Online gaming is a multi-billion industry, one that has fans all across the globe who enjoy playing a diverse selection of games.
Like every industry, online gaming is subject to rules and regulations across a wide variety of countries and regions.
We’ve picked one area of online gaming and examined the regulations used by the UK to keep it in check. We’ve explored if these rules have led to a change in the culture of this brand of online gaming.
Here’s what we found.
What we’re talking about when we say online gaming
Online gaming is a broad church. It covers a wide number of categories that range from RPGs, sports sims and everything in between. However, when people talk about regulations in online gaming it usually refers to one specific area — gambling.
Gambling is the most heavily regulated category of online gaming and this is with good reason. There’s a consensus that slots, blackjack, poker, roulette and other forms of online gambling come with a risk of addiction attached to them.
This isn’t to say that other forms of online gaming aren’t addictive. The addictive nature of video games is detailed by the NHS, with the UK’s national health organisation explaining people can become dependent on it in the same way they do to drugs or alcohol.
But the key difference between games such as Apex Legends and poker is the emphasis on money. While the former is free to play, poker games generally require you to bet cash each time you play them. This means there’s a risk to your way of life — if you bet more than you’re able to, you could find yourself in a difficult financial situation.
It’s for this reason that gambling is the area of online gaming that’s most heavily policed and why it’s the focus of our discussion around how regulations have changed digital gaming.
UK Gambling Acts and online gaming regulations
Online gambling regulations change based on the country, region or state you’re based in — for instance, there are different laws from one state to another in the United States.
This means it’s impossible to speak of its regulations generally, which is why we’ve picked one country as an example. We’ve selected the United Kingdom, a nation with clear regulations relating to online gambling and an established organisation that ensures the law is upheld.
There are two main UK laws concerning online gambling:
- Gambling Act 2005
- Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014
The purpose of these laws and regulations are explained by gambling reviews website OnlineCasinos.co.uk, which outlines that the regulations are designed to ensure online casinos are licensed in the UK and must follow strict advertising standards.
These regulations were introduced to change the culture around online casino gaming, reducing the chances of shady operators exploiting UK players and preying on vulnerable people. This cultural change can be seen in the way casinos advertise.
Adverts for sites offering online slots, poker, blackjack, roulette and sports now put an emphasis on responsible gambling, with brands like Beway asking people to gamble responsibly and know when “enough is enough”.
The question, though, is whether these changes have led to a change in the culture of gamers.
Online casino players forced to gamble within their means
The UK government (across all of the country’s major parties) has introduced legislation and regulations to inspire a change in the culture of online casino gaming. This has seen industry brands issuing caveats in their advertisements, asking their gamers to bet responsibly.
But are players following this advice? Further changes to UK legislation would suggest not.
The UK government banned online casinos from accepting credit card payments in April 2020. This move was clearly made to ensure players don’t place bets using money they don’t have, forcing them to wager within their means.
The ban on credit cards suggests that there hasn’t been a cultural shift in how people play online casino games, with the UK government obviously concerned that the message of responsible gambling hasn’t been getting through.
Will players now bet more responsibly? It’s difficult to say. For one reasonse, there are ways around the credit card ban — players could buy other items with their credit cards, freeing up funds for gambling, and this is something that would be very difficult to track.
Regulations have changed the corporate culture around online casino gaming. Operators now take a much more responsible tone and this is welcome. Ultimately, though, if gambling is legal then a cultural change will need to come from players.
The UK government has forced the hand of players with its ban on using credit cards to place bets on casino games. However, there’s little to suggest this has made gambling less popular, indeed, the online casino community continues to grow.