How the upcoming white paper could change the UK online gambling landscape

If you’re a fan of online casinos, then you may not overly concern yourself with the legislation that exists. Ultimately, the UK is in a fortunate position where it has some of the most liberal gaming laws in the world. Certainly, when you compare the UK to the US, the former makes it much easier to play online and enjoy the experience. Yes, there are protections in place, but there is also a sense of players taking a degree of responsibility for themselves too.

The last real changes to gambling laws came with the Gambling Act 2005. However, the country is set to unveil, what could be, a major overhaul of these laws and regulations. The upcoming white paper could have a huge impact on the industry and could mean that the user experience found across gambling sites will completely change. As you read on, we’re going to explore this in more detail.


What is the UK gambling white paper?

The first potential surprise with the white paper is that it’s no longer new news! This government publication was compiled back in April 2020 and saw an update being applied in September of the same year. It contains details of the current gambling laws and also proposes a series of changes. The purpose of these changes is:

  • To increase consumer protection
  • The reduction of problem gambling
  • To make it easier to enforce regulations
  • To prevent money laundering

As things stand, we already have the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). This body exists to ensure that customers are treated fairly and that the actions of online casinos are transparent. Where operators fail, the UKGC has the power to issue fines and take away licenses. The white paper is looking to increase the protections that already exist and to give the UKGC more teeth.


Does the paper really matter?

In a word, yes. The white paper will present the biggest shakeup to gambling legislation for almost 2 decades. The focus is on developing high standards that ensure that underage gamblers are protected, those with gambling addictions are helped, and crime is prevented. While operators already have a degree of responsibility in these areas, the onus will shift and those responsibilities will become even greater.

From a consumer’s point of view, at first glance, this should all be celebrated as good news. The idea is that the UK will have one of the safest online gambling environments in the world and that players will be able to play in confidence. 

What’s likely to be in the final version of the gambling white paper?

The gambling industry is poised waiting to find out just what the paper will include. There have been numerous delays and until its final publication, there is a degree of uncertainty. Some of what’s expected to appear include:

  • The introduction of maximum stakes on online slots
  • Stricter affordability checks – players could be asked to provide bank statements or payslips if they lose more than £100-£500 a month
  • The end of sponsorship deals with football clubs
  • Restrictions on offers, bonuses and promotions 
  • Speed of gameplay
  • Prize limits

These potential measures are all on the table as ways of protecting consumers. It’s clear that there is a huge focus on factors that may help to prevent problem gambling from arising in the first place. However, what will the impact be on players and operators?


The potential effects of the white paper

The reality is that the white paper will have a tremendous impact on both players and operators. When looking at operators, they will need to take a new approach to their setup. They will need to adhere to new standards to demonstrate that they are upping the protections in place for players. There will also be the need to up their game in terms of their approach to problem gambling. A further issue faced will be the potential loss of publicity and advertising.

From the side of players, there will be limits on what they can stake and how fast they can play. This should lead to an overall safer experience. What some players may resent though is the proposed limits, or even abolition, of bonuses, promotions and VIP clubs.


What do experts have to say?

From the gambling industry, there has been little voiced as yet. Instead, when operators have had things to say, it has tended to be encouraging the government to just hurry up and get on with it. The industry is keen to see exactly what is proposed so that they can reflect and respond.

Some parties have raised concerns when it comes to the intrusive methods used for affordability checks. The fear here is that it will simply send people to black market operators. 


When can we expect to see the white paper?

As it stands, the answer here is that we don’t know. There have been a series of delays since 2020. Of course, the government’s focus on the pandemic will have played a part but there have also been numerous cabinet reshuffles that have got in the way.

The latest update that we’ve had has come from the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer. All that she’s had to tell us is that we can expect the publication “soon”. We had previously been told that this would happen during the early part of 2023, but this remains to be seen.


Final thoughts 

The UK has long had an environment that is favourable to online casino operators. That being said, the UKGC has been there to ensure that the sector never resembled the Wild West and there have been protections in place for many years now. What the white paper seems to want to do is simply tighten these.

Reputable online casino operators will have little to fear with regard to what’s coming. Players should be willing to embrace added protections that they’ll be offered but they may find that there are certain limits placed on their play. Current online casino fans will be keen to see what’s set to happen in terms of offers and bonuses as these have long been a staple part of online casinos.