Overview of Self-Exclusion Regulations in Online Gambling

The gambling industry at large is currently experiencing a golden era of unprecedented attention placed on responsible gambling. The Global Self-Exclusion Initiative presently seeks to aid these efforts by at least drafting a conceptual solution to the issue of a global self-exclusion scheme, or lack thereof.

Such a goal demands a thorough understanding of the self-exclusion schemes already in place, as well as the regulatory bodies overseeing them. Ten of the world's most influential regulators were chosen for a more in-depth review to illustrate the state of self-exclusion regulations worldwide.

Online gambling regulators described in this article
Jurisdiction Regulator
Italy Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli
Malta Malta Gaming Authority
Great Britain Gambling Commission
Curaçao Gaming Control Board / Cyberluck Curacao N.V. #1668/JAZ
Kahnawake Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Sweden Spelinspektionen
Spain Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling
New Jersey New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
Gibraltar Ministry of Finance, Gambling Division
Alderney Alderney Gambling Control Commission

This article explores the following topics:

1. Scope of mandatory self-exclusion schemes

When evaluating any gambling regulator, one of the key considerations is whether or not they demand their operators to offer a self-exclusion option for their players. This fact alone can reveal the level of concern and care an authority has for gamblers playing within its jurisdiction. Thankfully, nearly all of the world's regulators have requirements for mandatory responsible gambling tool availability (self-exclusion, gambling limits), including all entities discussed in this article.

The next level up from a mandatory self-exclusion is incorporating a national/multi-operator scheme, which is the best player-care-and-safety option currently available. However, they are challenging to implement, requiring a lot of time and significant human and financial resources. They are the outer protective layer for players but in no way interfere with the players' ability to exclude on a single casino basis. As of now, only six of the described regulators in this article offer such a solution.

2. Duration and revocability requirements for self-exclusion

Self-exclusion duration is where regulations begin to vary significantly. Revocability only further complicates the matter, as for a scheme to be practical for players, its duration and revocability must be well-balanced.

2.1. Single operator self-exclusion

While regulators tend to require their licensees to offer responsible gambling options, such as limits and self-exclusions, they do not tend to be too restrictive in the options' particularities. Instead, they outline the main points of their vision and allow operators to figure out the rest. Such is the case in Italy, Malta, Sweden, New Jersey, Gibraltar, and Alderney.

Others are more minute in their demands, defining a precise range of timeframes acceptable for self-exclusion solutions. Great Britain demonstrates this approach by mandating its license holders offer self-exclusions lasting at least 6 to 12 months and at most 5 years. The last possible approach in single operator self-exclusion regulation is to specify the exact durations required. Curaçao, according to the information available, embodies this approach, directly ordering the three self-exclusion durations players must have access to.

However, this is not as restrictive as it may seem. Since regulators do not tend to explicitly say that the specified time frames must be the only ones available, operators have ample legal "wiggle" room to add further options as they see fit.

Single operator self-exclusion duration and revocability requirements
Jurisdiction Duration Revocability Minimum period before revocability
Italy Definite, not specified by regulator; indefinite Unknown for temporary; Yes for indefinite 6 months + 7 day cool-down
Malta Definite, not specified by regulator; indefinite 24 hour cool-down for temporary; Yes for indefinite 7 days
Curaçao 1 month, 1 year, permanent No for temporary, N/A for permanent N/A
Great Britain Minimum - 6 months; maximum - 5 years No N/A
Kahnawake Indefinite Yes 6 months
Sweden Definite, not specified by regulator; indefinite Unspecified for temporary; Yes for indefinite 12 months
Spain Permanent Only Yes 6 months
New Jersey Not defined by regulator No N/A
Gibraltar Not defined by regulator Unspecified Unspecified
Alderney Not defined by regulator Yes 24 hours

2.2. Multi-operator self-exclusion schemes

Unlike single operator exclusions, regulators tend to be much more specific in defining their multi-operator solutions. Most tend to offer various time frames to make their national/multi-operator exclusion registries as helpful and accommodating to the many people who may want to use them. These timeframes can be divided into two categories:

  1. Specific durations
  2. Indefinite and permanent self-exclusions

2.2.1. Specific durations

Specific durations are ones with a clearly defined time limit, usually ranging from a few days or months up to several years. Most regulators with multi-operator solutions on this list offer these.

