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Go Mobile But Stay Safe Says Top Gambling Regulator

There are few industries that move as fast as the online slots industry.  Everything online moves faster, and as part of the entertainment industry, the slots world needs to be up with the latest trends. Fast-moving industries can be subject to bubbles and to scammers – any market where people are desperate to get the latest innovation opens some of them up to making bad decisions.

That’s why regulators are important. We always advise our readers to check that sites are licensed by the regulator for the jurisdiction in which they’re using that site.

The UK Gambling Commission is the regulator for the UK and also has a strong reputation internationally for the quality of its work.

In August 2019 they published their thoughts on the use of mobile phones for gambling. Let’s have a look at their take on this issue.

They confirm that smartphone use has exploded in the UK. Figures from Ofcom (the broadcasting and internet regulator in the UK) show that smartphone use has risen from 39% of adults in 2012 to 78% of adults using a smartphone in 2018. Smartphones have, since 2016, overtaken computers as the most popular way to browse the internet. Consumers also say that their phones are the electronic device they would miss most if they had to go without it.

Online is now the prime venue for gambling. The UKGC says this is because of “continuous innovation and evolution of technology”. To gamble, one now just has to tap on a screen.

The UKGC’s own research shows that nearly half of online gamblers reported using a mobile phone to gamble in the month prior to being surveyed. This represented a near doubling on the rate from 2015.

The UKGC has researched gambling and lifestyles. This research looks at how people think and feel about their gambling.

The UKGC says that this research shows something that you’ll probably already be aware of: using a mobile allows people to gamble in non-traditional settings, which in the UK means casinos and book-making shops, or arcades and pubs and clubs for slots. Players can now play bingo in their living room and bet on the football game they’re watching in the pub.

This has produced a new type of gambling that the UKGC calls “low friction” gambling. They call gambling that one must be in a specific location to take part in, “high friction”.

People who took part in the survey enjoyed the fact that “low friction” gambling was good fun, some of them were also aware that the fact that they could gamble anywhere they wanted whenever they wanted came with risks.

They were concerned that low friction gambling was difficult to get away from. They were aware that mobile gambling was “always-on” and that this meant they might end up playing too much or binging. The fact that mobile gambling was “unmanned” with no overseeing staff was also a concern.

One 30-year-old man said that they played bingo every night for a long period of time. A 30-year-old woman reported a similar experience.

Mobile gambling, the research found its participants believed, removed almost all geographical and temporal barriers to gambling. It means that you can gamble on your own. In the UK it has broken down some traditional social taboos, for example, bingo has traditionally had a stronger female following, while men have been seen as more likely to bet on sports in bookmakers.

The removal of these barriers makes some sorts of problem gambling more likely the respondents to UKGC’s surveys found.

But the respondents were still more likely to think that people with a gambling problem were “destination gambling” (i.e., going to a gambling specific location) than using their mobile phones.

The UKGC believes this means that they should perhaps put some effort into education around the dangers of mobile gaming.

Respondents to the survey also spoke about the way they gambled using smartphones in a different way. They felt it was more like using social media and other online gaming activities than traditional destination gambling.

This has made – according to the UKGC’s research – gambling more of a passive activity; just a way of passing the time. In fact, online, smartphone gambling is often mixed in with sessions on Facebook or playing video games online.

The UKGC found that the introduction of gambling elements into video gaming (roulette games and loot boxes) might be helping to make online gambling more socially acceptable.

Then UKGC looks at screens. And it found something else that most of you will know: that people look at more than one screen a lot while gambling. We’re all probably familiar with playing a slot while watching TV.

There were a number of examples in the research of people reporting just that sort of experience: watching a TV show and playing on a casino site.

What does this mean for you?

Well, the UKGC is in charge of these markets in a very real way and they can and will make decisions that affect your use of these products.

UKGC’s research is currently just that: research designed to make us all think about how we can play online slots and use casino sites on mobile devices safely.

In time, the UKGC may well recommend changes in laws or licensing in a number of ways. For example, the use of elements from gambling games in video games has been very controversial recently and there may be calls for more regulation. If mobile gaming comes to be seen as such a different experience, then players need more protection then they may seek to put some restrictions on marketing or site use as a condition of licensing.

We don’t know that yet, but it’s an area you should have your eyes on if you’re interested in playing online slots on your mobile.

In the meantime, you should find this research interesting. We all want online slots and online casino site users to enjoy themselves without coming to any harm, and regulating your own online gambling is the best way to avoid outside regulation.

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