Can you trust new betting sites?
The online betting industry has been in existence since the 1990s. With a plethora of games and betting options accessible through your screen regardless of location, it can be perceived as more convenient than bookies, casinos, or gaming arcades. After all, it’s possible to place a bet from your sofa, the pub or even from work.
Welcome offers and free bets have become expected marketing tools from new online betting sites, with many portals like Betfree.ie offering detailed rankings of such offers. With more than 2,000 online platforms as of December 2020, the choice for consumers can feel almost limitless. And the industry continues to grow; data published by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) showed a 3% increase in takings and a 7% increase in new accounts being opened between September 2019 and the same month in 2020. But can you really trust these online betting platforms?
How is gambling regulated?
UKGC is the chief regulator of online betting operators in the UK. In order to be allowed to run, gambling websites must pass various checks and demonstrate adherence to a number of policies designed to keep consumers protected. You can check if an online gambling provider is licensed in the UK by typing in their name or registration number.
One of the safeguard measures in place is the credit card ban. In an attempt to prevent customers from running up debts, online betting sites are not allowed to accept credit cards. This policy came into force in 2014 and gambling outlets are closely monitored by the UKGC to ensure they adhere to this rule. However, it is currently still possible to use one’s overdraft facility to place a bet, thus falling into debt remains a possibility.
In order to control an increase in gambling during the covid-19 related lockdown, the Betting and Gambling Council, which represents commercial gambling outlets, put a stop to betting-related advertising on television. It is also possible to reduce one’s exposure to adverts promoting gambling on Twitter, and there are plans to introduce a similar function on Facebook.
Is there a mechanism in place that makes sure online betting games are fair?
To ensure that gambling games offered online are fair, UKGC insists on providers having their software tested. This involves checking that the rules of random number generated games have been tested to consistently demonstrate that the intended prize frequency and/or amount is as advertised. They also check for design faults that would allow a player to exploit or hack into a game. Furthermore, operators are obliged to suspend and report a game upon discovering that it is under or overpaying players. In the case of underpayment, online betting sites are expected to reimburse affected customers.
How is my money protected?
New betting sites are obliged to keep all bet money in a designated bank account, separate from their business accounts. However, it’s important to note that your money is not protected by the government in the way that sums up to a certain value are protected in bank accounts. Therefore, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions provided by an online betting site in order to establish what will happen if the business has to file for bankruptcy.
According to the UKCG, there are three levels of protection offered to customers: none, medium and high:
|Not protected||No extra protection. Money in these accounts would still be seen as part of the business if it went bust.|
|Medium protection||There are arrangements (eg insurance) to make sure that the money in separate accounts is given to customers if the company goes bust.|
|High protection||Customers’ money is held in an account which is legally and in practice separate from the rest of the company. This account is controlled by an independent person or external auditor.|
It is also important to note that you are not covered by PayPal’s buyer protection policy if you pay for your bet through your PayPal account.
What can I do if I feel that my gambling is out of control?
Of course, it’s vital to bear in mind that gambling addiction can be a serious risk and it’s essential to only participate if losing will not have any serious consequences on your wellbeing.
Budgeting is essential, as is regularly checking if you are able to afford a loss. This may be particularly important to remember when gambling through new betting sites as you will not be protected by the opening hours of traditional betting shops. When an urge can be fed at any time of day or night, having robust mechanisms in place to prevent gambling addiction from escalating is essential. If you are in a difficult financial situation or are feeling vulnerable, the advice is to avoid gambling.
In March 2020, a scheme to allow self-exclusion from gambling was introduced in the UK. Known as GAMSTOP, it works by blocking registered users from accessing online betting sites and apps. However, it relies on the user providing accurate information and not opening any further accounts. The length of time you’re blocked for is user-led, and any changes in details, such as email address or last name, must be updated in order for GAMSTOP to continue from blocking you.
It is estimated that between 0.7% and 2.7% of people across the UK are problem gamblers. And it’s not just the players themselves who can be affected. 7% of adults report that someone else’s gambling has had a negative impact on them, according to research conducted by the charity GambleAware.
If you feel that you could benefit from talking to someone about how gambling is affecting you or someone you care about, you can contact The National Gambling Helpline, which operates 24 hours a day and can be reached by calling Freephone 0808 8020 133 or via web chat. You can also speak to your GP.
Overall, gambling through new betting sites can be an enjoyable pastime as long as it is carried out through a regulated provider while remaining sensible about the amounts you bet.