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The future of regulation in the field of real money gambling

It’s fair to say that, over the years, British people have never exactly been shy of having a flutter. Whether it’s the nation’s centuries old love-affair with the sport of kings (http://www.britishhorseracing.com/race-info/fixtures/major-events/), the perennially popular option of having a punt on the weekend football results or getting social with the neighbours at the local bingo hall, there’s never been any shortage of opportunity for a wager.

These days of course, with the option of internet-based real money gambling a real one, a lot of that action has moved online. I think that chipanalyst wrote the best article in this area showing how the real money casinos are taking over all the other types of gambling out there and keep climbing.

It’s estimated that the legal online gambling market is now worth well over $30 billion per year worldwide. That’s still thought to be only around 10% of the overall market size however so there is plenty of headroom for growth. Revenues within the European Union alone are expected to be around the €15 billion mark in 2015.

It’s those type of numbers that are increasingly drawing the attention of regulators worldwide to a business that was – up until relatively recently – something of a free for all in terms of oversight depending on the locale you found yourself operating in.

In this article we’ll look at the legislative background of real money gambling in Britain specifically, take in the wider context worldwide and consider where the industry and regulation are heading for the future.

The Legislative Background of UK Gambling

Though gambling of one sort or another has been very much part of British life for centuries, it was really only towards the second half of the twentieth century that it began to be fully incorporated into an organised legal framework.

The Betting and Gambling Act of 1960 was the piece of legislation that really opened the doors to the industry’s expansion as it paved the way for licensed high street bookmakers and bingo halls nationwide.

The Gaming Act 1968 moved things on a little further still by considerably relaxing the rules governing casino operation in the UK.

There then followed something of a lull as Britain’s punters busied themselves happily betting at the local bookmaker, bingo hall or racecourse for a number of decades largely free from further regulation. The rise of widespread internet availability in the 1990s was soon to change the game forever though.

British bookmakers such as William Hill and Ladbrokes were very much to the fore in the first wave of gambling providers to move online and continue to represent a healthy proportion of the biggest players in the market even today.

The Gambling Act 2005 was the government’s first attempt to deal with the new challenges ushered in by online gambling and brought the area officially under regulation for the first time under the auspices of the Gambling Commission.

The most recent amendment to legislation governing onilne gambling in the UK has caused more than a little controversy. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 is an attempt to tax gambling at the point of consumption and to force remote online providers serving UK customers to register with the Gambling Commission in the UK.

The move was widely decried by a cross-section of online gambling powerhouses but has nevertheless started to take effect.

Regulation Of Real Money Gambling Around The World

America has long been the territory most online gambling firms have really had their eye on when it comes to the future but, even today, the overall position in the US remains far from crystal clear.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 still holds sway over most of the country outside of licensed exceptions such as Nevada and New Jersey. And while hopes were high among many that Nevada and New Jersey would be the thin end of the wedge back in 2013, progress on US internet gambling has remained very slow all the way through to today.

Several of the world’s other potentially biggest markets such as China, Japan and South Korea also remain under the regulatory cosh with restrictions to real money gambling applying to greater or lesser extents.

The situation around the world in small countries remains similarly fragmented and the EU represents by far the largest market where all forms of online gambling are broadly permitted. Moves are already underway to attempt to standardise regulation on a unified EU level.

The Future Of Regulation For Real Money Gambling

Online gambling is a potentially enormously tricky field to regulate effectively due to the distributed nature of the internet. Countries such as Australia and the UK have proved however that effective regulation is no deterrent to a booming local industry.

As revenue figures continue to grow, many industry commentators are predicting a new wave of consolidation to take place at some stage in the next five years – as possibly foreshadowed by moves such as the recent Pokerstars deal.

It’s probably also safe to expect similar consolidation to emerge in terms of legislative approaches as indicated by the EU’s recent approach.

Much will hinge on which way America swings and when. Leading figures from some of the world’s largest gambling sites have long been petitioning the American government for change and there is a queue of billion dollar companies ready to enter that market.

The regulatory future of online gambling in the next ten years is likely to be distinguished by moves at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of impact: iterative tweaks in already fully regulated markets such as Great Britain and wholescale changes in territories such as the United States and China where it has been held back up to now by local legislation.

One things for certain though, the genie is very much out of the bottle in terms of players around the world having potentially instant access to gambling sites online and governments around the world will be increasingly forced to face that reality head-on. The next few years could be interesting!

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jerry Simpson .

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