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 09.02.2022 · last updated 09.02.2022

It’s fair to say that anyone who gives serious thought to online gambling in its various forms would agree that there should be a happy medium that best serves everyone concerned, from customers to the providers and, importantly, society as a whole. 

Governments, of course, have a role to play, and here, too, there is a balance to be found. As the saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all the time – legislation and some kind of policing need to be in place, but the industry obviously has to be allowed to get on with business. And in order for this to happen as effectively as possible, it’s imperative that decisions are made based on appropriate criteria and facts. 

The UK, while considered an eminently fair country with attitudes, values and practices founded on common sense and reason, is nevertheless prone to the wrong kind of people having an influence on government policy. With this in mind, members of the UK parliament, tasked with putting together and subsequently monitoring gambling reforms, have been warned to ‘ignore extremists’ trying to exert pressure and influence outcomes. 

‘Waiting with baited breath’ might sound a little dramatic, but this is how some of those involved within the gambling industry will be waiting for the UK government to publish its so-called White Paper on gambling reform. It’s imperative that, notwithstanding a few changes, there remains a status quo of sorts and, to this end, Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has said that “Gambling reform cannot be hijacked by extremists’ agendas” – powerful words, perhaps, but most would share this sentiment. 

Writing on parliamentary news source, PoliticsHome, Dugher acknowledges that there’s room for industry reforms, but points out that these should be ‘led by the evidence’ rather than be influenced by the hysteria that can spill over into the debate.

A key aspect upon which suggested reforms focus is the prickly subject of player affordability. This is something that absolutely needs to be addressed with serious consideration of potential implications – on the one hand, it is clearly paramount to protect players and have measures in place that help limit spending, but on the other it’s important that such precautions are not to the detriment to the vast majority of customers. And it should come as no surprise that this specific area brings with it the risk of putting off punters – a YouGov poll published as recently as January, for example, showed that only 16% of people would be comfortable accepting arbitrary affordability checks. Moreover, there’s a real prospect of pushing those who are unwilling to have their finances scrutinised on to unlicensed sites which, given that it was reported last year that the use of such sites in the UK had doubled in two years, is a problem nobody in the industry wants to exacerbate. On this matter, too, Dugher points out that “We are actually in favour of further enhanced spending checks but believe the focus should be on problem gamblers or those at risk – not disrupting the enjoyment of the overwhelming majority of people who bet safely and responsibly.”   

One would hope that the UK government’s policy makers appreciate that much has already been done within the industry to protect customers, and companies continue to maintain standards in their endeavours to support the UK Gambling Commission’s safety oriented agenda, without punishing punters and the sector itself with overly cautious and overly restrictive rules. 

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