Chapter Eleven: Bingo Regulation
The Where, What and Whys from Around the World
In this chapter we will cover:
- The regulation of land-based and online bingo in the UK, Europe and North America
- The possible pitfalls in the bingo industry
- How to find bingo games
When it comes to iGaming regulation, the industry has gradually devolved from a homogenous unity to a regionalised model in recent years. Following the advent of the unlawful internet gaming enforcement act (uigea) in the united states in 2006, igaming regulation has spread across the atlantic to various european countries.
In simple terms, UIGEA was part of the SAFE Port act in the US and this made it illegal to process funds between US residents and remote (offshore) operators. Although the bill did not outlaw online gaming, it did make it impossible for US residents to play for real money.
Although UIGEA was not designed to curtail the growth of the iGaming industry, it altered the course of its evolution and prompted governments around the world to examine the presence of remote operators, the games they offer and the amount of revenue they generate.
In 2013, the US started a state-by-state licensing initiative and in Europe a number of countries began implementing their own iGaming laws. This growth of regionalised iGaming laws has affected the way online bingo is offered in many of the major European markets.
Online Bingo Regulation Around the WorldUnited Kingdom
At the close of 2014, the UK implemented new online gambling laws which governed the way operators offer, advertise and tax the virtual games they offer British residents.
Although not without its problems, the 2014 UK Gambling Bill meant that any operator who wants to provide online gaming options to UK residents would need to hold a valid licence. Issued by the UK gambling commission (UKGC), these licences not only give the governing body the ability to regulate and monitor sites, but they also ensure that players are afforded a fair and secure gaming experience.
The French online gaming ecology changed in 2010 after pressure from the EU. Prior to that point, France had enforced a set of archaic rules which the EU did not believe were fair. In response to this, the government introduced a new Gambling Act (law number 2010-476) and that gave the regulatory authority for online games (ARJEL) the power to regulate and licence iGaming providers.
Aside from setting new tax limits for online gamers, the French Gambling Act also ring fenced the industry. What this meant was that players in France can only play alongside French residents on sites licensed by ARJEL. Although international players can join the action, they can only do so by joining a French site.
Much like the US, Spain introduced iGaming laws in 2014 (Royal Decree 304/2014) as a way of reducing money laundering across the internet. This new law meant that operators must verify the identity of all registered users before authorising payments of €2,500 or more. This means that any Spanish online bingo player must supply a valid form of ID to a licensed site before withdrawing winnings above the stated amount.
German iGaming laws are still in a developmental stage and the market currently operates in a grey area. Although it is not illegal for residents to ante-up inside an online bingo site, the status of the industry is still somewhat confusing.
In 2012, the German state passed a law which put in place a licensing structure that would allow 20 operators to offer online sports betting services and nothing else to German residents. The bill has since been challenged numerous times in court and, as it stands, has been vetoed by the EU.
The current mood is that the laws will not benefit online bingo, casino or poker players and is, therefore, unlawful. This means players in Germany are free to play online bingo games as they wish.
Sweden's online gambling scene has been a grey area over the last decade. Although Svenska Spel is the online state-owned operator allowed to offer services within the country, no remote operators have been subject to sanctions by the government. This has meant that players from across the country have been allowed to join a variety of online bingo, poker and casino sites in the last few years.
To make the state of play easier to understand, Sweden's gambling minister is hoping to pass new laws in the 2018 Swedish general election.
Canada's online gambling laws do not follow the same model as its North American cousin. Although the exact make up of Canada's iGaming landscape is difficult to define in the same way as the European countries listed above, the main point to note is that online gambling, and therefore online bingo, is legal.
The reason for the public's misunderstanding of the Canadian iGaming market is that states have the right to set their own laws. This lack of universality often creates confusion.
How to Find Online Bingo GamesIn addition to the information outlined, it is possible to find out whether or not an online bingo site is legally able to offer services in a specific country by visiting any of the relevant governing bodies.
Additionally, it is possible to check out one of the recognised regulatory and licensing companies that have been highlighted in Chapter 7 of the Wink Bingo guide. Any site licensed by one of these organisations should be seen as somewhere that is safe to play.