Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK have rejected an attempt by the government to obstruct access to unlicensed gambling websites in the country.
According to the Financial Times newspaper, the UK Gambling Commission regulatory body met various broadband providers last week in the hope of inserting warning pages on unlicensed websites to alert the customer of their illegal status.
The “splash pages” would put the gambling websites on the same level as harmful pornographic content, which often carries a warning about illegal images.
Despite the effort, the companies refused the Commission’s attempts and instead insisted on a court order or primary legislation to ratify such a move.
The talks have been prompted by legislation that will introduce new licensing and tax regimes for online gambling, which will switch from being based on where an operator is located to where the consumer lives.
The Gambling Commission regulates commercial gambling in Great Britain but has no jurisdiction over offshore websites and is keen to gain more power in order to clamp down on unlicensed sites.
“We have been exploring the internet service providers’ approach when faced with clear evidence that sites are unlicensed and engaged in illegal activities,” the Gambling Commission said.
“At this stage we are just exploring back-up options as we do not expect illegal sites to be a major issue given the attractiveness and width of the legal offer.”
Despite the breakdown in talks, the government has already agreed to a deal with ISPs to impose mandatory “opt-out” filters for broadband access to content like pornography and self-harm websites, as well as filters for gambling websites. The filters will come into effect this year.
Content owners have also attempted to convince ISPs to block copyright-infringing content from streaming or peer-to-peer download services.
However, ISPs have been hesitant in blocking such content until a high court order is issued.
“We do not believe that it is for ISPs to decide what content customers should access,” a spokeswoman from UK ISP TalkTalk said. “It is really important that there is either a proper legal framework when it comes to blocking access to sites, just like with copyright infringement, or that it is down to customer choice.”
Similarly, BT also said blocking requests for gambling websites would need to be made in conjunction with a court order.
Due to this stance, the government may opt to fall back on existing measures to halt illegal gambling websites such as clamping down on illegal advertising.