There's always been a reputation with online casinos, that they're the wild west of the gambling world. With no people around and no one watching, the enviroment of an online casino is seen as a place where people are ignored and their problems made their own.
All players can be put at risk by their casinos if there's no good safeguards. For this with a gambling addiction, this is especially serious. But in the last few years, gambling regulators like the UKGC, have been making leaps and bounds in protecting people who are at risk. So if you're simply interested, or have thought you might be one of those at risk, these are the steps that you can take and that have been made to make the online casino a safer place to bet.
How Online Gambling Has Changed
Since the end of 2014, the UKGC has been getting incredibly serious. Their first big move was back in November 2014, when the UKGC enforced that all casinos operating within the UK had to be a licensed and regulated by a UK regulator.
Over many years, casinos had been moving their servers offshore to avoid UK legislation and tax. It's this move, which initially made the online casino scene far more treacherous. It became the case, that a lot of places you gambled online, couldn't be held to task as they simply weren't regulated under UK law.
But that's no longer the case. Every casino is held accountable under British law and can receive punishments for not following regulations. With this larger platform and a hardened new CEO in the form of Sarah Harrison, the UKGC has used this to change the face of online casino security.
Protecting Problem Gamblers
The most vulnerable players out there are those who already have or are susceptible to problem gambling. Having the ability to gamble anywhere at anytime was a huge problem for the industry, when it came to tackling addiction.
But in the last 12 months, more steps have been made than ever before to right this.
Reality Checks & Cooling Off Periods
This was probably the biggest breakthrough that the UKGC made within the last year. Until now, the ability for players to block or freeze their account has been purely at the player's own discretion. Cooling off periods have been a widespread feature of most casinos, giving players the option to freeze their account for up to 6 months.
The issue with this system was that cooling off features had to be searched for in menus.
Some more scrupulous casinos had even buried the feature within several menus to make it harder to find. But on the face of it, the real issue was, players with a problem just have a hider time pulling themselves away from the game.
Reality checks were introduced as a regulation in November 2015. Every casino must now ask players after a period of play, if they want to continue playing. From that point, there are clear options to allow the player to easily direct themselves to a menu to initiate a cooling off period if need be.
We've broken down all the details in our guide to reality checks, so you can understand more if you wish, but reality checks are overall an amazing step forward in terms of player protection at casinos.
Free Betfilter Software
But not everything is in the hands of the UKGC. Some casinos have made some real
commitments when it comes to protecting their own customers. One of the key issues with reality checks, no matter how good they are, is that they only block you on a casino to casino basis.
If you wanted, you could simply go and open another account with another casino, with no issue.
Software like Betfilter is a great way to bypass this pitfall. It's a piece of software that is installed on your computer and recognises all gambling software on the computer. This is anything from online casinos visited through a browser, to casinos that have been installed onto the computer itself.
Once Betfilter has been installed, it can't be uninstalled without doing a complete reformat of your PC. Once it's on, it's on. It solves the issue of covering multiple casinos in any form, can't be removed easily and works for a whole year.
This product would usually cost you, but casinos like Unibet are setting an example by offering a free year long subscription by simply signing up to them. You don't need to deposit. It's as simple as signing up to Unibet and then using your special code to go and get your free copy of Betfilter.
Moves like this have appeared in the wake of the UKGC threatening increased regulation on casinos that aren't more responsible about player welfare. It seems some casinos have taken notice and made changes in the face of that warning.
A Unified Complaints System
The ODR is a new form of complaints system that seeks to standardise all complaints
across the consumer industry within the EU. It's full name is the much less graceful, European Online Dispute Resolution Platform and it came into effect from the 15th February.
In a nutshell, the ODR is a platform where all EU consumer complaints must be put through. The idea is to stop complaints being dealt with through a company's own channels. Since companies can hogtie customers by offering bad customer service and not dealing with their complaints, an unbiased party is much needed.
Remote gambling has been counted as a viable industry to join the platform and so remote gambling companies are now obligated to document all customer complaints using the ODR, as well as give customers ODR details to use the system themselves.
Since casinos can have such a large amount of control over their customer's money and winnings, it's good to know there's more things you can do if any trouble arises.
Better RTP Checks & Testing
The UKGC are completely revamping the way they test game software. Game software is
often updated and so the UKGC have taken steps to developing a continuous process of testing games to check for fairness when it comes to their payouts and RTP.
The best part of this reform was that they held a widespread call for the public to add their own thoughts and ideas behind the project. The testing regulations have yet to be finalised, but given their success in other areas, we can imagine the outcome should go fairly well.
But if the UKGC are taking stands about keeping the RTP in the slot the same as what it promises to be, then we're completely behind fairer and more honest slot games, even if its a shaky start.
A Brighter Future
Overall, the future's looking very good for online gaming. Problem gambling is being tackled in a much more active way than we've ever seen before. Any issues you have with a casino should be dealt with in a much less isolated manner and our games are looking to be monitored and checked with greater regularity.
Finally, it seems that the regulators have caught up to what the technology that runs these online casinos is capable of, if you wield it properly. We like to stay up to date with these kind of things, so if you ever need to know anything about the changes going in the industry, then check our regular regulation updates to stay in the know.