A couple of decades ago, when online gambling was a new “thing” (as was most internet industries) all iGaming operators needed was a handful of casino games and slots, a huge welcome bonus to attract new customers and a way to accept payments online. And all players needed was a PC computer (we’re talking of a time before mobiles had internet capabilities) and a stable(ish) internet connection.
The internet gambling industry exploded overnight. Online casinos and other types of gambling sites such as online poker and sports betting websites were popping up left, right and centre. It was a new and novel way to gamble and quickly became hugely popular.
But with such an immature and unregulated industry with lots of money and revenues involved, problems came too. Who were there watching and making sure casinos were being fair and not “bent”? Who were making sure that the games had fair RNG software? (random number generator) and who could you call if a casino wasn’t paying you out your winnings? It wasn’t ghost busters. It wasn’t anyone at that time. Because when a market is so new, in its infancy, it hasn’t had the time to mature to ensure that everything is in place, as problems and issues were there ar the very beginning.
This meant that there were many ‘cowboy casinos’ operating with unethical business practices because no one was overseeing them. Another rather important point and one we’re going to be concentrating on this page, is how were gaming companies ensuring responsible gambling? In truth, at the start of online gambling, no one gave 2 hoots when you uttered “responsible gambling” though, thankfully 2 decades later in a slightly more matured industry, responsible gambling is at the forefront to help protect players, underage persons and those at risk of problem gambling.
Why Responsible Gambling is Important for UK consumers and the health of the overall gambling industry
Most people who gamble whether that be online or offline, do so safely a majority of the time. But gambling can be harmful to some people, not just in the obvious sense: Problem gambling ranges from excessive play perhaps due to inexperience or binge gambling, periods of loss of control to the more serious matter of full-blown gambling addiction. The harm which is suffered is not just restricted to the gambler either, as it often also felt by families, friends, communities and employers.
Since the UK Gambling Commission implemented licensing measures for all casinos and gambling sites operating in the UK, they have implemented many measures to ensure the safety of the general public and shield them from gambling harm. Such measures have included the introduction to self-exclusion schemes like Gamstop, the banning the use of Credit Cards for all gambling sites, implementing a strict advertising code of practice for gambling companies and affiliates targeting the UK public as well as other measures including non-reversal of withdrawals and protecting minor and underage individuals from ever gambling online thanks to strict account verification procedures. Some measures have been met with criticism, but on the whole many have welcomed the changes for a healthier gambling industry across the board.
UKGC Gambling Credit Card Ban
The reason why on the 14th April 2020, the UK Gambling Commission implemented the ban on credit cards being used at online gambling sites was to ensure that no one had the ability to access and gamble online with money they didn’t have upfront. It makes sense to us. Whilst many complained that it took away their rights, that it was their money to gamble with, in short, there had been an increase of punters not being able to pay their gambling debts racked up by using their credit cards in the first place. It was too easy for gamblers to rack up debts that they couldn’t pay. The ban also extends to the use of using a credit card to fund intermediary deposit methods, including eWallets like PayPal, Skrill and Neteller.
Combatting Gambling Addiction
With many new measures now in force, there’s now a focus on helping those or preventing those with problem gambling:
- Self-Exclusion: It’s much easier to self-exclude not just from one operator but from all (in the United Kingdom) thanks to the Gamstop self-exclusion scheme.
- No Gambling on Credit: As mentioned above, you can no longer bet with money on credit. No credit cards are accepted, and you cannot fund your eWallets with your credit card to gamble online.
- Limits on Fixed Odds Terminals: Early in 2020, the UK Gambling Commission also imposed bet limits on fixed-odds betting terminals as part of an effort to control gambling addiction associated with them.
Social Responsible Gambling: In Account Measures
There are also many new innovative features available at gambling sites themselves which help combat the growth of problem gambling. These include:
- Self-Exclusion / Time Out: allowing players to put their account on temporary (reversible) hiatus.
- Reality Check: a pop-up is triggered at certain time intervals to remind players to take a break and/or stop playing.
- Time Limits: Limits are used for setting strict time limits on playing sessions.
- Deposit Limits / Account Tracker: used for enforcing a limit on deposits per day/week and month.
- Permanent Account Closure: This lets players close their account and cut off all contact from the gambling operator. Gambling sites are not allowed to reopen the account nor contact you to invite you back.
