In the UK, those who are looking to place sports bets or play in casinos are somewhat blessed. When compared to other countries, such as the US, the laws in the UK are relatively liberal and allow a whole host of betting activities to legally take place.
While many laws may be outdated, the UK ensured that it was ready for change when online casinos and sportsbooks began to grow in popularity. This saw a 2005 review of gambling legislation, all intending to keep players safe.
The 2005 laws gave rise to the UK Gambling Commission which was launched in 2007. This saw the UK offering protections for players by setting out rules and procedures that operators had to follow. For some people, these rules don’t go far enough. UK casino sites have been a focus for campaigners for a few years now, but issues have also been raised around how young people are being exposed to the world of iGaming. We’re going to take a look at where we are in the UK right now and then consider what may be set to come during 2022.
Where is the UK at present?
In the UK, the attitude towards gambling is extremely different to other countries. There is no attempt to criminalise the majority of betting activities and this means that residents can enjoy a host of games and sports that can be bet on. Although this may seem overly liberal to some countries, the UK Gambling Commission is there to ensure that players are given a fair betting experience. It is the UK Gambling Act 2005 that sets out the current laws around gambling. The legislation sets out six forms of gambling, each with its own rules. The six forms are:
• Gaming machines
The UK sees sports betting and casinos as being amongst the most popular forms of gambling. These activities require participants to be at least 18 years old. Those who operate in this field are required to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
With sports betting and iGaming being so popular, operators are always seeking to attract new customers to bolster their base. There are rules in place already in terms of advertising and these include the fact that youngsters should not be targeted. This doesn’t just relate to the placement of ads, but also how the ads are formed and presented.
Land-based vs online
Laws had long existed in the UK in terms of sports betting. This covered physical locations such as actually placing bets at the side of a race track and also bricks and mortar bookmakers. As interest in other forms of gambling grew, laws were also introduced to ensure that land-based casinos were regulated. This looked at the types of games that were offered, where they were located, and how they protected young people.
What makes the UK an attractive market to gamble in is that what is legal in land-based settings is also legal online. The 2005 legislation prepared the UK for the growth of online gambling and this has led to a marketplace that is now worth an estimated £14 billion every year.
Are eSports catered for?
There has been a significant rise in the popularity of eSports in recent times. For those who are new to the concept, eSports see players competing against each other in computer games. Games such as League of Legends and Counter Strike are particularly popular. For players, the attraction of eSports is two-fold. Yes, they of course have a love of the games that they are playing, but the added draw is that of the potential prize money. Players can win hundreds of thousands at a time. With eSports being so popular, it is natural that people have sought to bet on the outcomes.
There is no specific legislation, yet, that refers to eSport betting. However, the practice is still perfectly legal in the UK. Why? Because it is seen as being akin to traditional sports betting. This has seen more and more operators offer the opportunity to bet on eSports. The potential danger here, in the eyes of campaigners, is that eSports appeal to a younger generation. The fear is that an interest in the play could lead to an interest in gambling too.
A need for change?
The reality is that the Government is only seeking to protect the vulnerable. Whether this be youngsters or those prone to addiction it is about care and protection. Potential changes to legislation are not looking at taking away what millions of people enjoy as a hobby. While the 2005 legislation sought to bring regulations up to date, the truth is that a lot has changed over the last 15 years or so. This means that current rules are worth reviewing.
While a white paper has already been expected where a review has taken place, this has been put on hold until the spring of 2022. Some the things that we can expect to see in this review include:
• A look at online stake limits
• A review of how casinos and bookmakers advertise – there is concern that social media advertising is targeting/enticing a younger audience into gambling
• Other steps to protect young people
• A review of offers and promotions and their impact
• A look at the role and the powers given to the UK Gambling Commission
The impact on operators
The truth is that responsible operators will welcome a review of the current rules and regulations. These operators already have protections in place to safeguard those who may be verging on gambling addiction and also ensure that youngsters are excluded from their sites. Those who have anything to fear in this regard are rogue operators that the industry can do without.
New rules around advertising may present a challenge initially. Until we see exactly what advertising restrictions are brought in it is difficult to speculate about how far-reaching they will be and the fact impact that they will have.