Gamblers & Casino Operators Brace for Even More Pandemic Restrictions From Regulators

Author Thomas Wolf
May 15, 2020 3 min read

In this fast-changing world during the current coronavirus pandemic, it seems like every other week, lawmakers across the globe are bringing out new restrictions on online gambling. The latest raft of changes and advice comes from the UK’s Gambling Commission (UKGC).

Since the pneumonia-causing disease first began spreading from Wuhan in China last year, it has killed an estimated 290,000 people the world over. As governments locked off many parts of daily life for their citizens in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus, casinos and gambling halls have been among the many businesses affected.

In some countries, a spike in online gambling activity has been noted by both regulators and operators. Long periods of lockdown at home and the shuttering of physical gambling venues has led many previously real-world-only players to pick up virtual gambling—and those who already enjoyed online play now have more free time as well.

Greater Risk of Harm

In the UK, the Commission has already limited deposits and encouraged operators to cease TV and radio advertisingwhich many already committed to doing last week.

This week, things are going even further. According to the publication of new UKGC guidances on the 12th of May, all UKGC-licensed online casinos are expected to put the following measures in place as soon as possible:

  • No more reverse withdrawals—all withdrawal requests are permanent and cannot be canceled.
  • Halt all promotional offers for all players flagged with any problem gambling patterns.
  • More messages for customers on extended periods of play, such as over one hour.

“Now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with,”

UKGC Chief Neil McArthur

“We are monitoring online operators closely, and if we see irresponsible behavior we will step in immediately,” he added, promising “further measures” if the situation changes in the future.

gamblers and casino operators brace for restrictions

While some companies and markets are reporting increased spend or time spent gambling during this tough period, the UKGC’s own research seems to show that UK gamblers aren’t among the highest online adopters in the world right now.

Only 1.5% of gamblers surveyed by the UKGC had increased their time spent gambling, with 3.3% decreasing their time spent online, and a further 1.8% ceasing online betting completely.

However, its opinion that some problem gamblers may be more at risk did appear to be backed by more evidence in the research. Its survey found that, of the 8% of gamblers that are most engaged in the UK, 64% had upped both their time and spend.

UK players were also changing the way in which they gambled online, with slots up 25% and sports betting down by 11%.

However, despite all the restrictions put on online casinos, interest in the National Lottery service has been steadily growing throughout the pandemic period. Operated by Camelot, whose entire service crashed due to a power cut at its head offices last week, the National Lottery has seen record numbers of new players signing up to its online services in March.

Different Paths

Concerns over the differences in treatment between lottery services and online casino operators have been widespread across various countries during this pandemic, including in Latvia and Portugal, where online gambling has seen even heavier restrictions or even been banned completely.

This situation only highlights the need for more bridges between regulators in different countries as nations decide to deal with the economic fallout of the virus lockdown measures in different ways.

Don’t forget to keep checking back weekly for more on the UKGC’s ongoing response and many other gambling stories around the world in this challenging time.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

396 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.
online casino pandemic restrictions