Shorter timeframes are not unheard of and are sometimes referred to as "cool-off" periods. These self-exclusions tend not to last longer than a day, as is the case with Sweden's 24-hour exclusion option.

These specifically defined self-exclusion periods do not tend to be revokable, as showcased by all six multi-operator schemes discussed in this article. Following their self-exclusion, players have to wait until the set duration expires. Subsequently, some regulators re-activate their accounts automatically, while others, like Great Britain, require players to opt into gaming again manually.

2.2.2. Indefinite durations

Indefinite and permanent exclusions (discussed below) are often mistakenly thought of as two terms describing the same thing. However, even though you can use both to opt-out of gaming "forever", they are set apart by one crucial detail.

You can revoke an indefinite self-exclusion, typically after six months. The same cannot be said for a permanent self-exclusion, which, as the name would suggest, you have no way of canceling and lasts for the rest of your life.

Multi-operator self-exclusion duration and revocability requirements
Jurisdiction Duration Revocability Minimum period before revocability
Italy 30 days, 60 days, 90 days; Indefinite No for the specified durations, Yes for Indefinite N/A for specified durations, 6 months for indefinite
Curaçao 6 months; 1 year, 2 years No N/A
Great Britain 6 months; 1 year, 5 years No N/A
Kahnawake Permanent No N/A
Sweden 24 hours; 1 month, 3 months, 6 months; Indefinite No for the specified durations, Yes for indefinite N/A for specified durations, 12 months for indefinite
Spain Indefinite Yes 6 months
New Jersey 1 year, 5 years; Permanent No N/A

3. Post-exclusion player protection

Whether the responsibility of regulators towards their players ends with the players' self-exclusion is subject to debate. However, should authorities wish to keep their jurisdictions as free of problem gambling as possible, the answer to that question becomes obvious.

There are two main points to consider with post-exclusion player protection:

  1. Marketing restrictions for self-excluded players
  2. Automatic referral to problem gambling help centers

3.1. Marketing restrictions for self-excluded players

Limiting or outright banning all gambling advertising has become more common in recent years. Common restrictions include:

  • No disinformation
  • Obligatory safe gambling messages
  • No targeting of vulnerable demographics (children, elderly, etc.)
  • No depictions of winning or immense wealth

Marketing restrictions for self-exclusion exist on top of these advertising measures. They prevent gambling operators from targeting the highly vulnerable group of problem gamblers with their advertising. And luckily, they seem to be becoming a standard among high-quality regulators. Seven out of ten regulators discussed in this article are confirmed to require licensed operators to avoid marketing to self-excluded players or face legal consequences.

3.2. Automatic referral to problem gambling help centers

While it is not uncommon for regulators to mandate that an "information package" be provided to players requesting or revoking their self-exclusion, no such practice exists for automatically referring customers to problem gambling help centers. But Gibraltar is not too far off.

At the time of writing, Gibraltar's Betting and Gaming Association is the only regulator requiring operators to provide "self-excludees" with contact to a reliable problem gambling help service.

The lack of such safe and responsible gambling measures is a considerable oversight, as self-exclusion only addresses gambling addiction's symptoms and not its underlying causes. Hence, if countries wish to see their problem gambling populations dwindle, it would be in their best interest to utilize the call centers, therapists, and treatment centers they host.

