A new system, which gives problem gamblers the ability to block themselves from all UK betting websites in a single go has finally been approved by the UK Gambling Commission. According to reports, the system was originally set to be ready for implementation 18 months ago.
With the system’s approval, all gambling companies will now be required to sign up to Gamstop. This system was developed by the trade body for bookmakers and online casinos, and signing up to the system will now become a condition of their licence to operate within the UK. Now satisfied that all issues and concerns about the effectiveness of the scheme have been appropriately dealt with, the Gambling Commission is expected to announce the new requirement as soon as possible.
Earlier investigations by industry stakeholders revealed flaws in the system, which would have allowed problem gamblers to bypass some self-imposed blocks. Gamstop was unofficially launched in December 2017, but in May 2018, the Gambling Commission warned the industry trade body, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), that there were specific failings in the scheme.
Among other things, the Commission was concerned that Gamstop failed to synchronise its list of registered users with the promotional mailing lists of betting companies. This meant that problem gamblers who sign up to the system in hopes of curbing their habit could still be bombarded with marketing emails, making it all the more difficult for them to completely shake the habit. The Commission also noted that such promotional emails have always been a feature of regulatory rulings against betting companies, including LeoVegas and Sky Bet.
UK Gambling Commission Executive Director Tim Miller has previously indicated in a letter that he has “yet to see proper evidence of the effectiveness” of Gamstop. He also told the RGA that he deems it “unacceptable that currently Gamstop does not interact with marketing lists in that way”.
After this false start and objection from the Gambling Commission, the application now seems ready for official release. Anytime within the next few weeks, online gambling operators are expected to be required to register in order to be able to legally operate within national borders.
The recent approval of Gamstop came amid a stronger push by campaigners, the Labour party, and the Commission itself, to strengthen regulation of online gambling. The push came on the heels of curbs imposed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in high street bookmakers.
It is said that around 99% of UK gambling operators have committed themselves to signing up to Gamstop. Those that decide not to sign up could lose their licence to operate. Even when it did not yet have the backing of the Gaming Commission, users of Gamstop were already said to number in the tens of thousands.
Other measures intended to tighten online gambling regulation are also being discussed. These measures include a ban on betting with credit cards. Labour has also called for legislation to replace the Gambling Act of 2005, which was put in place by the Labour government before online casinos and bookmakers became all the rage.