Other Licensing Obligations to ensure Safe & Responsible Gambling
Fraudulent and criminal behaviour: Operators are required by licensing regulators such as the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority and the Alderney Gambling Commission to implement anti-money laundering policies and procedures. This involves implementing effective “know your customer” (KYC) processes when taking on new customers and tracking and reporting any suspicious transactions. Know your customer requirements are needed for all customers and ask for ID, proof of Address and supporting documents to fully verify you and your account.
Prompt and accurate customer payments: No one likes a slow-paying casino and these days no gambling site can “get away” with a slow payout on the hope that you cancel the request and gamble your winnings away. Operators must ensure that payments to and from customer accounts are not only complying to formal and documented processes in an accurate and timely manner, but they also must ensure that customer funds are managed separately from their own accounts so they have sufficient cleared funds to pay all player winnings and outstanding player balances
Fair Gaming: All gaming products are often tested by third-party regulatory bodies to ensure they are fair and random and that they adhere to the rules of that game. Testing to ensure fair gaming is increasingly carried out by independent organisations in collaboration with the UKGC/ other licensing jurisdictions. This ensures that all RNG casino games/ simulated games you play have the same probability and outcomes as it would do if played out in real life.
Marketing Code of Practice: All iGaming companies and their marketing affiliates each need to comply with the relevant strict regulatory advertising codes of practice which typically ensure that advertisements are factually correct and they do not target underage or vulnerable gamblers, such as players who have self-excluded themselves from gambling or using babyish, cartoon-like marketing ads and images.
How Licensing Enforces Social Responsibility & Responsible Gambling
With these new modern measures, what’s stopping a casino site from not adhering to the rules and allow problem gambling for profit? The answer is simple. They might get away with it for a while, but if a gambling site isn’t upholding their responsible and social gambling responsibilities as set out in their license obligations, they will be stripped of their remote gaming license completely. This is not ideal for gambling companies and a worst-case scenario as they wouldn’t be permitted to legally operate in the UK and/or other regulated positions.
Put simply; it’s not worth it for them to break the rules as it won’t go unnoticed. There have been a few online casinos in the press in the past few years which have either been fined several million pounds, or they have lost their license totally which means a lot of lost business and revenues.
Touching on what we spoke about at the start of this page; it’s completely impossible for gambling sites to function as they did two decades ago, because of everything we’ve mentioned above which is only good news for those who utilise online gambling sites nowadays: you have options, are protected and it’s safe and secure.
Gambling at Off-Shore Websites
Unfortunately, not everything is foolproof and some problem gamblers find a go-around, such as playing at offshore casinos and gambling sites. These gambling sites are like going back in time and are not licensed nor regulated and worse – could be rogue. Put bluntly, any players who play there do so at their own risk. We do not endorse such sites and only every recommends those who hold at least a recommended gambling licenses such as UKGC, the Malta Gaming Authority license or the gambling license issued by the Alderney Gaming Authority.
Are you a Problem Gambler?
If you’re not sure if you or someone you know have issues with gambling and you’re not certain if now is the right time to reach out for help, then try this questionnaire that we found on the NHS website which may help assess the situation you’re finding yourself in (source: link below).
- Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
- Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?
- Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?
- Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
- Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?
- Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
- Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?
- Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
- Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?
Score 0 for each time you answer “never”
Score 1 for each time you answer “sometimes”
Score 2 for each time you answer “most of the time”
Score 3 for each time you answer “almost always”
If your total score is 8 or higher, you or someone you know may be a problem gambler.
Tips for Gambling Responsibly
- Treat your gambling, whether you’re playing casino games, slots, betting on sports or play online bingo games, as an entertainment expense.
- Know your limits, and make yourself very clear about them before you start gambling online
- Remember to take a break regularly
- Only gamble with money you can afford to lose.
- Don’t gamble when you’re upset, sad or depressed.
- Have a healthy balance; have other hobbies and something other activities to occupy your free time.
- Never chase losses.
There are many non-profit organisations and free resources available to help you or someone you know that might have a gambling problem.
GamCare: Gamcare offers free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK. It runs the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and also offers face-to-face counselling.
Gordon Moody Association: The Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01384 241292 to find out more.
Gamblers Anonymous: UK Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also GamAnon support groups for friends and family.