A number of European countries are moving to more closely regulate the online casino industry to ensure uniform compliance with accepted welcome bonus casino standards. The countries, including England, Germany, France, Sweden and Holland are moving forward on several different laws that range from the ability of players to play with their credit cards to geographical jurisdiction limitations and rules for age verification.
The UK is Europe’s main gaming market. It has already begun to introduce new legislation that will affect the way that gaming sites and online casinos operate. Now in 2021, other changes are being considered.
The United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission has introduced new regulations that are designed to make online gaming safer. The new restrictions include:
- Limits on spin speeds with a break between spins to mitigate the loses that a player may experience within a given amount of time
- Ban on features that celebrate losses as wins or speed up play
According to the new rules, operators must clearly display the player’s total losses or wins.
Additional changes are expected in the UK in the coming months including:
- To curb or eradicate VIP schemes which target people with gambling addictions and encourage such people to commit fraud in order to join the VIP programs
- To ensure that loyalty schemes offer transparent information regarding the value of deposits that are required relative to the value of the rewards
- To create an exclusion database that will ensure that once a player self-excludes from one online site, s/he will be excluded from all sites
- To impose automatic limits on bets and opt-out clauses to flag the customer for closer monitoring
- To mandate companies to take out insurance to create deposit protection so that customers’ deposits will be protected in case the company goes under
- To make the brand ownership transparent so customers know which company is behind the casino or betting site
- To place limits on bets including a potential £2 limit for table games and online slot machine spins. The proposal includes daily limits as well
- To curb the size and types of bonus promotions that companies can run for new and existing customers. The size of Welcome Bonuses has already decreased because the government now taxes them in the same way that they do other wagers. But many advocates are pushing for tighter rules – especially calling these bonuses “free bets.”
- To limit TV ads, sponsorships and other marketing promotions. Restrictions would include reducing the type and number of ads on TV, restrictions on advertising on football shirts, restrictions on ads targeting young people, etc.
- To introduce a mandatory gambling levy
- To introduce more stringent finds on gambling operators to ensure that they follow the rules.
- To ban reverse withdrawals. A reverse withdrawal allows the player to cancel a withdrawal while it is “pending.” The “pending” period can last for several days and the reverse withdrawals make it easier for players, some with gambling addictive behaviors, to cancel their withdrawal and continue to play with the money in their account.
- To strengthen the user of credit for gambling. Credit card payments were banned in 2020 but many anti-gambling advocates are pushing for more stringent controls including banning payments by phone bill methods, purchases of cash vouchers, banning cash payments to a betting shop to fund online play, etc
- To ban withdrawal limits or imposing minimum withdrawal limits or percentages of the money in the player’s account that can be withdrawn.
- To check sources of funds if a customer makes a large deposit or a series of small deposits that’s unusual based on the customer’s past betting activity. In such cases, operators will be required to check further to ensure that the customer can afford it (not credit or money from a personal loan) and that everything is legal.
- To monitor activity for signs of problem gaming behavior. Activists say that, in the same way that gaming sites monitor users’ behavior to send them appropriate offers, they can monitor behavior to identify signs of addictive gambling or betting above the appropriate level.
- To accept new customers only after checks have been completed to ensure that the customer is who s/he says that s/he is and has the funds to wager at the level that s/he wishes to deposit funds.
- To restrict operators’ practice of limiting accounts of gamers who win “too much.”
- Limiting images that might appeal to children. This would also impact the game design companies.
Most of the reforms that are being proposed in the UK relate to online slots but the Gambling Commission is proposing other reforms as well. They include
- Rules for Loot boxes that require game designers to adhere to rules regarding loot boxes. Loot boxes are digital items which can be bought in exchange for “loot” – a selection of further virtual items. These items range from game-changing equipment such as armor and weapons to simple customization options for a player's character or avatar. Activists want to see age verification controls on the purchases or cessation of undisclosed purchases altogether.
- Spread betting involves the speculation on the rise or fall of an asset’s price. Spread betting is classified as a form of trading in the UK and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Agency. Since spread betting does not use fixed odds and, instead, involves taking a 'position' on an outcome ,it’s viewed as a particularly dangerous form of gambling by anti-gambling activists. Bettors end up losing far more than they originally staked. Activists are trying to ensure that spread betting becomes better regulated by this year’s gambling reforms.
- Activists want to see lotteries have the same over-18-years-of-age limitations as do other games. Currently, UK lottery players must be only 16. Critics charge that 16 is too young to be introducing teens to gambling and serves as a gateway to a lifetime of betting.
- The Commission is likely to ensure that big games are available for viewing through streaming services that don’t involve betting sites. The FA-Cup 2020 could only be watched on bookmaker streaming services which, critics say, promoted gambling. In answer to such discussion the Commission may take steps to make the streaming content on non-betting services and/or instruct the gambling platforms that they must offer the streams for free (presently, access to the streaming content is limited by the betting services to customers who place bets or who have money in their account).
- A number of illegal gaming sites operate in the UK. The government would be hard-pressed to close down all sites but advocates want to see the government take steps to close down those who have scammed British players and to inform the public about the risks. Advocates point out that new regulations will increase black market gambling because such sites would have no incentive to adhere to the licensing restrictions. For that reason, they say, it’s important to address illegal gambling in any new legislation.
In other European countries, governments are also taking steps to regulate online betting. In Sweden, the government has banned anyone under age 18 from betting on sports. In Germany, online gaming and betting operators will be required to ensure that no underage players have access to their platforms from July 2021. France has created a new gambling regulator to oversee online gambling as well as other gaming operations in an attempt to protect minors and prevent gambling addiction.