Britain’s new gambling law comes into force at midnight, legalizing U.K. advertising campaigns for the first time and licensing online casinos that can accept bets from gamblers worldwide including the U.S.
William Hill Plc, Gala Group Ltd., and 13 other companies find out tonight if their virtual casino licenses have been approved to start accepting bets immediately, a spokesman for the Gambling Commission, the U.K.’s new regulator, said today. More than 300 others applied to operate licensed online sites including sports betting under the Gambling Act 2005.
The U.K. law highlights a potential conflict with the U.S.’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, adopted in 2006, which prevents credit-card companies from collecting payments for online bets. The legislation has prompted gaming companies to shut down U.S. operations to focus on Europe and Asia.
“We aren’t banning people from using Web sites based in the U.K.,” Julia Smith, a spokeswoman on gambling for the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said in a telephone interview. “It is up to the consumer what they do.”
The U.K. law also allows gaming operators in other European Union countries to advertise in Britain for the first time, prompting some companies to apply for licenses in low-cost countries such as Malta, which has a 5 percent corporate tax and no extradition treaty with the U.S. Malta has so far approved 152 of 180 applications for virtual gaming licenses, Kristy Spiteri, a spokeswoman for Malta’s Lotteries and Gaming Authority, said in an interview yesterday.
A William Hill spokeswoman declined to comment today on plans for the U.K. other than to say they would have no impact on customers who already use its existing online sites regulated in other European jurisdictions.
A review of gambling regulation and age limits, advertising policies, and the impact of technological change (online gambling) will be called into action in England, where it has been found in a new research that over 100,000 youth (aged 11 – 15) are gambling addicts. According to official research reports, the gambling age limit in England should be raised from 16 to 18 years of age.
Britain is currently the only country in the world permitting children of all ages to play on slot machines (with jackpots of up to £5), and allow 16 year olds to buy lottery tickets, scratch cards, and participate in football pools. A similar research commissioned by “Oflot” – England’s lottery watchdog – in 1998, revealed that a staggering 75 percent of children play the fruit machines, which contributes to 3 percent of the under aged problem gamblers. Also, 1 percent suffers from scratch card addiction. A spokeswoman of the Camelot National lottery operator explained that this is “a problem facing many sectors”.
The study was conducted by Conservative leader David Cameron’s policy commission on social justice and lead by a top gambling expert. Mr. Cameron is expected to support the commission’s findings. Psychologist research has time after time proven that the younger a person starts to gamble, the more chance they have of developing problems, and in compliance, the Tories have agreed that “the age limit for all forms of gambling should be raised to 18”.
The professor gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, Mark Griffiths, has concluded in his report that labor’s recent Gambling Act will increase the number of addicts, which today exceeds 300,000 adults. The labor party’s approach to gambling has been criticized as a betrayal of the party’s founding principles. Also, under Labor’s Gambling Act the number and sizes of casinos will grow from 140 to 157. It is believed that the widespread research into the causes of social breakdown currently being conducted, will give rise to a rebalancing of tax and benefit systems in favor of families and marriage by Tories.
The report also calls for a thorough analysis of gambling in the new media and latest technologies, including internet, mobile phones, and interactive television. It stated that the single most important measure would be to raise the legal age of gambling; “At the very least, there should be a review of slot machine gambling to assess whether it should be restricted to those over 18 years of age”. Possibly the most important aspect in the issue’s urgency is the fact that overt signs of problem and addiction do not occur until late in the gambler’s professional career. Discussions and deliberations are now expected to take place in light of this alarming evidence.