cleverly worded small print in order to make it incredibly difficult to withdraw any winnings.

New Verification Policy

One of the ways online casinos make it difficult to make a withdrawal is by asking for verification of a player’s identity for a second time (or for the first time in some cases) at the moment a player requests a withdrawal. By doing this, the casino can drag out the time frame of the withdrawal and in many cases block it all together based on something seemingly arbitrary. The UKGC have now implemented a new rule which requires a licenced remote operator to verify the identity of a player during the sign-up process and before they are allowed to deposit any money. Online casinos are now required to establish the name, age and address of a player from the get-go. The casino is also required to inform customers of exactly which documents will be required and how those should be submitted. Should the casino require additional information for verification, they must do so promptly.

Stricter Protection Against Underage Gambling

A new verification rule is also in place to stem the flow of underage gambling. Prior to the new rules coming into force, online casinos had 72hrs to verify a player’s age. The age limit for players in the UK is 18yrs old. The 72hr time limit provided a type of loophole for underage players because during the 72hr period, the player could still deposit money into their new account and place bets. If the player could not verify their age in the allotted time period, they would be blocked from the account and any winnings would be null and void. The UKGC has removed the 72hr time frame and now insist that age verification must be carried out before a player can make their first deposit. The UKGC has gone a step further towards keeping underage players out of casinos by stipulating that not only will underage players not be allowed to make deposits and play with real money but they will also not be permitted to play free games, or games in demo mode.

Identification Checks for Self-Excluders

The UKGC has also stated that by implementing early verification, self-excluded gamblers will have an added layer of protection against falling back into destructive habits. Early verification ensures that those who have self-excluded via a multi-site operator, such as GamStop, will automatically be detected when trying to sign up at a new casino and therefore blocked. Gambling addiction is at the forefront of the issues concerning the UK’s gambling industry and the UKGC works closely with the industry and those with gambling addiction to find ways to steer problem gamblers away from casinos and to give them the help they need to overcome the addiction.

Less Exposure at Sporting Events

We are also going to see changes to rules concerning sports betting in 2020. Alongside the New National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, The UKGC is cracking down on the advertisements for gambling that are currently displayed at sporting events. In fact, no gambling adverts will be shown during the televised matches throughout the 2019/2020 football season. It won’t be long before we see the back of gambling industry sponsorship logos on football kits and such like. The aim is to drastically reduce the exposure of gambling enterprises to young and vulnerable sporting fans.

A Wake-up Call to the MGA

Lastly, the UKGC has urged the Malta Gambling Authority to take a stronger stance towards casinos that fall under their jurisdiction. Online casinos that hold licences with the MGA must be compliant with UKGC rules and regulations if they accept UK players. Many of Malta’s online casinos were told to bring their standards up to scratch regarding player safety and the protection of those deemed vulnerable. The UKGC also warned that VIP programmes were encouraging people to gamble through special perks and bonuses and that this area needed to be better regulated.

There have, of course, been gripes and complaints regarding the new verification rules. And we’re sure that certain gambling enterprises are not particularly pleased at no longer being as highly visible as they were in 2018. However, we think that ultimately, the UKGC is putting players first while at the same time allowing the casino industry to not only sustain itself but flourish.

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