UK Government Rejects Calls to Regulate Crypto Trading as Gambling

The UK government has recently rejected a recommendation from the House of Commons Treasury Committee to regulate cryptocurrency trading as a form of gambling. The committee’s report raised concerns about the lack of intrinsic value in unbacked crypto assets and their price volatility, which could expose consumers to substantial gains or losses. However, the economic secretary to the treasury, Andrew Griffith, firmly disagreed with the committee’s conclusion.

Reasons for Rejection

Andrew Griffith explained that the treasury recognizes the consumer risks associated with cryptocurrency trading and acknowledges the urgent need for regulation. However, it disagrees with the committee’s call for several reasons:

  1. Misalignment with International Standards: Treating retail crypto trading as gambling would not align with the recommendations of international organizations like the International Organization of Securities Commissions and the G20 Financial Stability Board. The committee’s approach may run contrary to established international standards in the field;
  2. Overlapping Regulatory Boundaries: A gambling regulatory framework for crypto trading could lead to blurred boundaries between the roles of financial and gambling regulators. The government believes that a financial services regulatory framework would be a more suitable approach to address the unique risks of cryptocurrency trading;
  3. Failure to Mitigate Risks: According to Andrew Griffith, a gambling regulatory framework would not effectively reduce the risks associated with cryptocurrency trading. Important issues like market manipulation, inadequate loaning practices, and failures in financial risk management would not be adequately addressed. A financial services approach would ensure steps are taken to mitigate the risks to consumers.

Cryptocurrency as Gambling

A Long-standing Debate: The question of whether crypto trading should be considered gambling has been a subject of debate among regulators for years. In May 2022, Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes highlighted the difficulty in categorizing these products solely as gambling due to their overlapping characteristics. While some features may resemble gambling elements, the entire product often does not meet the criteria for traditional gambling.

Recent UK Crypto Regulation Efforts: The UK government has been actively working to regulate the crypto market effectively. It recently proposed legislation to establish a dedicated financial promotions regulatory regime. The government aims to make the UK a leading jurisdiction for cryptoasset technology and investment, supported by clear and robust regulation.

Continuing Collaboration

Andrew Griffith expressed a commitment to working with the committee to achieve the government’s ambition in the cryptoasset sector. The focus remains on establishing a strong regulatory framework to ensure consumer protection and foster innovation in the cryptocurrency market.

What Next?

The rejection of regulating cryptocurrency trading as gambling highlights the complexities of categorizing emerging financial products. As debates continue, the UK government’s decision to pursue a financial services regulatory framework indicates its commitment to addressing the unique risks associated with the crypto market while fostering a conducive environment for technological advancements and investments.

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