Online measures to come into force in the UK
The UK has a reputation for being arguably the nation that puts the most fun in gambling, with bookmakers offering the public the opportunity to bet on just about anything, from what colour dress a movie star will wear to an opening night to how many times a troubled football manager will say ‘no excuses’ at the post-match press conference.
However, it has also earned great respect in terms of how the well-being of punters is so highly prioritized by the Gambling Commission. The organisation constantly endeavours to both monitor and work with the betting and gambling industry, while at the same time carrying out research about, and consulting with, the general public, with a view to making sure sufficient protection for them is put in place.
With this in mind, the Gambling Commission this week announced a package of measures aimed at reinforcing protection and controls for those who enjoy online gambling in the UK. This was with particular reference to slots games and in response to the potentially negative impact of certain features specific to slots. Nevertheless, whichever sector of the industry the Gambling Commission has sought to make changes to this time around, we can expect online gambling operators – including those who host poker (which number quite a few, given how many include poker alongside casino, sports betting, bingo and so on) – to consider their various offerings across all platforms. Being ever conscious of the scrutiny they come under can only lead to online gambling firms trying to address (and thus avoid) potential problems in advance which, in turn, is to the collective benefit of both themselves and their customers.
One of the issues investigated by the Commission could, in fact, have an influence on online poker but, before we come to that, those of you who like to dabble on the slots during a tournament break, or for a change of scene from poker, might find the latest measures interesting.
First, the Commission focused on online slots because it’s this sector that sees by far the highest average losses per player, the latest data revealing that the average spend per slots player is £67 per month (it’s £36 for casino products and £45 for real event betting…).
The new rules – which will need to be fully implemented by online operators by 31 October 2021 – include the outright ban of features such as autoplay or those that speed up play, those that give the illusion of control over the outcome, the use of imagery which gives the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to (or even below) the stake, and other features that could lead to players essentially losing track of how a session is going.
Will the new measures impact on Online Poker?
Alongside the changes for online slots, the Commission is also introducing a permanent ban on reverse withdrawals for ALL online gambling. If you’re unaware of the reverse withdrawal facility, then as the name suggests, a player can, within a limited period of time after making a withdrawal, reverse the process for some or all of the amount in order to avoid making a deposit instead. Evidence has shown that the reverse withdrawal function represents a risk to players as they are being given the opportunity to re-gamble money that was on its way out of their online gambling account. Deemed too much of a temptation, this facility will, it seems, no longer be available to online poker players from the end of October at the latest. However, accompanying this change will be implementation guidance that operators should make the withdrawal process as ‘frictionless’ as possible.
The existence in the UK of the Gambling Commission (and other organizations that are concerned with the welfare of the public) might be seen by some as meddling in private enterprise, but players absolutely need protecting – including from themselves. Along with strengthened protection regarding online age and ID verification, improvements in customer interaction practices, and banning the use of credit cards for online gambling, the Commission is clearly looking to protect customers on numerous levels, and at different stages of the online gambling experience.