This year the gambling industry in the UK is bracing itself in the face of an uncertain future as the UK government carries out a comprehensive review of regulation with a focus on online betting.

A white paper due for publication this summer and outlining proposals to be instigated in a new Gambling Act comes against the backdrop of loud calls for new stake limits and affordability checks for all online customers.

Critics say the industry is out of control and an epidemic of addiction is taking hold. Those in the industry say these claims are exaggerated. So what will the outcome be?

And will those who want to stake £100 per spin on their favourite slot games be allowed to in a year’s time? Here we outline 5 possible changes the new act may bring.

£2 Stake Limits on Online Slots

The move to bring the maximum stake per spin on video slots down to £2 has been spoken about for a long time now. In 2019 the same restriction was brought in for the offline Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) after a sustained campaign from anti-gambling charities.

Online slots are seen by many as a danger to vulnerable gamblers who can easily lose £1000s in one session if they choose. The UK Gambling Commission has been discussing £2 limits on the most popular games at slot sites and casinos for over a year and it seems likely that it will form part of the new Gambling Act in 2022.

Affordability Checks

The issue of affordability is a highly controversial one for the gambling industry in the UK.

The media has jumped on stories about addicted gamblers who have bankrupted themselves playing online, claiming that operators are not taking responsibility to check that their customers are spending money that they can afford to spend.

Typically, ‘source of wealth’ checks are not carried out until a player has spent £1,000s.

It has been proposed by the Gambling Commission that checks should be carried out when any player tried to spend more than £100 in a month.

Opponents of the move say this would be an infringement of civil liberties. We can expect a fierce debate over the issue this year and it is unclear as yet how new regulation will treat it.

VIP Programs

The use of VIP schemes to reward high spending customers at online sportsbooks and casinos in the UK is also under fire. These clubs are seen as a way to groom vulnerable players who may become addicted to the games.

The use of luxury goods, exclusive events tickets and free money to keep customers returning is seen as unethical by opponents of the industry.

In the last year the UK Gambling Commission brought in new rules that restrict entry to schemes to those over 25 and require much more stringent affordability checks on those who are invited to become VIPs.

For now, these measures are seen as enough, but they will be reviewed next year and if further action is needed, high rollers at UK casinos may find their rewards dry up!

Sports Sponsorship

The extraordinary growth of the online gambling market in the last 20 years in the UK has been driven by huge marketing budgets that includes big sponsorship deals with Premier League Football teams, millions on TV advertising and sustained social media presence.

It has been argued that the presence of gambling brands on football shirts has exposed the industry to children who are not old enough to bet and normalised gambling culture.

Some MPs and parts of the media are therefore calling for a ban on sponsorship deals in football, complete daytime bans on advertising of any gambling product, and total bans on social media marketing.

This would represent a big change in the UK industry and lead to many companies, including football clubs, losing out on a lot of revenue.

This makes advertising and sponsorship into a complex and controversial area for the Gambling Act review to cover. Whatever the outcome, it is expected though that tighter restrictions are inevitable.

The UK Gambling Commission Itself

Finally, the future of the body that oversees regulations and issues gambling licenses is itself under threat.

The Gambling Commission has been around since the original Gambling Act came into force in 2005, with the objective of protecting vulnerable gamblers and the under 18s, ensuring gambling is not used for criminal enterprise like money laundering, and ensuring operators behave fairly in all dealings with customers.

The Commission has come under fire in the last 24 months because of the negative reports around problem gambling issues in the UK.

And the criticisms reached a head in March 2021 as the UK-licensed Football Index betting company went into administration leading to thousands of punters losing their money. The commissions chief, Neil McArthur, resigned shortly after, though it is unclear whether it was a result of the Football Index scandal.

With a complete overhaul of gambling regulation on the cards it has been reported that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who will oversee the review, may decide to scrap the UK Gambling Commission entirely and start fresh with a new regulatory body or ombudsman.

Like all the changes we have spoken about here, an end to the UK Gambling Commission is not a certainty. But what we can be sure of is that online gambling in the UK after 2021 will be a very different game.