According to the UK Gambling Commission, online gaming has become one of the fastest growing forms of gambling. At the moment, it is valued at over £4.5 billion, which effectively makes it the biggest niche in gambling. Online casino gaming is the leader in this niche, which is why there is plenty of opposition to the progress being made in that sector as well as a spirited effort to regulate the entire industry.
A little too much media coverage?
From October 2016, the UK media has had a sharp focus on the online casino industry, and while this kind of publicity is always considered good, the attention caught the eyes of the government, which is why there is this whole hullabaloo about regulation and best practices. At first, the government had a focus toward fixed odds betting, which is considered wildly unfair to the players as well as addictive in nature. However, over time, the spotlight shifted to other areas of online gambling, and online casinos found themselves the focus of a concerned government. Critics of regulation argue that while it is okay for government to exercise a certain degree of control, there is a need for it to stay within confines such that it does not stifle the growth of the industry.
New spate of regulations
The Gambling Commission has imposed massive fines on operators who breach regulations relating to responsible customer services. There is also a clear blueprint for advertising, and those found running afoul will pay these hefty fines. As these new conditions were rolled out, the media started questioning the enforceability of current regulations, and whether operators care about compliance in the first place. However, what is clear is that there needs to be a distinct balance in the way online casino sites/games are advertised and how player welfare is handled.
Lost in translation?
Surprisingly, one of the key areas of focus has been on the wordings of the various bonuses offered in online casinos. The phrase “free spins” is now considered misleading, and the general feeling is that it does not give the player the correct picture of what they are getting into. The government says that casinos must clearly alert players about their potential gains as well as losses so that they can make informed decisions before deciding to wager in online platforms. In fact, the UK Gambling Commission has sent out letters to online casinos and affiliate partners promoting online casino in the UK, such as Crispy Gamer, informing them that they must change their wording from “free spins” to “extra/fair/complementary spins”. An order has also been handed down that forces casinos to take a keen look at their ad wording to make sure no products are being erroneously advertised to children.
Generally, regulators are calling on the operators of online casinos to look at their advertising strategies and revise their approach to issues. While it is still fair for the government to fight for the protection of the consumer, the question of compliance still lingers like a dark cloud over the operators ’heads.
The effects of changing tides
Online casino enterprises will now face a more stringent kind of scrutiny, and there is widespread fear that this may limit operations in particular jurisdictions, which of course has a bigger bearing on revenues and by extension, the government’s own cut from it all. In addition to that, the new rules might blur the lines, causing unprecedented confusion. For example, one of the rules is that operators must take down cartoon characters in their ads that appeal to children. There is a growing sense of confusion as to what kind of character could be considered to pull in children and not consumers of the right ages. In addition to that, these platforms must put in measures that limit access by children, which is another problem because we live in a digital era where children are more gadget-savvy than their own parents.
Clearly, the UK government is trying to do good. However, the regulations put in place have only added to the confusion and bickering, and there are now constant arguments about what words or pictorials are appropriate for specific age groups. There are also fears that the current state of affairs could drive operators out of the UK and lead to a spike in black market gambling activities.