Most people will agree that online gambling is an acceptable form of online adult entertainment. As long as an online gambler is able to control their online gambling activities, it is a fun and exciting way for them to kill a few hours every now and then.
Unfortunately, any form of gambling is like everything else adults do. If it’s done to excess, it can lead right to addiction. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is well aware that the latest data shows that 6% to 8% of all online and retail gamblers will eventually encounter a gambling problem. That is exactly why the UKGC heavily supports programs like GamStop, SENSE, and GamCare. And, it’s widely believed that video games are also a way of tackling the problem
In 2018, the UKGC introduced the UK’s online gambling community to the GamStop Self-exclusion scheme. The scheme is intended to serve as a very important help resource for online gamblers who might feel they are getting caught up in the cycle of gambling addiction.
Initially, UK online gambling operators we not obligated to subscribe to the GamStop database. That changed in April of 2020 when the UKGC saw an explosion in online gambling participation. At that point, they decided to make it mandatory for all licensed UK online gambling operators to join GamStop. For a fee, member websites can access the GamStop database.
The GamStop database contains the names and personal information of UK online gamblers who voluntarily registered to become part of the database. By doing this, GamStop gamblers are asking all licensed UK operators to block them from their own online gambling activities. Since the program is strictly voluntary for online gamblers, they get to decide how long they want protection. The choices include:
- a minimum of 6 months
- 1 year only
- five years at the max
Once the self-exclusion is in place, the GamStop gambler will be denied access to all of their licensed UK online gambling accounts. They will also be denied the opportunity to open new accounts if they use the personal information they provided when completing the GamStop registration process.
The program works very well for gamblers who choose to abide by the terms of their own self-exclusion. Therein lies the weakness of the program. If a registered GamStop gambler has a change of heart, there is nothing about GamStop that is going to prevent an uncommitted gambler from seeking other gambling alternatives, and they do exist.
For instance, there is a list of non GamStop online casinos at CasinoWise available to GamStop players. This list is made up of reputable licensed and unlicensed online gambling operators that have simply chosen to not comply with the UKGC’s mandates, licensing and or GamStop membership. To be clear, most of these casinos are just as reliable and reputable as their GamStop member counterparts.
Other viable non GamStop options include:
- Enlisting the online gambling services of a crypto-only casino or sportsbook
- Taking online gambling activities abroad (Offshore)
- Partnering with another trusted online gambler for a shared account in the other gambler’s name
- Finding online casinos that have weak account verification protocols
- Use land-based casinos as an alternative to online casinos
It’s important to note that the GamStop self-exclusion scheme is only associated with online gambling. With that said, the retail (land-based) gambling community provides gamblers with access to a very similar self-exclusion program called “SENSE.”
The SENSE self-exclusion scheme was first introduced in 2015. It is currently managed and controlled by the Betting & Gaming Council with the full support of the UK Gambling Commission.
To enroll in this voluntary program, gamblers seeking exclusion can register with any retail UK betting location. Much like GamStop, SENSE gamblers are given the opportunity to choose their own self-exclusion period with 6 months serving as the minimum. For the duration of a gambler’s SENSE exclusion, they will not be permitted to enter any licensed UK gambling establishments. When the self-exclusion period expires, they can formally seek permission in writing to enter UK gambling facilities.
For all intents and purposes, GamCare is more of a certification program as opposed to being a self-exclusion program. When a gambling operator receives a GamCare certification, it indicates to gamblers that the operator has taken most if not all of the necessary steps to protect vulnerable gamblers. That includes making sure their gamblers have access to reliable problem gambling resources. Certifications are issued to operators who voluntarily join the GamCare program.
The GamCare Safer Gambling Standard was established by a board of problem gambling experts with the GamCare charity organization. Most of GamCare’s donations come from the aforementioned Betting and Gambling Council.
The rating system involves 73 different criteria, all of which are graded. In total, each gambling operator can receive one of four different GamCare ratings ranging from the “Base Level” award at the bottom to the “Advanced Level 3” award at the top. Each level is indicative of the responsibility a casino/sportsbook is showing in terms of protecting vulnerable gamblers. Vulnerable gamblers include underage gamblers and the problem gambler that might be headed to addiction.
Yes, membership with GamStop and SENSE are one of the criteria used to rate both retail and online casinos. The GamCare program also certifies B2B companies such as software developers and platform providers. All of this is intended to help create a gambling environment that is safe for UK residents.