AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 08.02.2022 · last updated 08.02.2022

While many are hoping – maybe even expecting – that 2022 will be a vast improvement on the previous two years, the powers that be in the UK’s online gambling industry will be awaiting the next move of the UK Gambling Commission, whose continued emphasis on protecting customers continues, as does the co-operation of the online providers themselves.   

Perhaps one of the more drastic measures during recent years was the UK government’s move in 2018 to dramatically cut the single bet level that customers could wager on electronic slot machines in high street bookmakers from £100 to £2. Some might say that while this will indeed have had the desired effect of reducing the number of problem gamblers, it is reasonable to assume that customers of the traditional betting shops simply moved their gambling online, where the stakes were not so drastically limiting. Note that gambling at home also affords punters with a level of anonymity that can make indulging in problem gambling easier. Of course, software exists that monitors players, and online providers are increasingly active in helping their customers, but it is understandable – especially in an era when society is increasingly endeavouring to protect the most vulnerable – that the government wants to be seen as maximally responsible. With this in mind, the Gambling Commission will roll out a roster of plans and adjustments to gambling laws in the Spring.

Given that the UK is home to the world’s largest regulated online gambling market, it is interesting to see to what extent those who keep the country’s enormous £13bn per-year gambling sector ticking along are doing their share. It follows that the more companies themselves do to help their customers, the less the government will intervene. Moreover, if anyone can devise and implement methods with which to collate and analyse data and then provide seriously user-friendly protection and help to punters, it’s the operators themselves.  

A number of companies, therefore, have been busy putting into place their own safer gambling measures in the hope that promising results will successfully pre-empt potentially more stringent regulation, and thus lessen the impact on both customers and, crucially, revenue. The good news even before whatever happens in Spring is that the UK’s problem gambling rate has halved from 0.6 per cent in 2020 to 0.3 per cent last year, according to Gambling Commission data. Obviously, this ostensibly tiny figure is nevertheless 0.3 per cent too high, and all parties must anyway constantly endeavour to keep such levels as low as possible and by whatever means necessary.

Meanwhile, attempts to create a safe(r) environment by, for instance, imposing a £500 monthly spending limit on the under-25s, and drastically cutting  the number of typically very high-roller VIPs by as much as 94 per cent in one case have also been welcome developments.

One of the more interesting is an artificial intelligence program designed to identify problematic gamblers. Entain, for instance, claims that its model is more than 90 per cent accurate, allowing for subsequent intervention with potential high risk customers. If the industry can demonstrate both a willingness and an ability to police itself by monitoring and assisting punters, then future regulatory measures via government intervention might be less of a concern.

While any changes in online gambling might have some kind of negative impact on the industry as a whole – or perhaps subject it to changes that might detrimentally, albeit temporarily, alter the landscape – life for poker players should  be fine. The mini-boom enjoyed by online poker fans over the last couple of years has left a positive legacy, and it is significant that poker is different from other forms of online gambling in that the considerable skill element sets it apart from slots, for example. As such, poker fans find the game in itself rewarding, and money is just one aspect, whereas slots being a pure gamble can result in (perceived) enjoyment being directly related to how much is being wagered. The YourPokerDream family of poker fans, then, can rest assured that whatever regulatory changes might be seen in the following months, we’ll continue to provide the best exclusive deals at the best poker rooms, and online poker will remain a 24/7, action-packed source of fun and profit…

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