There is no denying the fact that the UK gaming industry has changed beyond recognition over the last 20 years.
During this period there has been a major market expansion, partly due to a technological breakthrough, as well as major legislative changes. Today, it is clear that, in a time of economic instability in the UK, it is the sector where the state is kept in a context of strong development and profit.
But this has not always been the case. Let us look at some of the key milestones of the past two decades. Let us also look a little ahead to consider potential changes that may already be looming on the horizon.
The Gambling Act 2005
The last important legislative act on gambling was adopted in 1845, when according to the law on gambling bets were declared illegal.
This is hard to believe, but over the next 150 years no significant changes have occurred. Then, after Alan Budd’s report in 2001, the British government decided to introduce a new liberalized regulatory regime to revive the gambling market.
The Gambling Act was passed in 2005 to update outdated legislation. As part of the radical changes, local authorities were to be responsible for granting gaming licences. Thus, the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission of Great Britain, was created.
The aims of the law:
- to ensure that gaming ceased to be a source of crime and disorder, was not associated with or used to support criminal activity;
- to ensure that gambling is fair and open;
- to protect children and other vulnerable individuals from the harmful effects of gembling.
Among the more controversial changes was permission to license up to eight so-called super casinos throughout the UK. Many opponents of the bill felt that such a move would encourage people to go gambling, so Parliament compromised: the number of such establishments was reduced to one, which was planned to be built in Manchester. However, after Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister, the plan was slowly wiped out.
The Gambling Act 2005 was considered far-sighted as it also covered online gambling, which was in its infancy at the time, and established it within the same jurisdiction as the popular forms of gambling at the time.
The development of online gambling
Despite the slow start, the popularity of this type of gambling has increased exponentially in recent years, as digital technology continues to meet consumer expectations. Today, online gambling generates more than a third of the gambling industry’s revenue and is the largest sector of one type of gambling, according to the UK Gambling Commission.
If you play online casino games on a regular basis, you are unlikely to be surprised by this information. As well as offering you the opportunity to play your favourite slots in the comfort of your own home, online casinos are more exciting than ever today. High-quality graphics, audio and video are all appealing to gamers. Some of the players now even prefer online gaming to the real experience of going to a gambling establishment.
This progress is based on technology. Higher bandwidth and wireless connectivity meant these games could be played from almost anywhere, at any time of day or night.
It also paved the way for one of the most popular phenomena of online gambling – live casinos. They bring players together with real dealers in real time. This way, gamers get the casino experience without leaving their own living room or any other place. All you need is any gadget. In addition, players are able to communicate with each other via a headset, just as they would in a land-based casino.
Lead players of the online segment
Due to the fact that today there are a large number of online casinos, you can easily forget that in the beginning there were only a few brands, smart enough to experiment with virtual gambling.
Many operators who stood at the origins were left behind, but others, such as Casino-on-Net, succeeded. This young company was founded in 1997, but in the near future it has become one of the most successful and recognisable brands of gaming – supplemented by a number of exciting slots, classic casino games and live options.
The growing popularity of online casinos, which attracts more and more players in the market, has helped move to the next revolutionary piece of legislation – the law on gambling (licensing and advertising) in 2014. This introduced a court order that all operators, wherever they are located, must have a licence to operate in the UK in order to be eligible to operate in the country and advertise their services.
There are opinions that the gambling industry as a whole has been allowed too much over the past 20 years, and it is time to get things back on track. Over the past few weeks, the topic of fixed betting terminals (FOBTs) has become a sensation, received wide media coverage and even led to the resignation of a minister. These terminals are reportedly generating too much profit for betting companies, with the betting limit now at £100.
The government has committed to reducing it to £2 by autumn 2018, but the move has been postponed until 2019. Tracy Crouch, a Conservative MP, was so outraged by the postponement that she announced her resignation as minister.
On the other side of the political barricades, the Labour Party promised that if they came to power, it would ban any advertising of the gemblings on television during the match in question, impose a mandatory tax of 1% on any profits from the gemblings and a ban on credit card payments.
The gambling industry, which has generated £13.9 billion in profits between 2017 and 2018, has a very strong administrative resource, so these changes are questionable. The fact that gaming is such a popular pastime means that public support for these measures may be limited.
One thing is for sure: the gambling market never stops developing. With revenues expected to reach $525 billion by 2023, the industry is expected to grow at a rate of 4% annually.
So, despite the fact that there has been a long way to go in the last two decades, there still seems to be a lot to look forward to. And with this level of industry activity, there may be no limit to its development and achievements.