Published: August 19, 2023

The UK Government's Call to Regulate Crypto Trading as Gambling

The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee recently released a report advocating for the UK government to regulate crypto trading as gambling. In a report published on May 18, 2023, the committee argues that crypto trading is speculative and risky, warranting the same level of regulation as gambling activities. This proposal has sparked a range of reactions within the industry and among stakeholders, with some supporting the call for regulation to protect consumers, while others express concerns about potential stifling of innovation. 

With the Treasure Select Committee having said that crypto trading should be treated the same as licensed UK online casinos and the gambling industry, we’re going to explore just what this could mean. We’ll take a look at how key stakeholders could be impacted and consider if this could be a positive move or bring damage to the crypto scene in the country. 

Implications of Regulating Crypto Trading as Gambling 

If the UK government decides to regulate crypto trading as gambling, it would entail treating crypto exchanges in a similar manner to licensed UK online casinos. This would mean subjecting crypto exchanges to the same rules and regulations governing online gambling platforms. The implications of such regulation would include: 

Customer Identification and Anti-Money Laundering Measures 

Crypto exchanges would be required to implement robust customer identification procedures to verify the identity of their users. Additionally, anti-money laundering measures would need to be in place to prevent illicit financial activities. These measures are aimed at enhancing security and reducing the risk of fraudulent transactions within the crypto industry. 

Responsible Gambling Safeguards 

In line with regulations imposed on online casinos, responsible gambling safeguards would need to be implemented by crypto exchanges. This could involve imposing limits on daily deposits or losses for customers and ensuring that individuals do not engage in excessive or risky trading practices. 

Reactions to the Call for Regulation 

The call for regulating crypto trading as gambling has garnered mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Let's explore the different perspectives: 

Proponents of Regulation 

Those in favour of regulation argue that it would protect consumers from the inherent risks associated with crypto trading. They believe that implementing regulatory measures, similar to those in the gambling industry, would provide a safer trading environment and prevent potential fraud and scams. Proponents emphasise the need for consumer protection within the rapidly growing crypto market. 

Concerns about Innovation 

Opponents of regulation express concerns that excessive regulation could stifle innovation within the crypto industry. They argue that imposing stringent regulations might hinder the development of new technologies and impede the growth of crypto-related businesses. Critics emphasise the importance of fostering innovation and maintaining a favourable environment for crypto startups and entrepreneurs. 

Reactions from Key Stakeholders 

Let's explore the reactions from important stakeholders in the UK crypto landscape: 

CryptoUK Industry Body 

CryptoUK, an industry body representing crypto businesses, expressed disappointment with the committee's report. They emphasised their commitment to engaging with the government to ensure any regulatory framework strikes a balance between proportionality and innovation. CryptoUK aims to advocate for regulations that promote consumer protection without hindering industry growth. 

UK Gambling Commission 

The UK Gambling Commission has shown a willingness to collaborate with the government in regulating crypto trading. As the regulatory body responsible for overseeing gambling activities, the commission acknowledges the need to adapt and extend its expertise to address potential risks associated with crypto trading. 

City of London Corporation 

The City of London Corporation has expressed concerns about the committee's report, emphasising the importance of effective regulation that safeguards the UK's financial services sector while supporting innovation. They aim to collaborate with the government to develop a regulatory framework that balances stability and growth in the financial sector. 

Potential Scenario: Falling under the Financial Conduct Authority 

Another potential scenario involves bringing crypto trading under the purview of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK's financial services regulator. If crypto trading were to fall under the FCA's oversight, it would subject crypto exchanges to regulations similar to those applied to other financial services firms. This would include requirements for capital adequacy, liquidity management, and conduct of business rules. 

Capital Adequacy and Liquidity Management 

Crypto exchanges falling under the FCA's jurisdiction would need to maintain sufficient capital reserves to cover potential losses, ensuring the stability of the platform. They would also be required to establish robust liquidity management systems to facilitate timely customer withdrawals. 

Conduct of Business Rules 

Crypto exchanges would have to adhere to conduct of business rules that promote fairness, transparency, and consumer protection. This would include implementing measures to prevent market manipulation, ensuring accurate pricing information, and addressing potential conflicts of interest. 

Future of Crypto Regulation in the UK 

The UK government is currently reviewing the committee's report, and the path forward for crypto regulation remains uncertain. However, it is likely that some form of regulatory action will be taken in the near future. Apart from the regulations discussed earlier, the government may consider additional measures, such as imposing taxes on crypto trading profits or requiring exchanges to report customer trading data. 

The government's decision on crypto regulation will have a significant impact on the future of the industry in the UK. It is crucial for crypto investors and traders to stay informed about the latest developments in this evolving landscape. By staying updated, individuals can adapt their strategies, ensure compliance with regulations, and make informed decisions regarding their crypto investments. 

Final Thoughts 

Regulating crypto trading as gambling in the UK would bring about significant changes in the industry. While proponents argue that regulation would protect consumers, opponents express concerns about potential innovation stifling. The regulatory approach could involve treating crypto exchanges similarly to licensed UK online casinos or placing them under the purview of the Financial Conduct Authority. The UK government's decision on this matter will significantly shape the crypto industry in the country, emphasising the importance of staying informed about future regulatory developments. 

When you look at cases such as that involving Bankman-Fried, it’s clear that some form of regulation is desperately needed. How far this will go, remains to be seen.

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