Single operator post-exclusion player protection
Jurisdiction Exclusion from marketing communications Automatic referral to problem gambling help
Italy Yes No
Malta Yes No
Curaçao Unknown Unknown
Great Britain Yes No
Kahnawake Yes No
Sweden Yes No
Spain Unclear No
New Jersey Yes No
Gibraltar Unspecified Yes
Alderney Yes No

4. Self-exclusion process details

Self-exclusion is a complex process with many hidden details that a regulator needs to get right. There are three, in particular, that should be addressed:

  1. Ease and expedience of the self-exclusion submission process
  2. Forced exclusion by a 3rd party
  3. The rights and restrictions of self-excluded players

4.1. Ease and expedience of the self-exclusion submission process

To self-exclude, players need to submit a request to the relevant authority. The process can be catered to the regulator/operator's needs, like in the case of Spain, which employs a self-exclusion app. However, most use one of the following three types of self-exclusion requests:

  • Online – Although self-exclusion is most commonly requested online, its forms still vary from request submission via a website, live chat, or e-mail. Understandably, all online operators utilize at least one of these forms when offering single operator schemes. Online self-exclusion requests are also available for multi-operator schemes in Italy, Curaçao, Great Britain, Spain, and New Jersey.
  • By post – Sending a self-exclusion request via the postal service is rare, though not unheard of. It is the only possible way to self-exclude yourself with Kahnawake's multi-operator scheme.
  • In-person – You can sign up for the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme by personally visiting the responsible office and signing a document in Spain and New Jersey. This is the only way you can request a permanent self-exclusion with the latter regulator.

4.2. Forced self-exclusion by a 3rd party

While self-exclusion is an excellent option for players aware of their problematic behavior, it's less suited to protecting gamblers who cannot recognize their addiction. Some regulators also run forced/imposed self-exclusion lists, though these are primarily meant for career criminals and repeat regulation offenders.

However, very few regulators operate a system where gamblers can be self-excluded by a 3rd party based on their potentially problematic gambling behavior. Some require operators to screen their patrons' gambling behavior and offer helpful information, should they be suspected of being problem gamblers. Whether operators are actually inclined to engage in these practices is another thing altogether.

As of now, no regulators on this list have a system in place, which would allow 3rd parties to exclude a gambler based on their psychological evaluation. Though there is certainly an argument for the benefit of such a system, there are several concerns regarding its efficacy, so the chances of seeing one implemented anytime soon are slim.

Details of multi-operator scheme self-exclusion
Jurisdiction Requesting self-exclusion Self-exclusion instigated by 3rd parties
Italy Online No
Curaçao Online No
Great Britain Online No
Kahnawake By post No
Sweden Online No
Spain In person / Online / Mobile App No
New Jersey Online / In person for Permanent Yes

4.3. The rights and restrictions of self-excluded players

The restrictions players become subject to at the moment of their self-exclusion taking effect are universally almost the same across both single operator self-exclusions and multi-operator schemes. The only difference is whether the restrictions you are subject to limit you across all licensed operators in your jurisdiction or just a single operator.

Self-excluded players on a single operator basis cannot:

  • Create a new gambling account with the operator in question
  • Wager or gamble on their pre-existing account with the operator in question
  • Deposit funds into their gambling account with the operator in question

Self-excluded players on a multi-operator scheme cannot:

  • Create new gambling accounts
  • Wager or gamble on pre-existing accounts
  • Deposit funds into any of their gambling accounts

However, these are not all the restrictions you may encounter – just the most common ones. Regulators sometimes employ their own additional rules, unseen anywhere else in the gambling landscape. One such example is New Jersey, where, unless you self-exclude only from online gambling, you may be refused access to hotels and restaurants connected to gambling venues. Potentially permanently no-less.

The scope of things a player can do following their exclusion is typically very limited. They can:

  • Log in to their account
  • Close their account
  • Withdraw any funds held in their account

However, most regulators do not even guarantee you these rights. They are either left up to the operators' whims or not addressed at all. Clearly, there is much potential for improvement in this area of self-exclusion regulations.

Conclusion

It is plain to see that there are many considerations to keep in mind regarding self-exclusion. Despite this article's length, it only covers the most basic information and questions connected to this topic. However, we hope it helped you understand or review the fundamentals of self-exclusion and its current state across the most significant regulatory bodies.

If you have further questions about self-exclusion, our plans, or would like to learn how you too can support the efforts for a safer global gambling landscape, contact us.

The information used in this article was sourced from public sources and data available in the first quarter of 2021. It was assessed in good faith by legislative laymen. If you found any of the facts presented to be objectively incorrect, please contact us, and we will gladly make the necessary amendments.