A raft of new laws governing online casinos are coming into effect in the United Kingdom, and they come with two intentions: To weed out the problem of unscrupulous websites targeting children with their advertising, and to ensure that unreasonable restrictions aren’t placed on gamblers who’ve won money, and are attempting to withdraw their winnings.
The laws were first announced by the country’s Gambling Commissionback in February of this year, but only came into effect in May. Chief among the changes is a requirement for websites offering online casino facilities to verify the age and identity of their players more quickly than was required of them in the past – the previous time limit was seventy-two hours. This would have theoretically allowed minors to place bets and play online casino games for three days before their access would have been restricted.
Such laws may come as a new addition to the UK gaming market. However, similar laws have came into existence years ago in many other countries. Any licensed Australian casino site or an online casino in Canada has to verify the customer’s identity before a withdrawal and often times just after registration. Australia is particularly stringent on the matter, as it is believed to be one of the most gambling nations in the world.
There’s also a change in focus as to when verification processes take place. In some cases, customers weren’t being asked to provide documentation until they attempted to make a withdrawal. That meant that some gamblers were able to create an account, deposit money, and play games without any questions being asked, but were then denied access to their winnings after they’d been accumulated. The new laws state that personal details have to be confirmed before any deposit can be made, or any gambling activity whatsoever can take place. On the surface, it appears that it will put an end to the practice of casinos and their sister sites luring customers in with free bets and then allowing the bets to be used before verification takes place.
A change to the law was deemed necessary after 2018 proved to be a costly year for casinos which weren’t adhering to the existing guidelines. Fines totaling fourteen million pounds were handed out across three companies, with a fourth being permanently excluded from access to the UK market, and having its license revoked.
The Gambling Commission, as well as setting and monitoring standards within the industry, also handles complaints from disgruntled gamblers. It reports that over fifteen percent of all the complaints it received within the past twelve months were about unjust restrictions to withdrawals on accounts, with identification only being asked for at the point of withdrawal rather than the point of sale. Such practices will now not be permitted, and companies will further be required to take reasonable action to ensure that the details they hold for their customers remain up to date and valid. Some casino companies have welcomed the change in regulation, as the enhanced data monitoring will theoretically make it easier for them to spot problem gamblers, and those potentially committing fraud.
Specifically, the new rules demand that the full name, physical address, and date of birth of all potential customers is both requested and validated before any bets are placed. If any further identification is deemed necessary before bets can be placed, the customer must be informed of such requirements immediately. Furthermore, if there is a potential need for further documentation or identification processes to be undertaken at a later point, customers must be explicitly informed of this before they’re permitted to deposit any funds into their accounts.
Gambling is big business in the United Kingdom. Over the course of a year, it’s estimated that well over fourteen billion pounds are spent on placing bets, which works out at over seventeen and a half billion dollars. It’s also believed that up to a third of all adults in the country gamble at least once a week, even if that gambling activity is limited to placing bets in the National Lottery. For the majority of gambling companies and online casino websites, there’s been no suggestion or accusation of wrongdoing; the Gambling Commission is confident that those firms fined or similarly cracked down upon last year are the ‘bad apples’ among the sector, and that the remainder of major companies operating in the country do so fairly. It’s not anticipated that the changes will place a major demand on casino firms, and nor should they reduce their potential to make money.
Interestingly, towards the end of the Gambling Commission’s ruling, they noted a difficulty with Gamstop – a company which allows those struggling with gambling problems to ‘self exclude themselves from registering to gamble or placing bets. Although individual accounts could be excluded using their processes, testing indicated that the same individual could re-register easily using new details, and the exclusion would no longer apply. The new process will eliminate this risk by excluding people based on their real name, real address, and real personal information, instead of their online or virtual identity. That should mean that the only people placing bets are those who are happy and comfortable doing so.
Evidence that casino companies have ever actively targeted children with their advertising has been scant; there are very popular online slot games which have child-friendly themes, such as Fluffy Favourites and Piggy Payout, but the companies behind those games say that they’re aimed at adults with a sense of nostalgia rather than children. No compelling data has been produced to suggest that children have been able to place bets in significant numbers, but the new laws should make that impossible in any event.
If you’re a regular online casino player, and find yourself being asked for further information about your identity the next time you log in to your preferred website, there’s no cause to be alarmed. The laws are applied retrospectively, so existing customers will be subject to the same vetting process which will apply to new customers going forward. So long as you’re able to prove that you are who you say you are, you’ll soon be able to carry on playing your favorite games in the same way you always have done.
The changes that have been suggested place onus on the casino companies to act, rather than players to change their behavior. Changes in processes will be taking place behind the scenes of all reputable casino companies as we speak, but for the overwhelming majority of customers and players, nothing will change at all. You can carry on gambling, and you can relax in the knowledge that you’re now a little bit safer and more protected as you do so.
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