It was like the "Wild Wild West." Online gambling operators were allowed to operate with little scrutiny while online gamblers were at the mercy of the operators and their own desire to gamble.
A lot has changed over the years. In 2007, the UK government created the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). Since then, the regulatory body has been in charge of regulating the entire UK gambling industry. That includes online gambling. Among the responsibilities they have are the licensing of online operators, monitoring advertising activities, and the protection of vulnerable online gamblers.
The GamStop Self-Exclusion Scheme
The protection of vulnerable problem gamblers has recently become a high priority for the UKGC. With the proliferation of online gambling throughout the UK and other parts of the world, they feel it is vital that online gamblers have a way of telling online gambling operators that they want help staying away from online gambling sites. While a cynical person might wonder what motivation a gambling site would have to help an online gambler, the reality is most operators behave responsibly. They aren't looking to hurt people and ruin lives.
In the regulator's drive to help problem gamblers, they helped create the GamStop Self-exclusion scheme. The program was first introduced in April of 2018. Because of the way the program worked, it was considered a "one-of-a-kind" innovation for the protection of problem gamblers.
Initially, online gambling operators were strongly encouraged to subscribe to the program for a fee. When a lot of top online operators were slow to subscribe, the UKGC turned up the pressure. They did that because they didn’t want online gambling to adversely affect innocent people.
If gamblers are registered with a GamStop online gambling site, they can easily register for the program if they want help with a gambling problem. Registration is free. All that gamblers are required to do is provide the personal information that will be used to identify them in the GamStop database. They also get to prescribe the length of their exclusion period with the choices being 6 months, 1 year, or 5 yards. After the registration is approved, the self-exclusion takes immediate effect.
Until the voluntary self-exclusion period expires, GamStop gamblers will be blocked from using their existing accounts or opening new accounts. Once the self-exclusion ends, they are free to resume their online gambling activities at will.
The biggest issue people have with this program is it only involves licensed UK online gambling sites under the UKGC's jurisdiction. That leaves a lot of alternatives for GamStop gamblers who have a change of heart and want to gamble online before their self-exclusion ends.
One of the options GamStop gamblers seem to prefer is staying with UK gambling sites. That is usually not a problem because many other non GamStop online casinos are very welcoming of GamStop gamblers. Other GamStop avoidance options include:
- Gambling abroad with gambling sites licensed in other countries
- Using Bitcoin and crypto-only gambling websites
- Going old school by visiting retail casinos and bet shops
- Opening gambling accounts under legitimate identies that belong to relatives or friends
How Did GamStop Get So Popular
The immense popularity of GamStop can be traced to one factor: the program works very well for gamblers who are willing to abide by their self-exclusion terms.
There is no denying that as more UK residents go online to gamble, more people are falling victim to gambling addiction. The UKGC knew this would happen and reacted by helping to develop the GamStop scheme.
Operators like the program because it requires very little intervention on their part. Problem gamblers like the program because they get to set their own exclusion periods. Also, they can access the program without going through a website's customer service department. That allows them to avoid scrutiny and any embarrassment they might feel for not having control over their online gambling activities. It's a win-win when the program is implemented as it was designed.
Note: In mid-2020, the UKGC has upped the pressure on operators to subscribe. Non-compliance is resulting in big fines. The feeling is better enforcement and easier access to the program will benefit operators, online gamblers, family members of online gamblers, and UK society as a whole.