After years of embracing and encouraging growth in its online gambling sector, the UK had become a global beacon for gaming regulation. Yet few could deny the shift in recent years towards a more hardline approach, with regulators and governments alike choosing to crack down on what the media often portray as a sector becoming too successful.
A sequence of regulatory changes have decimated the industry, resulting in significant job losses and shop closures on high streets up and down the country. Most notably, the reduction in maximum bets for FOBT machines was single handedly responsible for the closure of thousands of betting shops in the country’s already emptying high streets, raising concerns about the future of the sector in retail environments.
Now, new proposals for strict stake limits for online slots are under consideration, with the Gambling Commission thought to be considering similar limitations for players as those which apply to offline slot machines.
At the moment, the offline machine limits do not apply in the online sphere, and players are still able to bet way beyond the amount that would be allowed through a physical machine. However, should the Gambling Commission go ahead with the proposals, there are growing fears many of the gamblers they are seeking to protect will simply be driven into the hands of unscrupulous, unlicensed operators online.
Commenting on the proposals, the Betting and Gaming Council said they were “working hard with the Gambling Commission and with the government on their review to ensure effective regulation”.
Acknowledging the “great strides” that have been made in recent years towards tackling problem gambling, a spokesperson for GVC Holdings said that rates of problem gambling were already on the decline, and regulators should be careful not to exacerbate the problem.
“A recent NHS Health Survey found that problem gambling in the UK has actually declined in recent years.”
Denied access to legitimate, licensed operators, there is concern consumers could end up playing at offshore online casinos, which choose not to be regulated in the UK.
While every stakeholder in the online casino sector wants the best outcome for players with problematic gambling behaviours, concerns are mounting that a policy of this kind could do more harm than good.