Will the Online Gambling Industry Ever Lose its Stigma?

Will the Online Gambling Industry Ever Lose its Stigma?

What connects the online gambling industry with the alcohol and tobacco industries? The answer is, they all have a certain amount of stigma attached to them. And that’s something that online casinos have been working hard to address.

Gambling should be fun

Gambling is all about entertainment, but it needs to be approached in a responsible way. There are lots of online casino games that can be played just for fun, so there’s no financial risk involved. Most online casinos offer the chance to try out games in demo mode, while social casino gaming is only played using virtual tokens with no cash value. But the nature of gambling means there’s always risk involved, so players using real money need to be protected.

Some gambling sites have taken it upon themselves to adopt a fairer approach from the moment a player signs up and claims an introductory bonus. Most operators have one, whether it’s a deposit match offer, free spins or a no-deposit bonus. But those tempting and seemingly generous bonuses often come with wagering requirements of 30x, 40x, 50x or even higher – and that can encourage customers to gamble more than they intended.

As an example, a £50 bonus with a 40x wagering requirement requires the player to spend £2,000 before they can withdraw the £50. And that’s assuming that all games contribute equally to those requirements, which is rarely the case. But thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way these days  –  no wagering sites are much fairer, with winnings becoming withdraw able straight away.

Helping players stay safe

All reputable online casinos offer a variety of useful tools and resources that help players to stay safe. Deposit limits, time reminders, time outs and self-exclusion are all options that allow customers to take control of their gambling. And many operators also include links to organizations such as GambleAware, making it easy for anyone who suspects they have a problem to source further help.

Gambling sites that operate legally within the UK are required to run a number of checks on everyone signing up for an account. Customers must prove that they are aged 18 or over, and that they can afford to play at the site. Proof of ID, together with affordability and AML checks ensure that gambling operators are doing what they can to protect their players – and their reputations.

And of course, all legitimate online gambling sites are obliged to adhere to a raft of industry regulations. Licenses are only issued to those operators who abide by a strict code of conduct  – although not all industry regulators are equal. However, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is recognized as being one of the strictest in the world, ensuring players receive a safe and fair gambling experience.

Testing for game fairness

Then there are the games themselves. These are games of chance, so how can online casinos prove that they’re not rigged? The answer lies in RNGs, or Random Number Generators – clever little pieces of code that perform the digital equivalent of rolling a dice or tossing a coin. There’s complex mathematics at the heart of it all, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can be trusted.

Once again, the online gambling industry is keen to step up to the plate. Independent testing services ensure that game outcomes and potential returns are exactly as stated, giving players another level of protection. It’s a necessary condition for games offered by online casinos operating under a UKGC license that they undergo testing by eCOGRA, or one of the other testing laboratories on its list.

Protecting minors

Just as strict controls have been placed on the marketing of alcohol and tobacco products, the gambling industry is having to review its advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), in association with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), has introduced strict new controls which came into force on October 1st, 2022. The new CAP rules 16.3.12 and 17.13 prohibit gambling advertisements from having ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s. Broadcast media is included too, under BCAP rules 17.4.5 and 18.5.

The ‘strong appeal’ test covers any images, characters or themes that could be considered to be highly appealing to minors. And these new regulations will affect images used across gambling sites, affiliate sites and advertising alike. There’s to be no more pixies or fairies, no Thor imagery, no anthropomorphic animals, no cute leprechauns  – not even a jolly Santa.

Here to stay

Online gambling certainly isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Plenty of governments have tried – and failed – to prohibit alcohol, tobacco and gambling, to little or no avail. But it’s clear that the online gambling industry is taking steps to smarten up its act, even if it isn’t always of its own volition!

The UK is particularly fortunate in having industry regulators such as the UKGC and ASA, who have the necessary powers to enforce compliance. But the gambling operators themselves are also recognizing the importance of providing their customers with a safe and fair experience – and that can only be good news for their customers!