Historically, several laws banned gambling activities in the UK up until lawmakers introduced laws that gradually allowed gambling in casinos and other venues. Finally, during the 21st century, the British parliament passed the Gambling Act of 2005, which included among other guidelines the creation of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The Commission was fully established in 2007 as the overall regulator of all gambling establishments and activities in the UK and its territories. Its regulatory responsibilities include oversight of all gambling operations, products and services of offline and online casinos, arcades, slot machines and lottery providers, bingo gaming facilities, onsite and offsite horse race betting outlets and high street betting shops and online sportsbooks,
Part of the Commission’s mandatory obligations is to work in coordination Gamstop, a multi-operator, non-profit organization that works to promote safe abd responsible gambling practices, including providing access to self-exclusion programs designed to gamblers voluntarily limit their gambling activities or resolve gambling addiction problems.
Phenomenal Growth of Online Gambling in the UK spurred Calls for Stricter Gambling Measures
Due to the phenomenal growth of the online gambling industry in the Kingdom, the public through several socio-civic organizations called the government’s attention to the rising number of gambling addiction cases in many UK communities.
To cut the story short, the UK government through Culture Minister Helen Whately issued a statement in January 2020, requiring all organizations involved and connected to the gambling industry , whether as venue operator, providers of platforms or banking facilities to assume assume social responsibility, Entities must make use of data and technology to protect the country’s consumers in all aspects.
Specifically, Minister Whately announced that the UKGC has deeb directed to make the Gamstop self-exclusion scheme a regulatory requirement for all online gambling sites licenced to operate in Great Britain. This also meant making it necessary for online casino and sports betting customers to sign up for the self-exclusion programs being run by Gamstop.
Efficacy of the Gamstop Scheme Amidst the Pandemic
Apparently, the Gamtop mandate was timely since right after taking effect in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. The quick spread of the infectious disease had forced not only the UK but every government across the world to impose mandatory lockdowns and quarantine orders, Since people had to stay inside their homes until the lockdown orders were lifted, many engaged in online gambling activities to pass the time and alleviate anxieties while in quarantine at the height of the health crisis .
The initial study that analyzed the impact of the pandemic on the behavior of UK gamblers indicated that as measured by the Brief Problem Gambling Scale, the entire sample showed a decrease in gambling participation during lockdowns, when compared to the pre- lockdown levels. Although the analysis showed that there were decreases in frequency of engagements and weekly expenditure, no significant changes were noted from the accounts of the most engaged gamblers of the pre-pandemic period.
Presumably, the analysis do not include data of pre-pandemic gambling, which was also the pre-gamstop gambling period. The perceived decreases and the unchanged gambling behavior therefore are not reflective of the UK gamblers who opted to play at online gambling platforms outside of the UKGC’s regulation and oversight.
Still, since a considerable surge in online gambling activities were noted among casual gamblers, observers in the industry expect that UK policymakers will deem it fit to impose additional restrictions in the future.