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Gambling Addiction – Should the Us Follow UK’s Example?

Despite the world’s perception of the US as a gambling-friendly destination, fostered by gaming hot spots like Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the United States has always had a somewhat conservative stance towards betting activities. Naturally, that does not include lotteries, which have always been widespread.

Now, on account of budget shortfalls and the fact that this pastime is going mainstream globally, more US state governments are looking into legalizing online gambling.

Before the 2010s, North America had a reputation of being an untapped market for interactive gaming providers, who could not offer their products in virtually any state.

That began to change in 2013 when New Jersey started allowing online casinos through bill A2578. Since then, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have followed suit.

The current optics are that multiple US territories are currently considering making internet-casino-style gambling for their residents a reality. As mentioned, that is a result of the country’s economy contracting due to the ongoing pandemic. Plus, the fact that multiple countries around the globe are making this switch, as the online betting sphere is on course to hit a market size of $158 billion in the next six years. Thus, as online gambling becomes more popular, the risk of people developing an addiction to this pastime grows. The subheadings below describe how the UK is handling this problem, the protection foreign, non GamStop casinos offer British players, and lessons the US can learn from these examples.

The UKGC’s GamStop Network

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The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is Britain’s sole gaming regulator, responsible for monitoring all betting activity throughout the country, except for spread wagering. The Financial Conduct Authority oversees this practice. The UKGC sprung up into existence thanks to the passing of the 2005 Gambling Act, introduced to set forward a new framework regarding how Britain would handle online betting. At that time, this was a fledgling sphere. Today it accounts for £6.85 billion of UK’s gross gambling yield.

The UKGC often gets mentioned as the most stringent non-US regulator around. It takes great pride in offering premium player protection and aims to curb the rise of problem gambling in Britain. Some of its recent measures in this field include spin timers and lower maximum bet limits. Features that some UK players find restrictive, despite their good intentions.

In March 2022, it introduced the mandatory self-exclusion scheme titled GamStop, which had been in the works to go live since 2017. It is a database that lists every UK gambler with an activated self-exclusion ban on a UKGC licensed site. Thus, once his name goes into this ledger, he can no longer play at any UK-based casino until his chosen self-exclusion period expires. The GamStop scheme gets operated by a not-for-profit organization, the National Online Self Exclusion Scheme, which works closely with the UKGC. Casinos not registered with GameStop are gambling sites not based in the UK, overseen by their country’s gaming regulator.

How Do Non GamStop Casinos Operate?

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Smaller countries that lack natural resources have to find novel ways to locate lucrative tax revenue streams. Thus, in the 1990s, a few such territories decided to go against the grain and legalize online gambling. The first was the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, whose Free Trade and Processing Act birthed this sector. Following its inception in 1994, multiple countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Alderney, Curacao, and Malta decided to follow Antigua and Barbuda’s example to great success. Malta’s economy is massively dependent on its interactive gaming sector. In 2022 alone, its regulator, the Malta Gaming Authority, raked in over €65 million in revenues. That should serve as ample evidence regarding how big of an economic boost online gambling can create.

Curacao is another Caribbean nation that has seen many benefits from its pro-gambling stance. Its government has approved four master license holders that have the power to issue sub-licenses to local operators who wish to offer gaming services over the internet. These are the so-called casinos not using GameStop or non GamStop sites. In reality, there is little difference between UKGC-regulated platforms and old and new non GamStop sites. They incorporate many of the same procedures and safety measures. However, non GamStop casinos have site-specific exclusion. They can only stop players from gambling on their sites, as they are not a part of any multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. Still, they allow users to set custom restrictions, limiting how much they can deposit and when should their chosen operators freeze their gaming balance.

Non GamStop Sites vs. UK Ones

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There is no one shoe fits all approach when it comes to online casino selection. Both UKGC-approved sites and ones existing outside its obligatory self-exclusion program GamStop, sometimes referred to as non GamCare casinos that can be found here, have pros and cons. GamCare is UK’s leading gambling addiction assistance organization.

The main benefits and disadvantages of these two categories of platforms are:

The Positive Aspects of UK Online Casinos:

• Top-end customer care.
• Approved third-party dispute handling.
• No debt accumulation payment methods.
• Nationwide self-exclusion.

The Negative Aspects of UK Online Casinos:

• One size fits all model.
• Irreversible self-exclusion bans.
• Fewer bonuses.
• Fewer offered payment methods.

Positive Aspects of Non GamStop Sites:

• Vaster game selection.
• More liberating gameplay.
• More diverse promotions.
• Niche payment methods availability.

Negative Aspects of Non GamStop Sites:

• Site-specific self-exclusion only.
• No official third-party dispute resolution services.
• More exposure to gambling.

What Model is Right for the US?

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In the US, state regulators already have state-wide self-exclusion schemes or are putting ones together as we speak. For example, in New Jersey, the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement works collaboratively with the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling to provide a self-exclusion program covering land-based and internet gaming. It got established in 2001, and its minimum self-exclusion periods are either one or five years. Therefore, America is no stranger to such programs. However, due to it being a federal republic and online gambling laws differing by state, it is unlikely that a federal self-exclusion program will get implemented any time soon.

For now, things will likely have to stay state-run. Nevertheless, if the American Gaming Association or the National Council on Problem Gambling can create a system that works, they may ask state regulators to implement it voluntarily. That would mean that the US would have a program similar to GamStop, which is undoubtedly better than site or region-specific self-exclusion.

Final Thought

Regardless of what self-exclusion program the US decides to implement going forward, the future looks bright for this market. These are exciting times for US gambling operators, as Mordor Intelligence, a research and advisory company, predicts that the country’s online gambling revenues will grow by an annual rate of 17.34% until 2026.

So, more people than ever in the US are testing their luck on games of chance online with each passing month. Anyone engaging in this pastime should do so responsibly.

That entails wagering only what they can afford to lose. Government oversight aside, people first need to take personal responsibility.

About Carolyn Lang