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UK Aims to Tighten Gambling Oversight: Poker Players Weigh In

In April 2023, the UK government unveiled its anticipated policy for reforming gambling in the digital age, with a strong emphasis on high-stakes betting. This document sparked a heated debate among poker players: on the 2+2 forum, it was nearly labe

By: Easy Branches

  • Feb 14 2024
  • 131
UK Aims to Tighten Gambling Oversight: Poker Players Weigh In
UK Aims to Tighten Gambling Oversight: Poker Players Weigh In

UK Aims to Tighten Gambling Oversight: Poker Players Weigh In

In April 2023, the UK government unveiled its anticipated policy for reforming gambling in the digital age, with a strong emphasis on high-stakes betting. This document sparked a heated debate among poker players: on the 2+2 forum, it was nearly labeled a death sentence for mid-stakes games in the nation, and potentially globally. The fear of other countries emulating the UK's approach and consequently the extinction of low-cost games, along with a potential increase in gambling operators' rake, was a central concern.

P.S. It might seem like this is only a UK issue, but remember: politicians have a penchant for replicating the less pleasant practices of other nations, especially when it comes to restrictions and bans.

What Does the UK Government's Policy Propose?

Having scrutinized the gambling market over the past five years, UK authorities reached a sobering conclusion: certain advanced aspects of online gambling significantly elevate the risk of harm to consumers.

Against this backdrop, the main priority for the coming years is to ensure player safety by bolstering the regulation of digital gambling, which currently poses the most significant issues.

Given the high popularity of betting games in the UK—the government's rough estimate at the end of 2022:

The authorities are well aware that adults have the outright to partake in such leisure activities, and their objective is not to prohibit but to monitor the safety of these practices.

To this end, the UK Gambling Commission has devised new measures—covering three main areas:

Most of these proposed measures do not directly affect online poker but pertain to casino-style games. Moreover, the word "poker" appears only twice in the entire document: once in a paragraph about poker machines. Therefore, we've extracted only those parts from the document that have caused a stir within the poker community or may impact players in the long run for a detailed presentation.

Important! As of August 21, 2023, the published document has not been legislated—it remains under public consultation for feedback and suggestions for improvement until October 18, 2023, through a special survey.

Compelling Operators to Track Harm Indicators

The government has compiled a list of such indicators across various client interaction dimensions, expecting operators to monitor each with the application of aid measures for people.

A gambling "binge" is defined as a net loss of £1,000 by a player within 24 hours.

Regular Checks Based on Losses

The government has proposed targeted financial risk checks to assess potential harm based on the following criteria:

The exchange rate at 18:00 MSK on August 21 is £1 = $1.28.

Detailed checks may also be conducted at lower levels of loss, particularly for players aged 18 to 24, who are deemed to be most vulnerable to gambling harm.

The government also hopes (and in some areas insists) for full cooperation among gambling operators, especially regarding problem gamblers. They are expected to work together to prevent harm to problem gamblers by sharing data about such clients on a "safe government platform."

Restricting Maximum Bet Sizes

Drawing from its experience with online slot design changes, the government plans to consult with operators to encourage design changes in other online products. Primarily, these changes will address game speed, as it exacerbates spending intensity and user engagement.

It is on online slots that the government wants to "test" maximum bet limits—currently considering a range from £2 to £15. If successful, further restrictions of £2 or £4 per bet, or an amount based on individual player risk assessment, will be implemented. Such limits are anticipated to reduce harm related to the aforementioned game speed and the rate of loss.

Tightening Transaction Blockades

As I delve deeper into the regulations shaking up the gambling scene, it's clear that the government expects nothing less than a full commitment from operators to only engage with payment services that actively facilitate transaction blockades on gambling activities, either upon request or under specific conditions.

What does this mean for us, the players? Essentially, everyone involved in the gambling process must now ensure they inform us about these blockage conditions and the reasons behind them. And yes, in case you're wondering, they do have to give us the right to challenge these blockades with the regulator, which feels like a small victory for player empowerment.

Moreover, the Gambling Commission is in the midst of devising mechanisms to swiftly gather intel on the financial status of players who might be treading in troubled waters or are flagged as suspicious—and get this, potentially without their knowledge. Part of this invasive strategy is the expectation that mandatory data will include an assessment of the player’s overall disposable income and expenditures. If credit organizations—think banks and payment services—can't keep up with this tall order, the authorities plan to go straight to the source and request the information directly from the players themselves.

Regulating Promotions

Unlike lotteries, which are already under a regulatory lens, promotions for other types of gambling games are currently in the wild west of legal oversight, and the UK government sees them as a frontier of potential harm to players. The deep dive into the world of betting reveals just how much of a free-for-all it's been.

But that's all set to change. In the coming years, there's going to be a concentrated effort to study how to best regulate major promotions, including those for skill-based games, with the goal to implement proper controls that ensure players' safety. It's about time for some order in the chaos, right?

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