It is now evident that establishing the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) as an oversight agency for online gambling was a right and necessary move. But back in 2005 there was a deluge of protest against this move from online gambling operators. They stated that they were already holding licenses from offshore regulators and complained about the proposed tax structure being exorbitant. After a bit of give and take the Government enforced its agenda of regulating online gambling services to its citizens through the UKGC.
Interesting data is being returned by the UKGC
Online Gambling Commission Report
Though the UKGC is responsible for the regulation of all gambling activities, the focus has been on online gambling. Of the about £14.5 billion spent annually by British punters on all gambling products, most of the money is on online gambling. This is followed by sports betting and the National Lottery. The Commission regularly publishes socially relevant gambling statistics based on its research with the objective of spreading awareness among the public at large. Two issues are in the forefront: problem or compulsive gambling and underage gambling. The news on both fronts is not good.
- In Britain every year between 250 and 650 people commit suicide due to gambling related issues.
- Gambling addiction among children in the UK is at an all-time high. The number of affected children has increased four-fold in the past two years.
The details related to underage gambling are a cause for concern.
- About 55,000 children between 11 to 16 years of age have compulsive gambling problems.
- About 450,000 children engage in online gambling activities, which translates to about one in every seven children.
- The report also stated that the children bet an average of £16 per week on all gambling verticals including online casinos.
This is the situation after the efforts, regulation and enforcement of controls and practices against problem gambling and underage gambling, which the UKGC has put in for over a decade. You can imagine how much more damage would have been caused had the UKGC not come into play.
The UKGC has spread its net wide in the battle against underage gambling. The operators themselves have to follow a stringent set of rules. The Commission has come down heavily against gambling adverts that could target minors. Ads placed by online gambling operators must not be likely to appeal to children or young persons. They must not reflect or be associated with youth culture. The advertisers need to make sure that the imagery and texts used in ads does not violate this requirement. Also the ads must not be placed at online or offline sites that are freely accessible to children.
Earlier this year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is implanting the UKGC regulations in this regard, found that five brands had broken the UK advertising code. During the monitoring period it found a total of 23 gambling ads appeared 151 times across 11 children’s websites. In most instances the online operators said that the error was committed by third-party companies hired to run their campaigns on the web. The UKGC acted to include the third-party companies and also affiliate partners under their rules. They further asked online casinos and their affiliates not to allow users to get access to ‘free-to-play’ games without age verification.
Another aspect that the UKGC takes seriously is protection of players’ interests. Even online, the Gambling Commission has made it very hard for operators to take advantage of their patrons. Every no deposit bonus in the UK comes with a warning and strict terms and conditions.
The problem gambling suicides and rising incidence of underage gambling are not acceptable by online operators as well. The best online casinos follow the UKGC rules with regard to responsible gambling in letter and spirit. They can be categorized under three sections.
- A self-assessment check list is provided that is meant to let you know if you are gambling excessively in terms of money or time. If you answer any of the questions in the affirmative then it implies that you are a candidate for compulsive gambling. You should immediately exclude yourself from all gambling, inform your family and seek professional help. The responsible gambling page also gives names and contact details of reputed organizations that offer assistance to problem gamblers.
- The online casino enforces maximum limits for deposits. If you find these too high for your liking then you can set more stringent limits. You can even set limits for the amount wagered and the losses made. Most online casinos allow you to set daily, weekly or monthly limits. Suppose you set a weekly loss limit of £200. Then, once you lose that amount you will not be allowed to gamble that week.
- If you feel that you are gambling too much and are unable to control yourself, you can exclude yourself from the online casino for a period. This time is referred to as a ‘cooling off’ period. You can select the period from the range provided. Once you exclude yourself, then you will not be allowed to log in during your selected cooling off period.
The UKGC will not issue a license to the online gambling site until all these requirements have been implemented.
What You Can Do
As a player you must do your bit to prevent the children at your home from gambling.
- Install parental control software on your computer so that the children cannot access online gambling web sites.
- Always log out from online casinos after you finish playing so that children cannot make use of the sites.