The Gambling Act 2005: Is a Tougher Law Coming?

When the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Gambling Act of 2005, they made clear that they recognized they have a responsibility to help protect UK residents. Protect them from what? They have a responsibility to protect UK residents from rogue gambling operators and the gamblers themselves. 

What Did the Gambling Act of 2005 Offer?

By all indications, the Gambling Act of 2005 was established to protect UK communities from the potential ravishes of gambling problems that were beginning to affect the country. It’s no coincidence that this law was established around the same time that online gambling was starting to take off in the UK. What Parliament seemed to recognize was the potential harm easy access to gambling resources could cause. They were right. 

The Gambling Act of 2005 did one other very important thing. It established the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The Commission was created as a regulatory body that has the authority to determine how and through whom UK residents will be able to gamble. The Commission does exactly that by deciding which retail and online gambling operators are entitled to licensing to provide UK gambling services. They also work to make sure that rogue gambling operators are not using predatory methods to harm vulnerable gamblers, which means minors and potential problem gamblers. 

UKGC Furthers Its Commitment to Helping UK Problem Gamblers By Introducing GamStop

Through the years, the UKGC has established an ongoing stream of new regulations that are largely created to protect gamblers and UK communities. Perhaps one of the UKGC’s biggest achievements has been the creation of the GamStop Self-Exclusion scheme.

The UKGC introduced the GamStop scheme in 2018. The program was specifically designed to be used as a way for problem gamblers to ask for help with staying away from online gambling sites. To ensure the program gets adequate exposure, the UKGC eventually mandated that all of its licensed online operators would need to pay a fee and subscribe as a GamStop member site.

The program works very well for UK online gamblers who are truly committed to taking action against their online gambling activities. Once they voluntarily register with GamStop for free, they are indeed blocked from accessing any GamStop member gambling sites. What’s the biggest problem GamStop fails to address? Many online casinos are not licensed in the UK and therefore, not subscribed to GamStop. 

The bottom line is this self-exclusion program has limitations. It doesn’t reach far enough, which leaves UK online gamblers with lots of ways to keep gambling in spite of their active GamStop status.

Securing the gambling services of unlicensed UK operators is only one of a few different ways motivated GamStop gamblers can get around the GamStop scheme. Other options include:

  • The exclusive use of online gambling sites that operate out of and are regulated in other countries
  • Turning to casinos and sportsbooks that only interact with cryptocurrencies, something that offers gamblers lots of anonymity
  • Identifying UK operators that don’t closely monitor GamStop’s database despite being GamStop members
  • Using friends and relatives to open shared gambling accounts with licensed UK operators

A tougher Law is Coming Soon

Clearly, the UKGC has a sense that the government is in a war for the soul of UK gamblers. We know that because they are continuing to be diligent about putting forth new protective laws. It was 2020 when the UK government, through the UKGC, made it illegal to use credit cards to fund online gambling accounts. That leads us to May of 2022. 

The UKGC has very recently announced the establishment of a series of new regulations that are intended to protect “at risk” gamblers. These new regulations are set to go into effect on September 12, 2022. According to many sources, these are by far the most aggressive protections that the UKGC has yet introduced. 

To be clear, most of the more aggressive rules target the efforts of online operators to identify and help problem gamblers. As a means of helping everyone understand what’s coming in September, here are a few key takeaways from these new rules:

  • Operators will be required to establish indicators they can use to identify potential problem gamblers
  • Operators will be required to flag problem gambling activities and react in a timely manner
  • Operators will be required to develop automated processes to quickly identify problem gambling activities
  • Tighter restrictions must be placed on offering new bonuses to customers who are exhibiting problem gambling behaviors
  • Establish communication processes to reach potential problem gamblers, including stronger support from organizations such as Gamcare
  • Create better reporting tools for the providing of better problem gambling data to the UKGC
  • Enforce these rules throughout the operator’s organization and ensure compliance of all advertisers and affiliates

The detailed guidelines are being finalized. They will be issued to all licensed UK gambling operators no later than the end of June. Based on recent press releases regarding these regulations, it’s clear the UKGC is clamping down on the efforts of online operators to require responsible gambling. 

According to Gambling Commission Chief Executive, Andrew Rhodes: “Time and time again our enforcement cases show that some operators are still not doing enough to prevent gambling harm. These new rules, developed following an extensive consultation, make our expectations even more explicit.”

He further stated: “We expect operators to identify and tackle gambling harms with fast, proportionate, and effective action and we will not hesitate to take tough action on operators who fail to do so.”

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