Modernising Regulations - New Gambling Laws For The Digital Age

The online gambling industry is constantly evolving. From the launch of new casinos to the suggestion and implementation of new gambling laws, things are moving faster than we thought. The UK is at the forefront of this movement, with other jurisdictions following closely.

For example, 2023 saw massive changes in the Curacao iGaming realm, where the licensing body (CEG) set the bar high for casino operators with this license. New requirements, higher license fees, more external audits - all these are aimed at improving security and transparency in gambling. In the same year, the UK’s Culture Secretary made a statement about the white paper that stipulated plans to reform gambling laws in the country.

After checking all these new gambling regulations, one thing is clear - they are looking at making gambling safer for the modern player. How will players be affected? Read on!

The UK government's plans to reform the industry laws

The UK is one of the most restricted gambling markets. Player protection is always put before anything else. In line with this, a white paper published in April 2023 revealed the government’s plans to modernise gambling regulations. This is aimed at protecting vulnerable gamblers in the digital age. Below is a summary of the measures set out in this white paper:

Maximum stake limit for online slots

The white paper suggested the introduction of new stake limits for online slot games to bridge the gap between online casinos and their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The maximum bet limit is £2 in physical arcades, pubs, and bookmakers. And in land-based casinos, it’s £5.

In the paper, the suggested maximum bet per spin was £2 to £15, subject to amendment after consultation. This consultation was held from 26 July to 4 October 2023. In February 2024, the government released a statement on what the new statutory bet limits would be. Following the results and analysis of this consultation, they settled on the following:

  • Maximum bet limit of £2 per spin for adults aged 18 to 24 years

  • Maximum bet limit of £5 per spin for adults aged 25 years and above.

Young adults have a lower threshold because, as evidence shows, such players have a higher risk tolerance than other age groups. This makes them more vulnerable to problem gambling and the harm that comes with it.

More stringent player protection checks

Gambling operators will be required to do extra checks on their customers. Currently, these companies are already required by law to prevent harm. They should intervene when they see a player spending too much. And the government is very serious about it. In May 2023, William Hill was fined over £19 million for several failures, which included allowing a player to spend £23,000 in 20 minutes.

If the new gambling laws suggested in the white paper are passed, operators will need to identify players who spend the highest and make sure these punters are not incurring unaffordable or harmful losses. These checks will be directed where there’s a higher risk of harm. If what the government says is true, only 2 in 10 players will undergo such checks. And they’ll be done in the background, so players won’t even notice. So, problem gamblers will be easily identified, and measures taken to help them.

Restricting bonus offers

The Gambling Commission already has rules on online VIP schemes. According to the Culture Secretary, Lucy Claire Frazer KC, these rules have reduced VIP programs in the UK by 90%. Drawing from this, the white paper introduces a requirement by the UKGC to ensure casino bonuses are not offered in a way that could cause harm.

We all know the magic of bonuses - they entice you to gamble even when that wasn’t the plan. Now, imagine this happens to a problem gambler trying to recover. The temptation of free bets or free spins may be too hard to resist, and they find themselves down the rabbit hole again. That’s what this new gambling regulation seeks to prevent.

Statutory gambling operator levy

Usually, it’s players who incur the cost of treatment in case of gambling addiction. The new gambling regulations in the white paper seek to change this by introducing a statutory levy for gambling companies. If passed, gambling operators in the UK will need to fund problem gambling research, education and treatment.

There’s already a current voluntary levy, but it’s not fit for purpose. Some companies contribute as little as £1, and the NHS and some other researchers keep off this money due to concerns about their source. The statutory levy will change all that. Note that the rate will be discussed at a later date, after which we will update this section.

New powers for the Gambling Commission

Most of these suggested gambling regulations will be enacted by the UKGC. That means the body will require extra powers, which are already suggested in the white paper. First, the Culture Secretary promises to make sure the commission has resources to support the white paper’s work.

One of these will be the tools to handle the unlicensed black market gambling companies in the UK. They will lock out these operators from the UK through court orders and ISPs. This is something similar to what the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) does - it requires offshore gambling sites to block Dutch players.

That aside, the UK government wants to address the power imbalance between gamblers and betting companies. Sometimes, players lose money due to operators’ failure. Their system might have crashed, their SSL protocol compromised, or there’s just something wrong with their servers. In that case, the government seeks to intervene by providing a single point of contact for players - the Gambling Commission.

The last measure targeting the digital gambling landscape is ensuring children (under 18) cannot gamble online or offline (via scratchcards).

Is the Netherlands any different?

When it comes to legal online gambling in the Netherlands, the situation is very similar to the UK. Gambling regulations are getting stricter every year, but all are aiming at player protection. For example, like GamStop, the CRUKs system works to help players struggling with gambling addiction. Every online casino that is KSA-licensed must be connected to the CRUKs register.

Also, the Dutch government is constantly working to eliminate black-market casino operators in the country. Their approach differs slightly from that of the UK (e.g. mystery shopping), but they aim to achieve the same results. All in all, countries and gambling regulators are working to modernise regulations for the digital age.