Opinion: Is the UK Gambling Commission Going Too Far With Fines?

Last Updated: October 13, 2022

Note: Editorial commentary will be in this font and is not a part of what the content itself would be.

A lot of us remember what the online gambling industry was like before the modern era of regulation. To call it a “Wild West” scenario would be a massive understatement. For the most part, the industry tried to regulate itself as much as possible through entities like eCOGRA. However, we saw over and over again that this wasn’t enough, and players suffered immensely.

Now we have a time when the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. In fact, it’s to the point that many are asking if we have the opposite problem, and the UK Gambling Commission is the focus of this discussion.

Editorials like this one always throw off people who know just enough about SEO to get themselves in trouble. They always get stuck on the idea of directing search engine traffic to a page and then converting that traffic. Instead, editorials, news items and other similar pieces of content can be used in a more strategic way to boost the pages that do convert.

In short, it’s designed to accumulate some number of internal and external links and then aim that linking power at a page that you want to boost. Internal links could come from news items about individual instances that the UKGC levies fines. External links can come from social media shares, which is the point of the ridiculous header image.

That linking power is then accumulated here and could be sent off to another relevant page, perhaps a listing of the best UK online casinos, boosting its ranking and relevancy in the eyes of search engines.

The UKGC Keeps Walloping Operators Over and Over Again

The reason that the UK Gambling Commission is focused on so often with this is simple. They are generally seen as the strictest jurisdiction, and they hand out fines like candy on Halloween.
 
And these fines aren’t small by any means. In the last half of 2022, we’ve seen Ladbrokes take on a fine worth £17 million, Betfred hit with a fine over over £2.8 million and Spreadex ordered to pay a fine of just under £1.4 million.
 
With the massive sizes of these fines, we can definitely understand why some may want to take a second look. However, the first questions we should ask will also answer a lot of questions for us at the same time.
 
Why are these fines being levied in the first place?
 
Why is the UKGC coming down on these operators so harshly?

Something I like to see is the insertion of images that will grab the attention of readers when shared on social media. That’s especially important for items like this where the entire point is to build linking power from various sources. However, Google and other search engines can actually analyze the contents of images to get an idea of what they’re all about. Images that are somewhat relevant linguistically are useful for that purpose and for breaking up the flow of the content. In this case, Google will clearly see the relationship between massive fines and money in flames. This type of stuff is the level that Google is operating on, and because virtually no one in the online gambling world pays attention to it, it’s another way to get a long-term edge.

Money Laundering and Social Responsibility Obligations

First, we should answer why the fines are being given to begin with.

The answer is almost always some combination of not following anti-money laundering protocols and/or not following social responsibility obligations. For those who aren’t aware, these policies can include things like the following:

  • Following up with players who deposit large amounts to verify where the income came from
  • Not sending advertising emails to players who have self-excluded
  • Having procedures in place to check in on players who are deemed to be at risk for problem gambling

Having some short lists like this, ordered or not, helps to break up content in the visual sense. This increases the amount of time people spend on your page, which helps your SEO efforts considerably (see the next note below). This is another benefit you can get from some of those social media shares since some of those people will actually click on the link and start reading. Alternative formats for content like this also allow the page to better perform at certain metrics search engines use to try to get an idea of how “readable” your pages are, which is critical on a page like this that’s based around the idea of accumulating and distributing linking power.

We don’t think these are crazy things to ask in exchange for allowing licensing in the United Kingdom. That’s even more the case considering the weight that license holds in the international community.

The regulatory body’s entire job is to secure the legitimacy of the industry. This means keeping the games fair for players and providing resources for problem gambling on one hand. On the other hand, it means protecting the legitimate operators from having to compete against shady companies who have no real business in the business to begin with.

So if we can mostly all agree that these things need to be protected, and we agree that fines are a good way to enforce that, then what is left to argue about?

Why Are the Fines So Huge Anyway?

If the punishment was trivially small, we would obviously think that enforcing the rules didn’t achieve much to begin with. However, as soon as the punishments are made severe, a lot of people have a problem with that too. How do we find a happy medium?
 
Alternatively, do we even want a happy medium? Is this the happy medium?
 
To answer these questions, all we have to do is ask ourselves what would happen if the UKGC was the err on the side of fines that were too small.
"Nothing exceeds like excess."
Elvira Handcock
Scarface

Search engines measure how long readers spend on your site when they click through results pages. However, Google also tracks it through the Chrome browser, which is still the most popular web browser in much of the world. Anything you can do to catch the reader’s attention for just another moment will help you with your SEO in that regard. To that point: When is the last time you saw Michelle Pfeiffer used in a piece of online gambling content?

The best Catwoman ever aside, we can use memes and all kinds of other types of content to prolong the amount of time readers spend on our pages. This is an element of on-page SEO that virtually no one in the online gambling world pays much attention to, so it’s an easy advantage to get over the competition.

We all know exactly what would happen. Politicians would be rammed in the press for going easy on the gambling industry. When they nail an operator with an eight-figure fine, that’s a good headline for politics.

Whether it’s what should happen or not is completely out of the discussion, if we’re being practical about it. It’s the same reason why we see them pushing harder and harder each quarter on other aspects of the industry.

Do the fines achieve good things for the players and the industry? Sure. But it’s probably naive to think that’s the primary concern for most of the people running things.

Here at the end, we can get a little saucy and throw in some quotes that people will love to see on social media. Imagine a quick picture in a social media post that shows a short quote about politicians running up fines in the UK for political points and not because they actually care about players. This also gives you an excuse to make multiple social media posts about the same actual page, which means more shares, more linking power and so on.

Now remember back to the point of this type of content. We want to gather links to then point that linking power at other pages. Getting shares on social media will do that, but pissing competitors or social commentators off enough that they link to your page as an example of what’s wrong with people in this industry is even better. You can take that however far you want to take it, but it’s another underused tactic to say the least.