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Be prepared for major action from UKGC in May onwards

The UKGC have released what could prove to be a far-reaching and incendiary report into online gambling, moreover the subject of Responsible Gambling.

The main points of note are the intention to examine the use of credit cards for gambling, the pre-verification of players before they can gamble at any casino online and the ‘reverse withdrawal’ facility many online casinos offer.

Credit Cards
Credit card usage seems like a good and responsible idea to prevent but there are some issues there too. Many cards offer online transfers of cash into current accounts, they can be used to get cash advances from ATM machines, used to load gambling Web Wallets such as Neteller and lastly you get statutory protection via Section 75 against non-delivery of goods or services, useful if the casino goes broke and doesn’t refund you!

So the determined gambler can still use them to fund accounts with varying levels of ease, although I believe despite that fact there will be some significant reduction in cases of gambling debt.

Pre-verification
For online players is a major change and is due on May 7th. 2019. The obvious advantages are a great reduction in disputes occurring later over duplicate accounts, preventing players excluded from other sites under the same licensee and of course impulse purchasing of chips. Many players also bemoan the fact that any issues on their accounts mostly come to light at the withdrawal stage when it’s the most cost-effective for casinos to action KYC checks.

Therein lies the problem – if smaller casinos cannot verify electronically like larger bookmaker sites on an instant basis, they could lose the customer. The same applies for the cost of verifying 24/7 only for the potential new player to lose interest and log-out, never to return despite the effort and expense incurred for the casino. Many smaller UK-facing casinos simply cannot afford 24-hour verification at speed, yet if they don’t provide it they lose new players. This measure is deemed responsible but will heavily favour the bigger and more prosperous outfits. Casinos are already leaving the UK market in droves due to the bonus tax, increase in gaming tax and the simple headache of keeping up with ever increasing regulation and rule changes.

If you remember, before the Labour Administration introduced deregulation of gambling in 2005, you couldn’t go into a land-based casino without a 24-hours cooling off period after requesting membership. It now seems this will be in effect the scenario online, unless casinos can complete this rapidly or electronically.

Demo Slots
From May 7th. operators will not be able to offer demo slots for their visitors to try, unless they’ve already joined the site and been verified as adults. The rules don’t mention affiliate sites or game developer sites but I think it’s safe to assume that these will be under the same umbrella rule and having no financial incentive to bear the burden of the GDPR in order to offer demos, these will simply be either geo-restricted for UK IP’s or simply pulled altogether.  It appears that other industry webmasters have noted these pitfalls too, as you can see with this report from thePOGG.

Reverse Withdrawals
Yes, the hated ‘pending period’ where you can reverse and lose your intended cash-out is being examined by the UKGC for effects of responsible gambling and fairness. Given KYC pre-verification will soon have to be in place, this removes much of the excuse for it. I think it’s almost inevitable it will be regulated out altogether. This is a good measure, but again a significant proportion of pending withdrawals are reversed and lost and without this the casino may simply not be able to afford continued UK operation.

Effects
Some of the things above spell good intentions but it seems the UKGC has little understanding of the online gaming business from the consumer or operator perspective. They employ legal and advertising experts but I cannot identify any consumer or operator input into their often arbitrary decisions of which they don’t seem to fully comprehend the consequences. There’s a fine line between regulation and actions which you would normally expect statutes to enact as they affect the rights of businesses and individuals working within them. It leaves one asking what are the limitations placed on the UKGC in the legislation that actually created them?

An Unforeseen Issue?
There is a terribly negative caveat to the likely outcome of this system, which I believe the UKGC hasn’t taken into consideration.  If this decimates new depositing players at properly licensed tax-paying casinos, who will take up the slack?  Yes, the unlicensed clip joints, rogue casinos and fraudsters who will be from outside the UK and need not observe the rules.  They must be rubbing their hands in anticipation…

You can download the whole report from the UKGC here.

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