Online casinos and sportsbooks had a big impact on gambling culture all over the world. They really started to take off during the early 2000s, and the UK and Malta were among the first nations to start regulating these businesses. The two established gaming commissions that gained recognition throughout the EU. These regulatory frameworks have made gambling safer, but their policies continue to evolve or get stricter with each passing year.
It should also be mentioned that another organization has had a big impact on improving player safety in the UK. The organization in question is Gamstop, and it was established back in 2018.. Now that Gamstop has been around for a few years it is worth examining whether it has had a positive impact on gambling culture.
How Does Gamstop Work
Before we proceed, a quick refresher on what is Gamestop and how it works. Basically, it’s an organization where people can voluntarily apply for self-exclusion from gambling. Once they are on the list all casinos that work with Gamstop aren’t allowed to offer them service. Does this mean these people can no longer gamble online in the UK. Well, not exactly, it’s still possible to make an account and play games using new non Gamstop casinos, but these aren’t based in the UK. Also, these sites have their own responsible gambling or self-exclusion tools and are regulated by a different commission. So they are still a safe choice.
Pre-Gamstop Gambling Culture in the UK
As mentioned regulators have been doing a decent job of making the activity safe for players. However, their main focus was on ensuring games are fair and that player funds are safe. Additionally, commissions were working in tandem with AML organization to minimize the risk of money laundering and financial fraud through online gambling sites. That being said, there were still some gaps that needed to be filled. Namely, self exclusion gambling UK organizations like Gamstop weren’t around, so managing problems like addiction weren’t exactly on the table.
One of the means of preventing problem gambling was strict fines. In a way, regulators decided to let casinos take the responsibility and they would issue fines to those who failed problem players. Unfortunately, this was just a band-aid and a far cry from a constructive solution. Another way regulators made the activity safer is through additional mandates.
- Games need to be slower to prevent the amount of bets that can be placed per hour.
- Reality check tools that communicate to players how much money they lost
- Obligatory checkups on players who have been active on the site for an extended time.
- Displaying helpline phone numbers and links that can connect players to relevant support groups and centres.
These are all useful things that make the activity safer. The issue is that they focus on managing operators rather than managing problem gamblers themselves.
Positive Impact of Gamstop
According to some findings from 2020, there are around 1.2 million UK citizens who have a moderate or high risk of becoming problem gamblers. By the month of December in the same year Gamstop gambling database had 170,000 registered players. In a short span, the effectiveness of this organization was recognized by the regulators. They’ve become a force multiplier in the field of safety and licensing requirements were adjusted.
Now, if an operator wants to offer its services in the UK it needs to be registered with Gamstop. This means that they need to connect their database to Gamstop’s and deny service to any registered citizens. What’s more, they aren’t allowed to market promos or other content from their site to those who are registered.
In a study of the effectiveness of Gamstop, it was pointed out that around 70% of users have noticed an improvement in their life. Their stress and anxiety levels have gone down since they applied for self-exclusion. Meaning the organization has made a big impact in reducing gambling-related harm.
Now it should be mentioned that this system is far from perfect. Just a year after it was established it has received a lot of criticism. In the article from BBC, it was revealed just how easy it is to bypass the self-exclusion. All one has to do is misspell their surname and they can register with an online casino or sportsbook.
This was back in 2019 and Gamstop has acknowledged the flaw and committed itself to improving the system.
Because gambling ads and promotional messages can be frustrating to problem gamblers, registering on Gamstop can help. They can significantly push back the temptation and be more responsible with their finances. In that respect, the organization has done a lot of good in improving lives of the UK citizens. However, it’s still not difficult to bypass these restrictions. So, casinos should have their own self-exclusion registers and more comprehensive verification protocols.