The time during which online gambling universe had been a grey area with operators exploiting loopholes in regulations and laws to expand their reach beyond that one considered legally and morally accepted is over with.
The United Kingdom gambling market as a flagship for the entire industry has been under great scrutiny of late and especially during the last twelve months.
A hotly-debated subject with politicians and regulators alike, the gambling industry witnessed a set of strict regulations being introduced as a clear effort from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission to continue its crackdown on illegal gambling activities from UKGC-licensed operators.
Backed by three different regulatory agencies – the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and the Remote Gambling Association (AGA) – the United Kingdom Gambling Commission issued a strong warning for all gambling operators who fail to comply with the rules regarding promoting underage gambling.
Gambling operators have told to immediately stop advertising to children and ordered to remove all ads appealing to underage population, regardless of whether such advertisements have been intentional or not.
Such a move had been a year in the brewing after the UKGC issued a warning to parents and guardians back in 2016, following a worrying report which showed that 450,000 children from England and Wales take part in gambling activities each week.
The Young People and Gambling 2016 Report indicates the overall gambling rate among minors of 11 to 15 years of age stands at whopping 16%. The studies have since then revealed that about 9,000 of those underage gamblers are likely to develop into problem gamblers in the future.
Having initially struggled to impose regulations in full form due to various loopholes that allowed operators to target minors using juvenile cartoon ads which included popular characters such as Peter Pan, Moon Princess, Jack and the Beanstalk, Piggy Payout and Fluffy Favourites.
The topic of this illegal advertising believed to be tapping into a market worth £4 billion a year globally has been brought up by the Sunday Times’ investigation which yielded devastating results.
Marked as one of the most vulnerable social categories, minors will not be exposed to illegal gambling ads anymore in the UK and those operators who failed to adhere the regulations will face strict punishments.
The UKGC has already started enforcing heavy fines on operators with one of the recent penalties standing at £7.8 million which is the amount gambling company 888 was forced to pay for failing vulnerable customers. 888 has been accused of significant flaws in its social responsibility processes, thus failing to protect its customers from gambling-related harm.
The most recent example of punishment enforcement, however, occurred this month when Ladbrokes Coral-owned betting operator Gala Interactive was forced to fork out $2.3 million in a penalty package which also followed a string of social responsibility failures.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is thus taking a firm stance on irresponsible gambling practices which lead to harmful behaviour and its stepped-up efforts have generally been warmly welcomed within the gaming community.
Still, gambling remains one of the biggest focal points of a political debate with critics implying that the UK is beginning to adopt a notion that gambling is a bad thing overall which, in fact, can’t be further away from the truth.
The UKGC is merely demonstrating a firm stance aimed to protect vulnerable categories of the society and help profit-driven operators adopt a more responsible approach. Reputable and trustworthy gambling operators with a UK licence are still very much easily found and accessed anywhere online and players can still play at a great number of socially aware gambling sites.
The new regulations are simply raising the standard of the gambling industry within the most media-exposed UK scene where all the moves are heavily scrutinised, analysed and most often criticised.