SBC News Seven Star Digital: UKGC still ‘falling short of the mark’ with Safer Gambling initiatives
Stuttgart, Germany - 04-01-2023: Person holding cellphone with logo of British public body Gambling Commission on screen in front of webpage. Focus on phone display. Unmodified photo.

Seven Star Digital: UKGC still ‘falling short of the mark’ with Safer Gambling initiatives

With the British gambling sector experiencing major regulatory reform, along with player protection being at the forefront of debate. Robbie Evans, SEO Content Director of Seven Star Digital, takes a look at the state of play.

Writing for SBC News, Evans discusses the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the strides it has taken in the last year to help increase safer gambling measures at online casinos, but suggests there is yet so much more to be done in terms of placing restrictions on deposits and withdrawals. 

New responsible gambling initiatives usually centre around the problem of how we can better identify and prevent problem gambling habits. Yet, while regulation frequently targets deposit limits, the question of minimum deposits seldom comes up.

Preventing operators from setting deposit and withdrawal limits of £20 would be a valuable first step towards tackling gambling addiction in its earliest stages, helping to ensure that gambling remains casual and enjoyable. While most UK online casinos and sportsbooks will allow you to make a £5 deposit, we are seeing more and more sites increasing their minimum deposit amounts to £20 or even £25, which seems to directly contradict safer gambling principles.

The UKGC’s existing measures and objectives

When considering the issues surrounding gambling addiction and its prevention, little attention is paid to those who are yet to develop a gambling problem. On the other hand, the discourse around drug addiction is, quite rightly, dominated by questions about how we can tackle addiction before it has had the chance to take hold. When it comes to gambling — at least from a legislative point of view — both the UKGC and its licensed operators are neglecting this perspective.

Rather than implementing measures that might stop the development of an addiction in its tracks, the UKGC places too much emphasis on slowing down those who are already spending more than they can afford to lose at online gambling sites. For example, the UKGC stipulates that remote gambling sites must advise and provide provisions for “restricting the duration of a gambling session or the amount of money they can spend”, but there is no effort to restrict minimum deposits. This is not to say that these existing measures aren’t necessary — they play a vital role in tackling problem gambling, and have been successful in limiting the amount that problem gamblers spend — but there is more the Gambling Commission could be doing for those who, for now, enjoy a more casual relationship with online betting.

Increasing minimum deposit and withdrawal limits at UK online casinos and sportsbooks

When conducting research for this article, we found that a number of major UK bookies had increased their minimum deposits for PayPal from £10 to £25 or even £30. This may seem rather harmless, but it is a subtle way of encouraging bettors to increase the amount that they are spending at betting sites. £10 to £25 constitutes a 250% increase in deposited funds from one day to the next, and it isn’t hard to see how this could be a slippery slope for those who are particularly susceptible. Restricting this kind of activity — which is what the Gambling Commission’s codes of practice suggest should be done — might go a long way in helping these sorts of bettors maintain healthy and sustainable gambling habits.

It is important to acknowledge here that this issue arguably has more to do with PayPal than with the harsh stipulations of betting operators. PayPal has got itself in trouble in the past for allowing gamblers to circumvent bank limits, and its comparatively high merchant fees compels gambling operators to set stricter minimum deposit and withdrawal limits. That said, if smaller betting brands are able to let their customers make £10 deposits, then this certainly shouldn’t be an issue for the UK’s leading operators.

However, an astonishing number of online casinos will not let you make a deposit of less than £20, regardless of the payment provider. Now, one might argue that setting a minimum deposit of at least £20 discourages the casual bettor and is itself a safer gambling measure, and though this may indeed be the case for some, the fact remains that those who are undeterred will end up having to spend significantly more than they had bargained for and can perhaps afford. Plus, the same argument cannot be made for harsh minimum withdrawal limits, which are undeniably incongruous with safer gambling principles and is something the UKGC should certainly be clamping down on. As stated in the UKGC’s compliance terms, “players must be allowed to withdraw without restrictions”, but it seems that imposing minimum deposit limits does not classify as a restriction.

Moving forward

Perhaps the biggest problem with this issue is that culpability can be shared across a number of different organisations and operators. The UKGC is still, despite all its tremendous efforts in protecting problem gamblers, still falling short of the mark when it comes to safer gambling initiatives.

However, certain gambling operators are taking advantage of oversights in UKGC legislation, and are forcing their customers to deposit more than they would like whilst preventing them from withdrawing their balance until it meets a comparatively unreasonable threshold.

PayPal – and, to an extent, other e-wallet providers like Skrill and Neteller – also aren’t without fault, as their high merchant fees demand that participating operators increase their minimum deposit and withdrawal limits. At one of the UK’s major betting sites, this has resulted in a minimum deposit of £30 for all e-wallets. Yet, the fact remains that this figure is still much higher than most other UK operators, so the blame cannot lie entirely with PayPal and its competitors.

With so many different factors at play, it is hardly surprising that this remains an issue, but it is certainly surprising that it hasn’t been raised before. Without strict legislation, operators will likely continue to raise minimum deposits, and it is therefore the responsibility of the UKGC to prohibit high deposit and withdrawal limits.

Doing so will help casual bettors cut down on their spending, and could prove extremely valuable in terms of getting ahead of a gambling problem. It may seem small, but when it comes to online gambling – especially during a cost of living crisis – the difference between a £5 and a £30 deposit is significant, and bettors should not be asked to take such a leap, regardless of which payment method they like to use.

At TopRatedCasinos.co.uk, we strive to keep bettors informed on any payment terms and conditions that might affect their experience at an online casino, and always ask that our readers consult our guide to responsible gambling.

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