The UK has been a real leader in the world of online gambling, from exporting its popular bookmaker’s products worldwide, to taking a strict stance on regulation and compliance. What can we expect to change during 2021, a year that opens mid-pandemic and with Britain’s departure from the EU?
More regulation of the UK casino experience?
The UK Gambling Commission has dramatically changed the landscape for online casino operators and players in the UK. With increasing regulation over such areas as bonuses and promotions, VIP schemes and other incentives to play…the casinos have had to react by pulling a lot of the promotional features aimed at attracting and retaining players. High profile cases such as the £5.9 Million fine imposed on GVC Holdings and the tragic failure of PT Entertainment Services to protect a vulnerable player have highlighted the value of effective regulation. We expect to see even more changes in the years to come as the UKGC tightens its grip on the industry.
How will Brexit affect UK online casinos?
The UK’s departure from the EU is only likely to accelerate the differences in the way the UK manages the gambling industry…and it might mean big changes!
One of the main areas of concern for the gambling industry, which probably won’t affect players, is the location of many of its business hubs in Gibraltar and Malta. These will face many challenges from the UK’s departure from the EU, including staffing and taxation issues which may take some time to fully understand.
What about the pandemic?
Neil MCarthur, the UK Gambling Commission’s Chief Executive has been vocal about his desire to raise standards of compliance in the sector, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic which requires operators to take extra steps to ensure player safety.
On December 8th 2020, the UK government launched its Gambling Act Review. They have issued a Call for Evidence that runs until midnight on 31 March 2021. After the evidence is in, the commission will review and recommend next steps. With new and emerging evidence on mental health and gambling habits it seems inevitable that we should expect some changes.
Changes to UK Casinos from the player’s perspective
Above all else we would expect to see changes to bonuses and incentives to play. Many casinos run VIP programmes and reward systems that the UKGC has already been critical of alongside the ‘Loot box’ phenomenon in video games. Incentivising risk-taking is likely to be at the core of any regulatory changes, particularly when that relates to high stakes or ‘heavily engaged’ players.
Alongside this, it is possible that the use of player data to track previous exclusions, gambling habits and other behaviours that might help detect problem gamblers could be shared between casinos or with a central body. Here at UK Casino Awards we think a national exclusion database would be useful for most players, although the implications of holding such records on people should not be understated and privacy is essential.
Beyond that, we hope that the UKGC take a pragmatic and sensible approach and do not drive gamblers to black market websites. UK Online Casinos are probaby the safest in the world and if they can offer a fun and professionally managed experience for players, with great slots and games, fair play, and fast payouts, there should be no reason for UK players to go anywhere else.