There is no doubt that 2020 was a turbulent year that sent shockwaves through multiple global industries. One that not only remained unfazed but prospered during this time of crisis was online gambling. The latest projections put this sector on track to hit annual revenues of close to $158 billion by 2028. Budget shortfalls are now also causing many US states to reconsider their anti-interactive gaming stance. So far, only West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have licensed online casino operators. However, many more are looking into allowing this pastime to their residence as a way to rake in much-needed tax revenues.
Naturally, with the rise of playing games of chance over the internet, fears increase regarding a potential spike of problem gambling in the US. According to the National Center for Responsible Gaming, 1% of the US population struggles with a compulsion towards this activity. Furthermore, between 6% and 9% of young adults experience some form of gambling-related harm. Thus, it is essential to look at how other countries are combating gambling addiction and what lessons the US can learn from one of Europe’s most active betting markets (UK) on this topic. Below, an examination follows regarding the mandatory UK self-exclusion scheme GamStop, and the temptations that live outside of it, casinos not on GamStop.
How the UKGC & GamStop Work Together
The UK Gambling Commission is a public body of the UK government that monitors all gambling activities in Britain. It came into existence in 2007 via the Gambling Act of 2005, taking over the role previously held by the Gaming Board for Great Britain. Think of it as the British counterpart to New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement or the Nevada Gaming Commission. It licenses and oversees all activities of land-based and internet gambling operators.
In March of 2020, it teamed up with the nationwide self-exclusion scheme called GamStop, to help lower the incidence of problem gambling in the UK. It is a database that ties in all licensed UKGC online casinos. Once a player decides to self-exclude from one UK site, he can no longer play at any UKGC-approved platform. GamStop activation is irreversible. The UKGC also implements additional measures such as spin timers and low max bet limits to try and lower gambling addiction rates. However, many UK players find these super restrictive. That is why more and more Brits seek out non Gamstop casinos.
How Casinos Not on GamStop Operate
What is a casino not on GamStop? It is a gambling site with a base of operations outside of the UK, one with an international gaming license. For example, Malta is Europe’s online gambling haven. Its regulatory body is the Malta Gaming Authority, which provides gaming licenses to operators who wish to offer their services internationally. Unlike the UKGC, there is no universal self-exclusion for all MGA-licensed sites. Each one has its self-exclusion option and allows players to set deposit/loss limits.
No international licensor can impose wide-ranging self-exclusion bans as the UKGC/GamStop can. Five years ago, there were no discussions on this subject matter. While some players love how much thought the UKGC puts into player protection, they also believe that their recent sets of measures take some of the fun out of the gaming experience. Even though internationally licensed operators promote responsible gambling, many of them state that only UK players that can practice proper impulse control should patronize them. They are not a way to circumvent an activated GamStop self-exclusion. You can learn more about casinos not on GamStop here.
UK Gambling Site vs. Non-GamStop Casinos
Both a UK gaming platform and a casino not on GamStop have their positives and negative aspects. No one type of gambling site reigns supreme over the other. UK players are free to weigh all the benefits and drawbacks of these two categories of platforms and decide for themselves which one they want to use when testing their luck on games of chance.
Pros of GamStop Casinos
- Robust assistance for gambling addiction issues
- Online slot gameplay is less addictive.
- Access to third-party dispute services.
- Zero availability to debt accumulation payment methods.
Cons of GamStop Casinos
- Less generous promotions.
- No niche transaction options.
- Irreversible self-exclusion.
Pros of Non GamStop Casinos.
- Vast game libraries.
- Less restrictive gameplay.
- Perk-rich VIP programs.
- More diverse promotions.
Cons of Non-GamStop Casinos
- Each platform has its unique terms and conditions.
- No universal self-exclusion.
- Disputes get resolved via foreign laws.
How Should the US Try to Curb Problem Gambling?
Even though four countries make up the UK, they all fall under the jurisdiction of the UKGC. In comparison, the US is a federal republic consisting of fifty states, where each one has the power to legalize any form of gambling as it sees fit. Thus, there is no federal law or body that can implement nationwide measures. In the past, state lawmakers believed that the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 forbids them to regulate online casinos. However, a 2011 Department of Justice interpretation of this law stated that it only applied to sports betting and not casino-style gambling. In 2019, the DOJ reversed its stance on this issue, but its previous interpretation still stands.
Given that there is no federal gambling regulator in the US, the only available method would be a state-wide self-exclusion program. In such a scenario, a state’s regulator would mandate that its licensees participate in its scheme. The problem with this is that given that online casinos have been illegal in the US for so long, many US residents have gotten used to playing at offshore sites approved by regulators such as Panama’s Gaming Control Board or the Costa Rican government. Therefore, they are familiar with non-restrictive gameplay similar to that available at a non GamStop casino. Thus, they may not accept gambling addiction measures that impact their levels of enjoyment at online casinos. The best course of action is to implement such restrictions at state-licensed sites. Then, let individual players decide what type of platform suits their taste best.
To Sum Up
US online gambling is booming. The repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018 caused a digital betting revolution in North America. Now, every few months, another US state is passing bills that allow its residents to wager on sports, and many are exploring online casino regulation. New Jersey is the current US internet casino juggernaut, raking in monthly interactive gaming revenues of over $100 million. Such numbers have made other territories’ lawmakers take note of the money-making potential of digital casino-style entertainment. The US market will continue expanding, and with that, more discussions on the topic of gambling addiction measures will come up. In time, a natural solution will rise to the surface by itself.