Late 2017 and beginning of 2018 was a turbulent period for the iGaming industry in Great Britain. Their main gaming regulator, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, has decided the time is ripe to start cleaning the market from the undesirable, dishonest, unfit, ethically and legally suspect. The incredibly congested online market in the country consists of countless bingo, casino, lottery and sports betting operators, who all want a piece of this rich cake and go to great lengths to get it.
Merciless competition has plunged the sector into a state of creative chaos, which the UKGC obviously thought borders too close to lawlessness for comfort. Something had to be done in order to get the country’s fast-growing internet gaming business on the right track, the one whose order, productive potential and quality many other nations envy and attempt to achieve on their own turf. The best sector to implement the initial changes was marketing and advertising.
An official letter was sent to all licensees, in which the regulator informed them about the upcoming changes, also voicing concern over the current state of things with regards to social responsibility, underage gambling, risk players and misleading advertisement. Lack of adequate measures to prevent the many consequences of such misconduct was emphasized as an urgent problem to solve. Already considered the most uncompromising of all licensing entities currently active, the Commission introduced new restrictions and soon after issued the first in the line of serious financial penalties to send the message across the realm.
Unique Regulatory Framework
Formed as an independent, executive body cooperating with the Government to draw gambling laws, to regulate and supervise the gambling industry within the territory of Great Britain. They are not state-funded and operate with a greater level of independence than other, government-controlled institutions. Unlike other entities of similar affiliation, they formed the regulatory framework and system entirely from scratch, without any outside influence or inspiration. Within the UKGC area of expertise is evaluating license applicants and granting the permits necessary to offer gaming and wagering services on the internet. This also means they are responsible for the monitoring of their licensees and can impose fines or revoke the permits should any unlawful actions take place.
Since 2005, the Commission has been actively pursuing a better, more regulated market, which meant they have to constantly change, adapt and evolve given how quickly the market itself is changing with the advent of technology, and the ever-increasing demands of younger generations. Now that the online gaming sector in the country makes up for more than two-thirds of the entire cyber industry, there is a pressing need to enforce much stricter, clearly defined rules and regulations for both operators and consumers. Certain guidelines of the Commission have been implemented and reviewed last time years ago, some even in 2007, prompting the need for a fresh framework to ensure compliance.
Growing Online Market Demands Contemporary Regulations
Quality standards rose with the introduction of new procedures for the protection of children and vulnerable groups, as well as the prevention of crime. There is an overarching strategy in the works with the ultimate goal to bring about the safest, fairest and most productive market in the world. The UKGC’s ambitious plans a three-year period when changes are to be introduced and successfully integrated. There are several main aspects that they intend to work on: protecting consumer interests; preventing harm from gambling and the use of gambling to promote or support crime, more effective regulations of the National Lottery.
Judging by recent developments, 2018 may bring the best time yet for gamblers in the UK for playing at the UKGC-licensed gaming sites. The regulator has revealed there have been far too many customer complaints about fairness and transparency in the industry. The focus will be on compliance with the UKGC and ASA advertising rules. We have already witnessed the banning of inappropriate and misleading ads, commercials and other promotional material. A general sigh of relief was heard across the industry as players were assured there will be no more deposit-based cash or slot spins falsely advertised as ‘’free’’; no more click-bait e-mails, SMS and on-site notifications calling them to engage in real-money play and creating a sense of urgency.
Bingo operators, in particular, have been known to use language and images that appeal to children and minors. Website designs dominated by ‘’cute’’ or ‘’adorable’’ animals, insects or cartoonish characters might just become a thing of the past.
Complaints will have to be handled much quicker and more efficiently, with a possible new limit of eight weeks set to review and resolve a complaint at the moment of filing. This implies there will be more stringent verification procedures, with a focus on money-laundering and addiction prevention.
Since all licensed operators have been officially informed on what exactly is expected of them, if they intend to keep their legal status, the Commission is confident that the united market will see major improvements at the end of the three-year mark. More than a dozen gaming companies have already been placed under investigation regarding compliance, including a comprehensive license review for as many as five operators. With William Hill, SkyBet and several others already penalized, paying millions of dollars in fines due to unethical advertising and failure to adequately protect vulnerable groups, it is only a matter of time until gamblers will be able to enjoy the highest-quality online gaming environment in the world.