Is the UK Gambling Sector Over-Regulated?

The UK is one of the most regulated and monitored gambling markets in the world. The country itself could be described as a nation of gamblers. The gambling sector in the UK was worth £14.4 billion in 2018, employing more than 100,000 people. In simple terms, it is big business. 

However, it is believed that somewhere around 2 million people are addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a gambling addiction, with the number of confirmed problem gamblers put at 430,000. Problem gambling is estimated to cost the UK around £260 million a year. Meanwhile, figures suggest 1.4% of gamblers were hospitalized through self-inflicted injuries in 2018. Clearly, there is a problem.

The Gambling Commission was founded in 2007 and is an executive non-departmental public body of the Government of the UK responsible for regulating gambling and supervising gaming law in Great Britain. Complete responsibility and jurisdiction for UK online regulation was only given to the UKGC in November 2014. However, since then the UKGC has drawn criticism from both sides, for failing to prevent the spread of FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) and for over-regulation also.

A parallel can be drawn with the UK’s forex industry. Forex trading and forex signals were wild west in the early days of internet trading. This lead to many forex frauds until regulation cleaned up and forex traders had the choice of just regulated forex brokers.

Whilst the UKGC have been cleaning up the online operators in a similar way, recently, the UK Advertising Agency working with the UKGC has seen the ASA come under heavy criticismfor its heavy handed approach to gambling advertising. 

Meanwhile, just this month a new KYC – Know Your Customer, procedure came into effect, forcing betting operators to identify customers upon point of registration. Betting tax is also going up from 15% to 21% with betting brands now finding themselves being squeezed in all directions.

This year promises to be a tough year for UK gambling operators with thousands of betting shops planned for closure. The worry is over regulation could tip an already pressured industry over the edge. With so many jobs and so much revenue on the line, the UKGC has to walk a fine line between over regulation and under regulation. At the moment, it seems over regulation is the order of the day. However, as the effect of recent rulings are felt this may well indeed change.

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