A Look at How Online Gambling is Regulated
A lot of people who gamble online don't give so much as a single thought to how the how the online gambling industry is regulated. In an ideal world they wouldn't have to either, as the industry would be uniformly regulated across the global spectrum. We don't live in an ideal world though, unfortunately, so this is not the case. And regulation is something that you SHOULD be thinking about.
The online gambling industry is still quite young relatively speaking. Its incredible rise in popularity was probably unexpected, and it's fair to say that most lawmakers were not prepared for it. As a result, it took a while before countries started passing legislation that dealt with online gambling. Prior to that, they relied on outdated laws that were not really relevant and some countries still do.
As a whole, the legal and regulatory landscape of online gambling has improved in recent years. There's still a long way to go before it can be considered a well regulated industry on a global basis though. We look forward to the day that happens, but for now we have to accept the way things are.
In this article we explain why it's important to understand regulation if you enjoy betting or gaming online. We also briefly cover the subject of localized gambling legislation, and provide details on various jurisdictions around the world where gambling sites are licensed to provide their services. Finally, we look at some of the key requirements for obtaining an online gambling license.
Why Online Gambling Regulaion is Important
Online betting and gaming involves entrusting money to what are effectively "faceless" third parties in most cases. Millions of people all over the world deposit funds at gambling sites, but very few of them actually know much about the companies or people behind those sites. This is ultimately the point of regulation in the industry. People should be able to know that they can deposit their money, safe in the knowledge that they are dealing with reputable organizations.
Online gambling regulation effectively serves three main purposes, as follows.
All gambling sites should be compliant with any laws that they are subject to, which should go without saying. They should all be engaged in practices that are ethical. There should also be measures against money laundering and underage gambling, for example, and their advertising should be honest and not misleading.
Sites should also be required, among other things, to protect customer deposits and have transparent terms and conditions. Customers should have a fair chance of winning, and should be entitled to receive any winnings they make within a reasonable timeframe.
If every single gambling site met this criteria, then the internet would be a much safer environment for those wishing to bet and play games for real money. Sadly, they don't. That's precisely why regulation is so important. Sites should be FORCED to meet this criteria (and many are), and if they don't then they shouldn't be allowed to operate.
Unfortunately, it's hard to stop rogue sites acting as they please. There is no global legal or regulatory body that oversees online gambling in every single country, so sites can base themselves where they are not subject to strict laws or regulation and be able to operate with relative ease.
Thankfully, rogue sites are certainly in the minority. The vast majority of sites are based in regions where they are subject to relevant laws and regulations, and so they are safe to use. The fact that even just a few rogue sites exist is still a concern though, and it makes it necessary for people to be careful about where they sign up.
This is the key point really. Regulation might serve more than one purpose, but the one that really interests us is the one that benefits us most. As customers of gambling sites, we don't really care about the legal and regulatory aspects that don't affect us. We only care about those aspects that protect us and enable us to enjoy our online betting and gaming without any concerns.
We can only benefit from regulation in the industry if we use the right sites. It's therefore absolutely vital, in our opinion at least, that people check what regulation a site is subject to before joining.
Regulation is just one thing to consider when choosing where to do your online betting and gaming. Please read our article on picking the right gambling site for advice on some of the other factors you should take into account.
Local Gambling Legislation
We mentioned earlier how there is no global body that governs the online gambling industry. There's never likely to be either, as there are too many separate interested parties for this to happen. It's really too bad, but it's just the way it is. The biggest downside to this fact is that it means the laws relating to online gambling can vary wildly depending on where you live. The activity is strictly prohibited in some parts of the world, and fully legalized in others.
Even worse, there are some parts of the world where the laws are somewhat confusing.
In the United States there is online gambling legislation at two levels; federal and state. The legislation at federal level affects the whole country, and the legislation at state level affects only the relevant state. Certain aspects of the federal legislation are somewhat open to interpretation, which makes it difficult to know exactly what's legal and what's not. The legislation at state level is clearer, but only a few states currently have specific online gambling legislation in place.
It's worth noting that, in most regions at least, local laws tend to be focused on those who operate gambling sites rather than those who use them. It's very rare for a country to have any laws which explicitly make it illegal for an individual to make a bet on the internet, or play poker for real money. Nonetheless, confusing laws such as those in the US often cause a certain amount of hesitancy. Some people just don't want to run the risk of doing something they shouldn't, even when it's not at all clear that they shouldn't be doing it.
We're neither legal experts nor lawyers, so we're not exactly qualified to speak with too much authority on the subject. However, we have carried out extensive research into a lot of relevant legislation. It's our belief that most people are free to gamble online without fear of breaking any laws.
