Changes to the UK Gambling Market: An analysis of what 2021 brought and what is yet to come. 

UK Gambling Market

Just as the covid-19 pandemic hit the world in the early stages of 2020, online gambling sites and Uk bookmakers have seen a boom in the players joining their sites. It is no secret that when people were locked in, many turned to online gambling.  The demand for the game was there always, but with people having more time on their hands, gambling soared. Increasing in gambling means more need for the laws and regulations to implement. Safe to say, the UKGC has been busy the last couple of months. 

As Uk lawmakers lobby with anti-gambling NGOs to change the Gambling Act of 2005, big companies such as Betway paid hefty fines for breaching anti-money laundering rules. Online casinos saw the opportunity and snatched it as the right way to describe the matter. And the wave of new players brought in the need for change. And change we will definitely see in 2021. 

Whilst the Gambling Act 2005 is being currently reviewed and we are promised with a revamp to reflect the modern digital world, a new set of quick fixes have been launched. Today, we have a look at the quick emergency decision to target gambling, all of these taken in 2020. We will also review some of the other changes to expect to see in 2021 for new betting sites and existing ones that want to operate in the UK gambling market

Lockdown Changes Imposed on Gambling 

Covid -19 brought many changes to our lives, and as the infections surged across the globe, the world demanded changes.  One of the many changes that the UK implemented is a measure to target problem gambling. Let’s have a look at some of the key emergency measures put in place. 

Emergency regulations to abide by

The UKGC vowed that during lockdown they will work harder to target problem gambling. It imposed new rules on current license holders; these include mandatory affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals and also ample restrictions on bonus offers to online casino players and sports punters. 

Tougher verification processes

Another measure that the UKGC deemed fit in these trying times is the need for a more robust infrastructure related to player verification. Beforehand, players could deposit money and then have to go through the verification process at UK bookmakers. Laying down the ruling to target the UKGC, the Commission demanded that players are identified prior to be allowed to deposit any play money at gambling sites. 

UK bookmakers will also need to prove that they have implemented checks and strategies that will eliminate the risk of players opening duplicate accounts. Hence, a tougher responsible gaming approach is needed. 

GAMSTOP is a must if you own a gambling site 

Gamstop is a free service support site, that will assist the gambler in restricting the amount of play. In 2020, the UKGC made it a compulsory part of the license requirements to have a GAMSTOP subscription. This move is targeted to have players find the support they need should a problem with gambling arises. 

Banning Credit Card Usage

April 2020 saw the banning of credit card usage for gambling purposes. Players could still go ahead and use e-wallets, however, e-wallet institutions would need to prove that credit cards are still not connected to the account. 

Regulations targeting VIP Payers

VIP and loyalty clubs have always been a matter of debate and speculation. As the player is rewarded with cashback offers, free spins and many other sports betting offers, there is a plausible cause for gambling addictions to form. 

Placing marketing strategies to a halt, as from October 2020, UK bookmakers would need to do some digging to see the source of funds from their respective players. Affordability checks and also gambling harm checks are now a must, and all UK market operators would need to abide by them. 

It is rumoured that these new regulations making sure that the punter is not in danger of developing addictions; will be reflected in the revamped Gambling Act set to be launched in 2021. 

Fast Forward to 2021, what changes do we expect to see? 

UK bookmaker and owners of gambling sites would need to brace themselves for some more changes if they seek to continue operating in the UK. Apart from online gambling sites and online sport betting platforms, even land-based bookies would need to make substantial changes to their daily operations. Let’s have a look at what to expect to kick of the  2021 gambling year

Further Age Restrictions

Punters seeking to purchase a National Lottery Ticket would need to show proof that he/she is a minimum of 18 years of age.  With a prior age requirement being 16, the new age limit will take effect from October 2021 for land-based UK bookmakers, whilst for the online operators, this kicks in April 2021. 

Marketing inhibits

As many punters admit that they gamble after being tempted by an advertisement, UK gambling sites will also need to comply with a new set of rules targeting marketing. All images and content that the gambling sites produce would need to not have a luring approach. 

The normalising of gambling is over, with the hopes of youngsters and children not being subjected to gambling marketing at young ages. 

What about the future?  How does the future look for gaming in the UK market for operators?

As more time passes, more Gambling Licensing institutions are working harder to create a safe space for gamblers to enjoy their past time. Having said that, fun should not involve any risks, and to minimise and mitigate gambling risks as much as they can, new rules might be imposed. We do not have a crystal ball to establish what the future holds, but we pretty much think that the below assumptions might be on the table.

A more rigid licensing process

Sanctions for non-compliance to the UKGC’s gambling license could have some serious repercussions.  Hefty fines are already being imposed. We envisage that the future will see UK bookmakers face tougher regulations. If the gambling sites do not comply with the rules and regulations, they could pay millions, plus also be in danger of having their gambling license revoked.  Both Responsible Gaming and also Anti Money Laundering should be on everyone’s agenda. 

Maximum Bets are set for a revamp on slot machines 

Back in the day a gambler can head over to a UK gambling site and make a max bet of let’s say 50GBP or even 500 GBP a spin. That is set to change, drastically. Wayback in 2019, the gambling community was already rocked when max stakes were cut from a whopping 100 GPB to 2 GBP. 

This is set to change further in the future. As the UKGC and Gamsto continue providing evidence that problematic gambling still exists, the max bets will see a further decline. All of this is done in the spirit of targeting gambling addictions.

Source of Funds are a must

We have seen many times in online gambling news where gambling sites have closed an eye when it comes to players funding their player accounts. Both the UKGC and the local UK lawmakers are lobbying to have a tighter source of funds checks conducted. 

Gambling companies would need to make sure that all their players would need to make sure affordability checks are done, and halts are placed on irregular gambling patterns.

Stricter Due Diligence 

New players would need to face a different treatment than already established players. Deposit amounts will most probably be targeted with restrictions until players can prove affordability. This might have an adverse impact on online casino welcome bonuses and also sporting events free bets. 

UK bookies are already being encouraged to make additional checks in readiness for the changes to come to compliance regulations and fraud policies.

Self Exclusion across the board 

We can all agree that the gambler is wise and sometimes finds ways and means to beat the system.  Self-exclusion is one of the measures that the gambler seems to beat over and over again. If a gambler self-excluded himself from a specific site, it is pretty normal to have the ability to sign up to the next.  

The future will see UK gambling sites face tougher regulations regarding self exclusions for players. A common database outlining 1 restriction should follow to be excluded on all gambling sites in the UK market. This means that if a punter applies for self-exclusion at site ABC, he will be excluded from all the gambling sites operating in the UK, and holding a UKGC license. 

As the world goes through so many changes all at one go, so does the gambling market in the United Kingdom. The new and revamped Gambling Act will launch in the later 2021 if we are lucky, however, we’ll allow a stretch target date of 2022. In the meantime, UK operating gambling operators are being encouraged to abide by the rules, and always place the player’s interest in any actions that they take. AML, fraud checks, responsible gambling, changes in marketing advertisement and also max wagers are all set to change. Operators are being asked to make smooth changes today as opposed to overnight changes. Readiness is the key when it comes to change in gambling policies, policies and regulations that all UK bookmakers would need to abide with. 

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