The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is one of those regulatory bodies that often gets it in the neck from all sides. “Toothless” was the charge laid at its feet this summer by a parliamentary watchdog, the public accounts committee (PAC), for the UKGC’s seeming inability to regulate betting companies. The Guardian seems to publish an article every week slamming the watchdog, as does The Mail on the other side of the political spectrum.
But here’s the thing: Despite its many, many flaws, the UKGC remains the gold standard of regulators globally. Honestly. To borrow a phrase from Matt Hancock, it “leads the world” in providing guidance for gaming, especially in the digital age. And, if you think Britain’s gambling regulations are a mess, you should go and have a look at Germany’s or Australia’s.
But despite the accusations of being toothless, the UKGC has made some smart moves over the last couple of years. Some have made headlines in the mainstream media, whereas others are more technical, but important nonetheless. Below we are going to look at four of them, discussing why we think they were the right move for all stakeholders. And, we should bear in mind that all of these practices listed below still exist in other countries, so some credit should be due to the UKGC.
- The banning of credit-card-funded online accounts
This one did make the headlines, and it’s hard to argue against its merits. The majority of people in the UK gamble and gamble responsibly, and they follow the fundamental rule to risk only what they can afford to lose. But using a credit card to fund gaming is the epitome of gambling with money that you can’t afford to lose. The UKGC even went as far as blocking PayPal accounts funded by credit cards. There has been very little pushback on this from players or operators. It was simply the right thing to do.
- The removal of the “turbo” spin button
This gets a little bit technical if you aren’t accustomed to online casino games. In a nutshell, a lot of games had a fast-play button that quickened the pace of play considerably. The UKGC recently ruled that licensed casinos should remove this option. If you look at casino.com, a UK-regulated casino that is also one of the leading online scratch card site operators, the entertainment value isn’t lost at all. The games are already fast enough in their standard mode – and arguably much more enjoyable – so players really won’t be grumbling that the UKGC is messing with the formula.
- The elimination of “Bonus Buys”
Again, a concept that requires a bit of explaining if you aren’t familiar with modern casinos games. Basically, most casino games will have a headline bonus feature, which can be potentially very lucrative. A couple of years ago, casino games developers started offering the option to skip the standard gameplay and head straight to the bonus feature. The cost of this, however, was normally around 100 times the stake. The UKGC stepped in to ban this from UK online casinos last year.
- Changing the KYC Policy
In years gone by, it was possible to open a gaming account online without any need to verify details. Later, simple documents were required for an age and address check. However, there was a problem. The verification was only asked for when players were making a first withdrawal from an account. So, you could deposit as much as you liked, but gaming operators would suddenly require your details when you had some winnings to go back to your bank account. The UKGC stepped in to change this in 2019, ensuring that KYC (know your customer) checks were done before the first deposit was made. It’s a lot fairer for players, and it also helps combat fraud and money laundering.