From the 1st of January 2020, online casino operators with a United Kingdom Gambling Commission licence will be required to donate their ‘annual financial contribution’ (per the terms of the licence) to one of three companies certified by the regulator.
These are GambleAware, GamCare, or the Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM).
Over the past few years, there has been no hard and fast rule regarding how much or to whom licensees’ should make their contributions. The UKGC only suggested that £10 million ($7.6 million) was their yearly target for the whole sector and that they expected every operator to donate something.
However, since that strategy ended up with donations falling short by a (relatively low) £0.5 million from the target in 2017, with a fair few casinos only donating £5 or £10, it seems the regulator has upped the ante going into 2020.
Research Prevention & Treatment
Although the new rules don’t explicitly state that any one of three charities available must be the chosen benefactor, it implies that all three must receive some funding.
This is because there are three core areas when dealing with problem gamblers, as defined by the UKGC.—research, prevention, and treatment.
This new directive requires UK online gambling operators to cover all three of those bases, and because each charity on the list is licensed and specialized in a different one, we can assume that the UKGC wants donations to all three.
GamCare is the research specialist of the three options, GambleAware is for treatment, and the YGAM is for prevention.
However, the UKGC’s new guidelines also noted that they ‘do not specify an amount which may be contributed as this could be seen as imposing a levy, which is a power reserved for Parliament.’ This interesting statement seems to now put the ball back into the governments’ court to decide how to move from here.
With at least some attention to be paid to the UK’s key gambling legislation—the Gambling Act of 2005—over this year’s Parliament sessions, MPs might be gearing up to take a fresh look at how these charitable contributions from UK licence holders work.
Last year, the UKGC also made it mandatory for its licence holders to sign up to GamStop, a nationwide self-exclusion program. Launched in 2017, GamStop failed to gain traction as a voluntary procedure and was made compulsory less than two years later.
This path could easily be repeated in the future, with the charity contributions required of operators at the moment. However, that doesn’t stop regulatory bodies from occasionally appearing in controversy.
Just this week, the UKGC announced it’s investigating claims that affiliate marketers were pitching gambling adverts to those looking for GamStop services—and sometimes even deliberately offering offshore alternatives not covered by GamStop.
Such unscrupulous practices, aside from being morally questionable at best, only further the cause of those championing increased regulation.
The Betting and Gaming Council, a new body representing UK operators in the media, was quick to point out that these were the actions of affiliate marketers under little direct control of UK operators and that UK casino sites ‘do not advertise using search terms linked to words from those seeking help.’
The official UKGC charity list for 2020 is still open to new applicant organizations. Interested parties need to submit a full plan, including the acceptance of third-party oversight and regulation, before they can be considered as a potential future benefactor of UK gambling operators.