In an effort to help its most vulnerable gamblers, the UK Gambling Commission introduced the GamStop self-exclusion scheme in 2018.
It did so under the power of the Gambling Act 2005, which authorised it to enforce responsible gambling measures. As an independent regulator, the UKGC sets the standards for online casinos, ensuring that they clearly communicate information, use adequate security, and host responsible gambling resources and tools for members.
GamStop in particular has the widest reach of all the UKGC’s attempts to rein in the rambunctious gambling industry as every UK-licensed casino is required to abide by the law of the programme. As such, anyone who registers for self-exclusion will be unable to play at any of those casino sites. But does GamStop actually cover every game? It’s not quite so simple.
GamStop’s Coverage Is Nationwide
By law, casino sites operating in the UK are required to participate in the GamStop scheme; gamblers register their details, and they’re then unable to login to covered sites. It’s a useful tool for overcoming a problematic addiction, though by no means without its faults. Users also choose how long they want to self-exclude for, from a range of 6 months, 1 year, and 5 years, which puts more of their responsibility under their control. Once the time passes, they can pick back up where they left off.
Whilst GamStop coverage is nationwide, however, there are limits to its reach. The criteria to enforce the scheme is part of the requirements to maintain a UKGC licence, so it doesn’t impact land-based casinos, National Lotto, or betting kiosks. It may sound like a forgotten loophole, but the distinction comes based on the belief that such gamblers are a different class than those who play online.
Do Any Casino Games Fall Outside Of GamStop?
The UK Gambling Commission requires casino sites to enforce GamStop at the registration level, not by the game level. Therefore, if you’re not able to login to the website in the first place, you won’t be able to play any type of casino game at all.
But GamStop is an imperfect system; independent investigators have discovered that self-excluded players were able to bypass their restrictions simply by signing up with a different email address and changing a letter in their name – a risky endeavour, considering good identity verification will catch the discrepancy right away.
Perhaps the biggest criticism, though, is that GamStop only impacts casinos that are licensed by the UKGC. Indeed, you can easily find sportsbooks and bingo sites not on GamStop at CasinoGam, meaning they don’t have to prevent self-excluded players from joining, collecting valuable bonuses, and even winning real money – and so they won’t. These are the only kinds of casino games that aren’t covered by GamStop.
Likewise, sports betting may or may not fall under the ban, and it depends on the medium. You could still place bets at the local casino or kiosk, but not at an online sportsbook in the UK.
Is GamStop Viable?
Most Brits have known for years about GamStop and its design as a free source of help for addicted players. It’s worked well for what it’s meant to do. Plus, the customer support has always proven to be amazing – anyone can reach out and get assistance no matter when they realise they should seek it.
But a few particular downsides have left some wondering about the programme’s long-term viability. Aside from how easy it is to bypass, the simple fact is that preventing someone from gambling at a few specific sites doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the problem. Effectively, all it does is ban certain casino sites rather than all of them.
Worse yet, removal from GamStop isn’t automatic once your selected exclusion period ends. It requires waiting to be contacted to undergo a questionnaire, which may or may not be answered to their satisfaction.
Alternatives To GamStop Self-Exclusion
Several alternatives to this restrictive programme exist that you can consider if you find yourself debating self-exclusion:
- Site-specific self-exclusion – Rather than initiate a blanket ban on every casino site in the UK, you can opt to exclude from specific casino sites. This makes it easier to return to your account when you’re ready.
- Responsible gambling tools – Some casino sites also let you set deposit limits, reality checks, and limits on how much you can lose in a day. For many people who consider self-exclusion, these simple tools can help them control their gambling instead.
- Third-party software – Third-party software can also block access to gambling sites without the stress of the full GamStop scheme.
- Support groups – Gamblers Anonymous and Gambling Therapy are two examples of many support groups and organisations that help individuals find and receive support from others in the same situation.
Each tool offers valuable resources and aid, though none of them are guaranteed to offer success. Just like with GamStop, the real potential happens when the participant is motivated to change their behaviour.