With a gross annual revenue of over $12.5 billion, the United Kingdom boasts the largest regulated online gambling market worldwide. Despite being a big money maker for the country, the niche comes with the shocking cost of gambling addiction.
Modern UK gambling traces its roots to the Gambling Act 2005, which led to a spike in gambling marketing and advertising. The vast awareness of such an entertainment form coincided with the rise of smartphones. Placing a bookie in every gambler’s pocket led to about 2.7% of the population developing problem gambling and a further 15% being affected by it.
The UK is now working to reel in the reigns, learning from its mistakes. It has passed tighter regulations on advertising, bet placement, and gameplay. For instance, the popular “autoplay” function is unavailable in any UK slot machine to mitigate mindless gameplay and losses.
The US Gambling Market
The United States has looked down on online gambling for a long time. It wasn’t until May 2018 that the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 federal law prohibited the authorization of sports gambling by states. Today, the practice is legal in 36 states and Washington, D.C.
Now, there is a breadth of new online gambling destinations and wagers for US residents to explore, far from the rudimentary options offered by bookies and offshore websites before.
This has transformed gamblers’ betting routines from something they would do once or twice a week to a daily – even by the minute – practice. Legal gambling sites have reimagined the concept of bets, allowing patrons to place bets during live broadcasts and international sports events. One such sportsbook is FanDuel Sportsbook, which is legal in 20 states. It provides betting options on NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA Tour, tennis, and soccer games. The bookmaker entices clients with competitive odds, welcome bonuses, and reload promotions.
The speed at which gambling is sweeping across the United States boils down to the lack of federal oversight of what states do with their newfound freedom. Unlike the UK, which has the relatively strict UK Gambling Commission, US states are left to their own devices, and most of them use the niche as an easy way to fill their coffers. There seems to be a ballooning sense of competition, which is resulting in dangerous practices like:
- Aggressive advertising: It is now typical for the live commentary and coverage of sports to include gambling odds entries from the presenters. The UK Gambling Commission banned TV commercials in the middle of live sports events in 2019.
- Use of credit cards: While the UK banned using credit cards to gamble online, US states and bookmakers now expand their use. Since credit cards allow players to use funds they do not have, it essentially pushes players into debt for entertainment.
- Sponsorship markets: sports leagues, companies, and state governments are putting great effort into sponsorships. Universities are now signing deals with gambling companies to encourage student body registrations. In contrast, the UK will likely ban gambling shirt sponsorships for sports clubs.
One would think that the mistakes and achievements of the United Kingdom’s “gamblification” of sports would be a benchmark for the US. The UK is the perfect aspiration and cautionary tale on how to and not to go about gambling laws and regulations.
However, while the UK implements stricter checks to backtrack previously embraced practices, the US is speeding down a dangerous path to unregulated gambling territory. Gambling in the US has now accelerated far beyond what the UK considers acceptable, and things are bound to worsen.