Gambling is one of the oldest activities indulged in by the human race. It could have started with some cruel ways of wagering on cockfights or other forms, but it has never stopped.
The latest and most popular form is online betting on casinos and other betting platforms. The governments look at gambling as a social menace since some people get addicted to gambling, and it can ruin their lives. Laws to govern the legal online gambling industry are often enacted and amended to rein in the unscrupulous operators. However, many of these laws could turn out to be counterproductive since the compulsive gamblers are driven to illegal sites, making it risker than before.
Governments’ Intervention in Online Gambling
Governments across the world, including in the UK, are interested in regulating gambling for several reasons.
- First, the members of the public who cannot exercise full control over their gambling activities end up betting whatever they possess and are often driven to crime. This adds to the burden the government has to bear through subsidies or welfare.
- The next big concern is the menace of money laundering.
- The third and most serious of these worries for the government is that new and young gamblers are getting caught in the gambling net, and end up spoiling their youth and life at large.
The laws enacted by the government are directed at curbing all these. These can be discussed in detail one by one.
It must be understood here that most of these discussions are focused on online casinos and other online gambling sites.
Limit the Betting Amounts
The government-enacted laws hold the casino operators responsible for most of the undesirable activities. Suppose a person registers on an online casino and starts transferring larger amounts from his or her bank account. In that case, the casino is expected to make sure the player can afford it, and if not, then stop the person from betting beyond a certain amount. This can be a daily fixed limit. This kind of fixing a ceiling has a limited impact since the person can hop from a legalized online casino to unregulated a through just a couple of clicks on his mouse, and there is no way the government or any agency can stop it.
An initiative like GAMSTOP can be very useful. This is a self-regulatory platform. An individual who is into online gambling can register on the website www.gamstop.co.uk and provide all personal details. The person can choose to be excluded from gambling sites for a period. The period can range between six months and five years. This can only cover all those gambling sites which hold gambling licenses in Great Britain. Therefore, it is very important that rules do not get too strict on licensed online gambling websites, cause it is already pushing players to unregulated sites where there are no rules and where the harm is much bigger.
Enforcing the Age Restrictions
None can disagree with the intentions of the government is trying to protect young boys and girls from falling prey to the gambling habit. Most of them have a mobile phone, and finding small amounts to bet on the online casinos will not be very difficult for them. .The only way the government can stop this is to impose heavy penalties on the licensed online gambling sites that fail to follow the law. The gambling sites in the UK have effective and good ways to verify the age of the players when they make their registration and while making the payments.
The Money Laundering Angle
This has no direct link to the gambling habit, but it is important for the government to control financial irregularities and the gambling laws include clauses for this. The onus is again put on the online casinos to make sure the money they transfer back to the players, are not part of a money laundering.
How Effective Are These Gambling Laws?
Now, to the main question of the debate here, are these gambling laws effective in curbing the menace? Most studies in the UK and Europe tend to suggest that while these may have some impact on the surface, they may lead to more serious complications. One new proposal is to limit the betting on games like the slot machines to just £2. The limit is currently right now up to £100 per spin. However this idea is not a good one by putting the limit down to £2 will for sure push, a lot of players to unregulated sites where there is no limit since many will find £2 to low.
Maybe a 1-2 % tax on all gambling losses that goes to prevent and help people out of addiction would be a better idea for all parties.
The way the online casinos operate is they have to apply for and obtain a license or permit to run their operations. Many online casinos are known to have their original registration is small countries like Malta or Gibraltar. They then obtain licenses from specific countries like the UK to accept betting from players from those countries on their platform. The authorities issue the licenses with certain conditions like making the casinos share information on their citizens’ gambling activities. The books of the casinos are subject to audit by independent audit teams to ensure some amount of transparency.
Now, over-regulation in some of these matters can lead to the online casinos not easily allowing the players to register and play on their sites. One unintended result of having too stringent gambling laws is people moving to gamble on illegal gambling sites.
Modern technology allows you to use the internet without leaving a trace of which sites you visited. The government has its law enforcement agencies researching on illegal sites. The internet service providers are asked to cooperate by blocking these sites for their customers. However, most computer users today already know how to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to browse. This ensures their IP address is obscured, and it is possible to find the illegal gambling sites within a few minutes.
A more powerful tool in the hands of the computer users is the Tor browser which is an anonymous browser. It leaves no trace of the websites visited by the individual. The illegal online casinos are aware of this loophole in the system and exploit it fully.
The only other channel for law enforcement to trace any such activity is through the payments made by the person to the illegal casinos. This is also circumvented by making payments in cryptocurrencies. Payments using Bitcoin or other digital currencies cannot be traced.
With such facilities available to the online gamblers, the government or its agencies can hardly exercise any effective control over the harmful habit of gambling.
This negates the benefits the government assumed would accrue by making gambling legal but with restrictions. The need of the hour would be to make sure online gambling laws don’t get to tuff and to make them more practicable and acceptable to all concerned.
The Way Out of This Mess
The government in the UK and other countries, or the level of the EU can constitute committees that can go into the issues involved. Such committees can either co-opt people from the industry like casino operators or call them to offer their suggestions. Casinos are businesses, and they are keen to have more customers on their platforms betting and having fun. They wouldn’t want to drive away players frightening them with stipulations the customers cannot adhere to. A common ground has to be found if the growth of illegal sites luring gullible gamblers is to be stopped.
The Illegal Casinos Can Exploit the Situation
It is no secret that even with the licensed and regulated online casinos, there are issues. Customers regularly come up with complaints of irregularities.
Similarly, players complain sometimes that the casinos are unresponsive when they try to withdraw their money. If these instances are reported in a regulated environment, it is not difficult to imagine what would be the fate of the people playing on the illegal casinos. Players may find the money they have deposited vanish overnight and they will have no way of recovering the amounts. The illegal gambling sites are aware of this predicament of the customers and already fully exploit them.
The government has to consider these undesirable effects of their policies and gambling laws. People should be entitled to play on legitimate gambling sites with reasonable restrictions. There can be parallel efforts at educating the public about the harm they can bring upon themselves by playing on illegal sites. Other steps can also be contemplated. Sites like Google carry advertisements by unlawful casinos. This should be stopped altogether. Google has to feel its responsibility and impose restrictions on ads on its pages by such unscrupulous elements.
While online gambling cannot be stopped or fully regulated, a middle ground has to be found. So people in significant numbers don’t start playing on illegal websites, and players can feel free to test their luck on legal sites without harming their finances.