The UK’s Case for Tackling Gambling Addiction

With the explosive growth of online gambling in the last 5 years in the UK, problem gambling issues are getting a lot of extra attention. It makes perfect sense that if there are more online gamblers, there are going to be more online gamblers who are vulnerable to gambling addiction.

It’s hard to argue with the fact that the UK has one of the most robust online gambling communities in the world. Some experts say that more than 12 million UK residents are gambling online on a regular basis with millions more doing some occasional recreational gambling. With a total population of approximately 66 million people in the UK, that translates to 20% of the population having online gambling accounts.

It’s the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) that is responsible for regulating the online gambling community. Officials at the UKGC are well aware of the potential for serious problem gambling issues within the region. Let’s look at that a little closer.

The UKGC’s Case for Stricter Regulations

While any form of gambling can be a fun form of adult entertainment, gambling does hold the potential for causing harm if done by vulnerable gamblers. In the eyes of the UKGC, vulnerable gamblers would be kids illegally gambling while underage and adults who are prone to gambling addiction behaviors.

As the UK’s primary gambling industry regulatory body, the UKGC feels they have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable. They feel they need to do that based on the notion that a plethora of problem gamblers will eventually become a drag on UK society. At the least, protecting vulnerable gamblers requires the funding of gambling addiction resources. That already creates a bit of a drag on the region’s pocketbook.

Just the same, the UKGC feels they have an obligation to do whatever is necessary to protect the vulnerable and UK society in general. They are attempting to do this in two ways.

First, they have created very strict advertising and marketing guidelines of which online gambling operators must follow. These guidelines restrict the advertising and marketing of online gambling services to minors and problem gamblers. To make sure these regulations have teeth, the fines for violation of these advertising and marketing restrictions have been and will be quite severe.

The second way the UKGC is addressing the gambling addiction issue is by requiring online operators to provide customers with clear access to problem gambling resources. One of the primary resources the UKGC promotes is the GamStop Self-exclusion Registry scheme. Let’s look at this scheme in more depth.

A Look at the GamStop Scheme

At some point a few years back, UKGC officials came to realize that it is near impossible to detect problem gambling issues among an online gambling population of 10+ million residents. They decided that providing prospective problem gamblers with access to a “self-exclusion” program would likely be an effective way to combat gambling addiction. It was the UKGC that innovated the GamStop concept.

The program is strictly voluntary. Gamblers cannot be forced to register with GamStop. If an online gambler feels they are losing control of their online gambling activities, they can register with GamStop for free. When registering, they will need to provide some basic personal information and select a self-exclusion period. The personal information will be used to flag registered gamblers who try to use UK online gambling sites. The self-exclusion period options are 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years. Once registration has been approved, the registered gambler is supposed to be blocked from gambling online with a licensed UK online gambling operator.

Is GamStop Effective?

For the most part, GamStop works as long as operators and gamblers are willing to abide by the rules. The problem is not all operators and gamblers are following the rules.

As for the operators, not all operators have subscribed for membership in the GamStop scheme. We know that because with the increasing popularity of non-GamStop bookmakers listed on casino-wise.com. There are two issues at work here.

First, the UKGC has not yet mandated GamStop membership for licensed operators. With that said, that day should be coming soon. Second, not all UK online operators are licensed with the UKGC. That’s only illegal if the operator gets caught. Then, the fines can be severe.

As for the gamblers, they still have online gambling options even after agreeing to self-exclusion. Their options include:

  • Gambling abroad
  • Gambling through non-GamStop operators
  • Opening accounts under alternative identities
  • Using land-based gambling facilities
  • Using Crypto casinos that require no personal information verification

Any efforts the UKGC puts forth in the battle against gambling addiction are good efforts. Unfortunately, the online gambling industry is difficult to regulate. As the industry continues to grow (online gambling grew by 50%+ in 2020), the UKGC will have to adopt stricter guidelines for operators and gamblers. Also, they will need to strengthen their enforcement efforts. Until they can do these things, there will likely be a significant spike in UK problem gambling issues in the next couple of years.

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