An Insight into Online Gambling Regulations in the UK

Gambling is an industry that’s stood the test of time by evolving as the world does. The landscape of online gambling changes on a regular basis due to new technology being implemented into the industry almost constantly. As a result, it’s more important than ever for those involved in its regulation to ensure that changes are benefitting the consumers who are actively playing poker in the UK and other online casino games.

In this article, we’ll explore the history of online gambling, current regulations in the UK when it comes to online gambling as well as potential changes in the future.

A brief history of UK online casinos

The history of UK online starts with the birth of online casinos which is believed to have happened in 1994. The Free Trade and Processing Zone Act in the islands of Antigua and Bermuda was a huge step as it licensed and granted organisations to bring their trade to the online world. When it was signed, the presence of online casinos in the UK began to grow, with William Hill introducing its first online casino to the region. When it became apparent that the internet was definitely here to stay, investors took note and began putting their funds into online casinos, which caused the industry to boom in the 2000s. As a result, the industry became incredible saturated (a fact that remains true today), with many online casinos looking for ways to stand out from the competition as others dominated. In 2005, the UK was one of the first big countries in the world to legalise online gambling with the 2005 Gambling Act.

As technology developed, so too did the online casinos. Games like themed slots, multiplayer casino games, progressive jackpots and more began to be created. And over time as online casinos competed with their land-based counterparts, live casino gaming began to emerge which also included live dealers to try and replicate the atmosphere and offering. The very first live casino was blackjack with one dealer and one table, but this space has grown exponentially over the years.

These days, many online casinos try to draw in customers through online bonuses and offers, hoping that they’ll attract new audiences who will stick around once they’ve tried out their games. To keep existing customers around, online casinos will create loyalty or VIP programmes that dish out regular offers and bonuses too. 

UK Online Gambling laws today

When it comes to online casinos, the UK has some of the best regulations in the world, overseen by the UK Gambling Commission.

In December 2020, it was announced that the Culture Secretary had launched a wide-ranging review of gambling laws to ensure that they are fit for the digital age and how the industry had changed over the past fifteen years.

It’s important for the UK Government — and indeed, the future of online casinos — that people who are vulnerable are protected and that gambling is safe for everyone. That’s why certain protections will be explored including stake and spend limits, promotional offers and advertising and more. As part of the review, issues around what action customers can take if they believe that operators have breached requirements when it comes to social responsibility. This includes ensuring young people are and children are kept safe from any harm that comes from gambling or intervening if a customer is showing signs of playing dangerously.

It was also announced in December 2020 that the minimum age for playing in the National Lottery was to be raised from 16 to 18 beginning from October 2021. Having launched back in 1994, the National Lottery has changed significantly over the years, with more trends towards instant win games like scratch cards as well as online play. The government’s decision to increase the age limit is recognition of this change and is aimed at protecting young people who may be more vulnerable.

What’s likely to happen

There’s likely to be some other changes beyond the National Lottery age limit when it comes to online casinos and gambling. VIP schemes and programmes are likely to either be curbed or eradicated, which could affect schemes that involve loyalty points. There also might be more laws around self exclusion rules which will be put into place to prevent problem gamblers.

Many are predicting that new responsible gambling tools will need to be put into place by operators in addition to those that exist such as activity warnings, time limits, deposit limits and more. Also, stricter rules around deposit protection for customers. It’s possible there could be changes to TV and Sport Advertising and sponsorship, including reducing the number and types of ads on TV as well as restrictions around when adverts can be shown (one suggestion is after 9PM so that those underage are protected).

And of course there will be big new rules around online stake limits and online game timings.

Other changes that we might expect can be around payment methods and credit, gambling fines, the gambling levy, withdrawl limits, the source of funds checks, limiting accounts and new customer thresholds.

Further the future

It’s difficult to say exactly how regulations around online gambling will change down the line. Technology has completely changed the industry even since 2005, without any signs of stopping. Only time will tell but it’s likely the UK governing bodies will do whatever they can to keep consumers protected. `