Gambling with cryptocurrencies is illegal in the UK, but a recent report suggests that not only is this ban possible to be circumvented, but it’s also incredibly easy. All it takes is a VPN, a platform that allows you to bet crypto and a gambling landscape that’s been a little neglected and wanting a reform badly.
Perfect Storm, Stake.com in Center
The Guardian recently reported on an investigation by the Observer about stake.com and online gambling, betting cryptocurrencies, instead of fiat currencies, with the former being illegal, and the latter – made possible by a “white label” contract. Stake can offer its online betting capabilities without having to go through the pains of being licensed in the UK thanks to its deal with TGP Europe. This means that while Stake is able to offer its services, TGP Europe is the focus of regulation.
However, according to The Guardian’s report, the Observer tried to circumvent the ban on betting with crypto in the UK by using a simple VPN. This allowed them to start betting with cryptocurrencies from the UK quickly, and it seems that this can also be done by under-18s, as during the investigation, a picture of an object was used, instead of an adult person, to verify the account. The report goes on to say that it took Stake more than two full days to suspend the account but the existence of these two days means the damage was already done. Crypto was being bought, sold, and gambled when it shouldn’t have been.
All thanks to using a simple VPN, pointing to how inadequate all safeguards are – not only on the part of Stake but also on the UK government and the Gambling Commission, which are supposed to be the decisive gatekeeper that makes sure illegalities like this are not only punished but also prevented.
UK Gambling Sorely Needs Reforms
The story is getting old news at this point but given how impactful gambling harm can be, and how a prolonged lack of actions or a streak of inadequate ones is directly correlated to possibly dire consequences, it has to be brought to attention. The UK is indeed in dire need of gambling reforms, and a key white paper has been delayed time and time again along with the reforms. While strong critics of this lack of productive actions have been largely very outspoken and outraged that such a crucial matter is being left to wreak havoc in affected families, the issue doesn’t seem likely to be resolved soon. To some extent, it was the political climate during Johnson’s time that disrupted the delivery, and now it seems the effects of this insecurity echo today, with the house still in need of order.
No matter how you look at it, gambling harm is extremely detrimental to those suffering directly from it, as well as those close to them, and while providing help is crucial, prevention is still a largely preferred tool when it comes down to limiting harm. While it’s easy to just blame platforms like Stake, it’s also important to point out that the climate in which this happens is a key factor as well. Stake, just like many other operators, use opportunities such as sponsoring football teams relatively often. Stake is Everton’s main partner, for example, and so its branding is often found on players’ jerseys or other types of promotions. This means that whenever someone is watching a match in which Everton is playing, the viewer is exposed to the branding, regardless of whether gambling or gambling ads are legal in their country. This, among a list of locally significant reasons, led to a petition numbering 20,000 signatures asking Everton to ditch Stake as a sponsor.
So, using a VPN to circumvent geo-blocking is neither a new approach, nor unique to the UK, the gambling scene, or using crypto in some shape or form. However, the fact that platforms can operate abroad very easily and without a license, coupled with arguably too lax regulation and enforcement, makes for a recipe for a perfect storm, and someone is bound to end up being hurt.