One of the major concerns of the UKGC towards problem gambling is the expense incurred by pathological gamblers to sustain their habit. Many of them incurring debts the size of tenths of thousands, and even partaking in criminal activities to keep a source of money to gamble, while neglecting themselves. Establishing a limit to prevent gambling to those who can no longer afford it seems like the right decision, but will the £100 limit enough, or too much?
The £100 Monthly Limit Proposal
In August 2020 a report survived the viability to reform the current 2005 gambling act, with a maximum monthly deposit limit of £100 to prevent gambling-related harm such as debt, criminal activities, and the neglection of problem gamblers and their relatives.
For many families, especially from the most deprived sectors, problem gamblers and even at-risk gamblers impose an economical burden over them. The Brexit and COVID-19 have created more vulnerable conditions for the average householder, and those whose income is at the very minimum and below have very little to fulfil their living needs less to say to fund excessive gambling.
The report found that families on average dedicate at least 23gbp weekly for leisure such as cultural entertainment, sport and even gambling. Considering that amount a residual income after fulfilling their basic household needs the SMF suggests a 100GBP monthly cap for gambling to prevent unnecessary economical burdens.
Reactions from gambling industry representatives were expected since they consider it arbitrary to establish such a low limit, although they recognize that a deposit limit for gambling is needed. In this case, many punters will be looking for bonuses not on Gamstop that do not require a deposit to gamble without breaking limits. In the current 2020 the industry has been convulsed with several restrictions related to their account funding methods such as credit, and prepaid cards, along with a ban on tv advertisement and the sinking of their main flagship, VIP schemes.
While the protection of customers is a priority, the suggestion of imposing a £100 limit has its benefits, is not exempt from its downfalls.
Cold stop over compulsive gambling
Cases of people winning to later drain all again in fixed odds betting machines (FOBT) or slots in a matter of hours are not uncommon, even after the £2 stake limit being imposed. Problem and at-risk gamblers will keep chasing losses an increasing the stake limits to recover not only money but also the excitement that initially had when gambling. Since many of them don’t realize the extent of their harm until late, the £100 limit will instantly stop problem gamblers from incurring into further financial burden while forcing awareness on at-risk gamblers.
A transversal network to protect customers
Online operators acknowledge holding records tracking their customer behaviour allowing them to determine their risk and profitability based on their gambling patterns. Because this data is considered privileged and is not shared among them, the measure will force operators to be more collaborative towards the addressing of problem gambling if they want such restrictions lifted or at least progressively increased.
Money laundering can be deterred
Criminals organizations have been exploiting the gambling industry to clean and cover their ill gains. With such limitations and greater Know Your Customer practices they will overlook the industry as long the measure is applied since they can no longer move money with the same freedom they were used to.
Black market migration
At the very appearance of a restriction, the black and grey market seems more appealing for gamblers looking for the thrill associated with bigger stakes and greater benefits such as bonuses and free bets that currently UK operators are not able to keep providing.
If financial restrictions get imposed, crypto casinos appear to fill the blanks leaving little to no control on the regulatory bodies to prevent people from gambling on higher (and harmful) stakes. Also, there will be no self-exclusion services such as Gamstop to prevent gambling harm.
Forced career change
Professional gamblers although often overlooked are one of the most affected groups by the restriction. Because of the nature of their trade, these gamblers usually overcome several variance cycles on their winnings and losses but still manage to achieve a living income. Like many others, they will resort to the grey and black markets or flee to less restrictive nations.
Tax or jobs cuts
With the current tax levy of 18% next to be increased to 21%, operators won’t be able to sustain their business model as profits will come close to none. This not only affects the gambling industry itself but also other businesses related to it, such as marketing providers, and agreements from football and horse racing events.
This will translate in a reduction of the industry size with the consequent cut of staff to keep operating on a smaller scale.
Controversy towards freedom of choice
With gambling being a pòpular entertainment in the UK, people will find their rights abused since they are getting conditioned to use their money in the ways the government wants, even if it’s for their wellbeing. The restlessness will spark as they can consider gambling the first step for social control and limitation of their liberties.
Although operators must be knowledgeable of the kind of client using their services they will need to exert greater control to prevent the creation of multiple accounts and the use of VPN to disguise IP connections from inside the UK.
On the other hand, the UKGC have greater challenges to prevent the access of offshore and illegal operators inside the UK. In both cases, it will be cost demanding and paradoxically will become a burden for the state as in the long run, they will need to finance such large scale supervisory operations.
While imposing limits to prevent any furthering related to problem gambling is necessary The UKGC must consider the affordability of this kind of decision for both operators and the regulatory body itself as it can easily backfire and involve a reversion, in the same way, it occurred many times in the past with prohibition.