What the US can learn from the UK: government pushing for an overhaul of online gambling law

There were 9 million wagers in the UK in 2018, while last year 80% of online gamblers lost their money estimated at a total of £5.6bn, an interim report by the APPG reveals

UK gambling stocks have been suffering recently by a political call for restrictions on online gambling stakes to £2 only. The proposal follows up a reform earlier this year, when the limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) was cut drastically from £100 to £2. Now the government says the land-based and online sector should be aligned.

Stake and deposit limits online to favor vulnerable individuals

Informal groups of MPs joined under the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) released a report in the beginning of November bringing the attention to gambling related harm and recommendations to tackle the issue. According to the MPs, if slot machines land-based venues are imposed stake limits of £2, the same should go for online games in order to prevent individuals from placing unaffordable bets.

The report also opposes the response by betting companies that say stake and deposit limits online are unnecessary, since operators have mechanisms to identify people at risk of gambling “beyond their means”. Among other limitations, MPs are calling for:

• Prohibition of funding online gambling by a credit card

• More thorough affordability checks

• Restrictions on bonuses and incentives, as well as VIP accounts

• Enhancing measures to verify age and identity on the web

The message for the US

Online gambling rules vary across the USA – in some States it is strictly prohibited, in others it is legal and there are also States working towards legalizing it. For instance, Nevada allows playing only poker, while New Jersey online casinos feature poker rooms and other casino games available in state-licensed operators on the Internet. In a country, in which the sports betting ban was lifted only in 2018, it will be easier if restrictions are imposed upfront rather than once companies are already generating big profits and they see the tighter regulation as a threat to their revenue.

A Gambling Ombudsman

The report led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, Conservative lawmaker Duncan Smith and the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan, also highlights the need for a Gambling Ombudsman. As per the MPs, online customers should be able to file complaints against betting operators and such an Ombudsman should be in the position of tackling the disputes.

Parliamentary groups in the UK seem to have a stricter stance towards gambling than previously. After the Labour party introduced a gambling deregulation in 2005 in a move seen to have “harmed the nation” during the mandate of Prime Minister Tony Blair, it has now changed its course of action towards stricter rules. In addition, current Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also favouring a tougher regulation.

Although the US has one of the world’s biggest gambling industries, it has far less experience than the UK. The North American country should definitely keep an eye on the amendments taking place in the UK and derive conclusions for a better and safer gaming experience to its players.

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