This is something you should check out for yourself with the appropriate sources if you're concerned though. You might also want to take a look at the following section of our website, which provides details of gambling legislation in several different countries.Gambling Laws Around The World
Online Gambling Jurisdictions
To fully understand how regulation in this industry works, you should understand the concept of online gambling jurisdictions. These are regions where the relevant governments have passed specific laws that make it legal for companies based there to provide online betting and gaming services. These companies can therefore operate gambling sites with full legal backing.
There are several of these online gambling jurisdictions around the world. Some of them are very respected, and a lot of the biggest and best known brands in the industry are based in those places, while others are less so. Here are some of the most prominent.
Within these jurisdictions there is usually an appointed organization which is responsible for regulating the gambling companies based there. These are typically referred to as licensing authorities, as they issue licenses to the companies that they approve for operation. Companies wishing to obtain a license, and then remain licensed, must meet certain requirements.
The exact licensing requirements for a gambling site will depend on which jurisdiction they are based in and what services they offer. The following requirements are typical though.
- Suitability of owners & executives
- Accounting procedures
- Fairness of games
- Dealing with problem gamblers
- Preventing underage gambling
- Handling complaints
Most of these requirements are in place to ensure that regulation serves the three main purposes we highlighted earlier. We explain each one of them below, and in doing so should hopefully make it clear to you just how beneficial it is to only use sites that are properly licensed and regulated.
The online gambling industry is worth a lot of money. As with anything where there are large sums of money involved, it attracts plenty of the wrong people. Most licensing authorities are therefore very strict about who they allow to operate gambling sites. They assess the owners, and senior staff in some cases, to ensure that they are "fit and proper" and of good standing.
People that may not be considered suitable can include those with criminal records, particularly if their crimes were finance related. The basic idea here is to ensure that the people running a site are the kind of people that can be trusted to run an honest operation.
This is one of the most important aspects of regulation in terms of making it safe to deposit at gambling sites. A licensing authority might impose a wide range of rules relating to account procedures, but an especially common one is that sites must separate customer deposits from all other funds. Those deposits must be protected somehow, so that if a site went out of business for any reason the customers would still be able to get their money back.
This point relates to sites which offer casino games, poker, or other interactive gambling games. They have to be able to demonstrate that the games they offer are fair, and that customers have the correct chance of winning. This usually means having their software fully tested by an appropriate third party. Such tests will be run on a regular basis.
One of the criticisms made about online gambling is that it makes addiction more likely. There have been studies to show that this is not the case, but problem gambling is nevertheless an issue that the industry should, and does, take seriously. Licensed sites are typically obliged to have certain measures in place to help prevent problem gambling. These measures include providing the option to set deposit or limits or self-exclude.
Another common criticism is that it's easy for people underage to gamble online. There is little basis to this either, although again it's something that needs to be considered. Regulated sites are generally required to carry out identity checks on their customers, and part of the reason for this is to ensure that they are old enough to use their services.
Most licensing authorities stipulate that their licensees must have a defined complaints procedure in place. This procedure should be made available to any customer who has a complaint of any kind. Some licensing authorities also provide arbitration services where they will investigate complaints that cannot be resolved and offer a suitable solution.
It's very difficult to predict how the regulation of online gambling will develop in the future. A perfect solution would be for a new organization to be formed that would be responsible for governing the industry on a global basis. This would remove a great deal of the difficulty in determining which sites meet the necessary requirements to be considered trustworthy. If every site had to adhere to the same set of strict requirements then things would be a lot easier. This is almost certainly a pipe dream though, and there are simply too many reasons why this won't happen.
What we do expect to see is more countries refining their existing legislation, or passing new legislation, that deals specifically with online gambling and its regulation. There are still far too many countries relying on outdated and confusing laws that are simply not relevant to the way we do our betting and gaming these days. We're all for progression on this front.
Our biggest hope is that all regulation of the industry is primarily focused on protecting those who wish to gamble online. It obviously needs to be commercially viable for operators to provide their services, but there's no harm in stricter regulation to ensure that they behave with integrity and transparency.
We also hope that regulation in ALL parts of the world allows people to do as they choose with their money. It's understandable that there are concerns that online gambling can lead to addiction and other issues, but simple making it illegal does nothing to address this. If anything, it makes things worse. People that want to gamble online are always going to find a way to do so, and if it's illegal where they live then they'll potentially be forced to use unregulated sites. And that has the potential to cause far more problems.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: February 2016
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