According to the Economist, British gambling legislation, crafted nearly two decades ago, focused on traditional, physical betting. Since then, the landscape has transformed, spearheaded by mobile betting. The UK now reigns as the world’s largest regulated online betting market.
The rise in mobile betting since 2019 has been significant, propelling the gross gambling yield (a measure of profit before operating costs) from £817 million in 2009 to a whopping £6.4 billion in 2022.
Recent governmental initiatives, like the White Paper, propose better protections, including deeper background checks on potential risk-takers, stake limits for online slots, and levies to fund research into addiction prevention. However, the rapid evolution of betting channels could outpace the effectiveness of such laws.
One such challenge is the world of video gaming. According to a 2021 study by the universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton, “loot boxes”—mystery item packs purchased within games—are “psychologically akin to gambling”. These are currently untouched by British law unless cash-ins are allowed. The recent white paper fails to tackle such emergent forms of gambling.
Addiction, often exacerbated by smartly designed games exploiting user data, poses a major issue. Developers have crafted games that stimulate dopamine release with near-misses, making them powerfully addictive. Nonetheless, official proposals for dealing with this seem rather modest.
In addition, the role of marketers in leading customers to online sites, currently unregulated by the Gambling Commission, remains problematic. Despite potential sanctions, many operators have been negligent in enforcing rules among subcontractors.
Implications for the iGaming Industry
The aforementioned complexities present a trio of industry-wide implications:
- Industry Accountability: The rise in gambling addiction highlights the need for operators to take increased responsibility. The industry must look towards developing more ethical and effective ways to prevent addiction.
- Regulatory Adaptability: Legislation needs to keep pace with the changing landscape, with laws reflecting the current realities of online gambling, including emerging trends like “loot boxes.”
- Effective Regulation of Affiliates: Regulatory bodies must extend their oversight to marketers, ensuring they adhere to the principles of responsible gambling and marketing.
As Britain grapples with the double-edged sword of online betting, the industry, the government, and the regulatory bodies must collaborate effectively. The stakes are high, and the well-being of individuals like Samuel hangs in the balance.