By Dominic Casciani The UK’s biggest online poker firm, World Poker Tour, is set to impose tougher gambling rules for its members in an effort to curb the number of people falling victim to heart attacks or strokes.
The World Poker Tours (WPT) will ban players from playing poker without the proper health insurance, with the new rules coming into effect on January 1.WPT CEO Steve Gibson said the new regulation would give WPT members a higher level of security and allow them to play online poker without being penalised for playing online.
“I think the new regulations are going to make it much more difficult for people to gamble in the UK and it’s going to help us keep poker players safer,” Gibson told Reuters.
The rules also come in the wake of a spike in the number, and the rate of, heart attacks in recent years, with an average of seven people dying each day from a heart attack.
The company, which had a turnover of $9bn (£6.5bn) last year, said it would impose new security measures for its players, who currently have no health insurance.
It said it was already in the process of introducing new, more robust, rules for the UK’s online poker industry, but had not yet set a target date.
The new regulations will apply to all UK poker players aged 18 and over and include an “active” condition that prevents players from using electronic devices or betting sites while on the board, and a “casual” condition which prevents players betting on live online tournaments.WMT has previously faced criticism from the UK medical charity St Mary’s for its “inappropriate and risky” gambling policies, which it said were designed to keep people safe from heart attacks.
Gibson said the rules would also help improve the safety of poker players and increase the quality of online poker.
“The best way to protect yourself is to play poker,” he said.
“We are working with health professionals to develop more robust policies to address these issues.”WPT’s online gaming revenue rose to £9.2m in 2016 from £6.3m in 2015, according to figures published by the company in January.WPLT’s latest annual report said it generated revenue of £17.3 million and generated $8.2 million in profit in 2016, while total income totalled £13.4 million.
The UK is home to the world’s largest online poker market, with more than a million players in the country.
In addition to poker, WPT operates two other gaming businesses, the UK Poker Association and the UK Professional Gaming Association.