UK Gambling Industry in the News — Weekly Round-up for December 07, 2018

By Brian Cullingworth, Last updated Dec 7, 2018

Million Sterling Online Gambling Bill Run Up By Brit C.F.O.

Could this trigger more major Gambling Commission fines?

The UK Gambling Commission‘s significantly tougher stance on responsible gambling behaviour from operators (see previous InfoPowa reports) could see more online gambling companies in its sights following a case this week in which a 36-year-old chief financial officer of a Norwich company admitted embezzling GBP 1 million to fund an out-of-control gambling problem.

Steve Girling, a married man with two children, stole the money over three years to fund his excessive gambling at online sites, which treated him as a VIP client rather than raising warning flags on his high rolling behaviour.

Those same companies may now be reviewing their systems and perhaps nervously eyeing the possibility that the Commission could come a-knocking.

Girling has been cooperating with GambleAware and the Commission as part of his recovery, trying to atone for his illegal activity by helping to combat problem gambling.

From March 2014 to October 2017 he transferred cash from his employer’s accounts to his own – subsequently blowing it on online slot machines. He admits to splurging as much as GBP 18,000 in evening sessions to escape the stress and realities of life, and was treated to VIP gambling trips to Dubai, Ascot and Cheltenham by the operators of the sites he used.

“I turned to gambling because I liked the fact I could do it on my phone on my own and it was my way of shutting myself away from my everyday life and my worries,” he told the Norwich court. “I would play GBP 100 spins on slot machines that you can spin every few seconds,” he said.

It all overwhelmed him late in 2017, when he resigned his post and confessed to his wife. His employer and the police conducted an investigation with which he cooperated.

Girling now awaits sentencing in January next year, but in the meantime has had to sell his car and use his life savings to repay some of the stolen money. He will likely also have to put his home on the market.

Agreement In Principle Reached On U.K. Sports Betting Ban?

But Remote Gambling Association says full agreement is yet to be achieved

Thursday saw widespread print and electronic media reports in the UK claiming that major UK sports betting companies have agreed to a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on advertising during live sports broadcasts in an effort to address concerns around “normalising” gambling and its impact on children.

The news was greeted by single digit declines in the share prices of major gambling companies, but the Remote Gambling Association said agreement has not been finalised although discussions have taken place.

Several reports with timelines around 11pm Thursday night deepened the confusion by continuing to report that agreement has been reached on the voluntary ban, which has reportedly been backed by top companies like Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes, based on proposals by the RGA.

Some reports claimed that the agreement will be finalised next week when five major gambling trade associations have concluded discussions, and that implementation will follow with the following six months.

The five associations include the RGA, National Casino Forum, Association of British Bookmakers, Bingo Association and the amusement arcade body Bacta.

The whistle-to-whistle ban, which excludes horse racing, will likely be respected even by companies that do not agree with it, according to analysts, who suggest that : “It would be a very brave company that would stick its head above the parapet in isolation.”

High level media sources said that sports gambling advertising in the UK was worth around GBP 200 million to broadcasters last year,

Stella Dalton, the RGA’s regulatory affairs manager, said Thursday: “The Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising is reviewed annually, and several options are currently being considered as the basis for possible enhancements in 2019. However, nothing has yet been finalised.”

Online Again Drives Growth In UK Gambling

Overall y-o-y rise in revenues of 4.2 percent takes the industry to GBP 14.4 billion for the 12 months ended March 31

Online gambling again proved an important driver in revenue growth in the UK gambling industry, according to Gambling Commission statistics released this week which showcase an overall y-o-y rise in revenues of 4.2 percent to GBP 14.4 billion for the 12 months ended March 31, with a 37 percent contribution to growth from the online sector, where revenues grew 12.8 percent y-o-y to GBP 5.3 billion.

  • The casino vertical commanded a 54.6 percent market share at GBP 29 billion; Land-based casinos saw total yield rise 2.4 percent to GBP 1.2 billion across 152 casinos in England, Scotland and Wales. Rank Group and Genting UK, operating 72 percent of all venues;
  • American roulette was the most popular bricks-and-mortar game, accounting for 34.7 percent of casino GGY, followed by Punto Banco, a variant of baccarat, with a 24.9 percent share and electronic gaming, which accounted for 17.4 percent;
  • Fixed odds betting generated yield of GBP 2.1 billion, or 38.7 percent of the total;
  • The three remaining verticals – bingo, exchange betting and pool betting – made contributions of GBP164.8 million, GBP 160.1 million and GBP 28.7 million respectively;
  • Within the casino vertical slots generated GGY of GBP 2 billion, followed by table games yield of GBP 311.1 million;
  • Football dominated sports betting with GGY of GBP 1 billion, followed by GBP 610 million from betting on horse racing;
  • Online punter numbers grew strongly over the 12-month period, with active customer accounts rising 12.9 percent year-on-year to 33.6 million, and new account registrations up 14.4 percet at 35.4 million

Retail betting shops and land casinos delivered the second-largest GGY, despite a 4.1 prcent decline to GBP 3.3 billion. Betting shops accounted for GBP 3.1 million of the total, whilst gaming machines contributed GBP 1.8 billion, with FOBTs bringing in 96.1 percent; an area that faces decline with the forthcoming implementation of a GBP 2 maximum stake level;

  • Total shop numbers fell 1.8 percent to 8,406, with the industry warning of further closures resulting from the FOBT stake reduction. GVC Group-owned shops dominate the market, with 40.3 percent of shops operated under its Ladbrokes or Coral brands, William Hill follows on 27.1 percent;
  • The National Lottery delivered GBP 3 billion of total market GGY, paying out GBP 3.9 billion in prizes over the 12 months, and contributing GBP 1.5 billion to good causes;
  • Land-based bingo GGY rose a marginal 0.2 percent to GBP 688.3 million, while lotteries other than the National Lottery saw yield rise 13.7 percent to GBP 502.9 million.
  • 1.4 million customers self-excluded over the 12 months, with 121,163 breaching their self-exclusion, and a further 78,005 resumed gambling after a period of exclusion.
  • A further 88,971 individuals gambled without being able to verify their age. Online accounted for 72,033 of these incidents.
Brian Cullingworth

Infopowa news was a staple of Casinomeister’s news from 2000 until 2019. Brian Cullingworth was the main writer, contributor, and was one of the most knowledgeable persons I have ever known involved in the online casino industry.

We first met in January 2001 at the ICE in London where I observed him going booth to booth interviewing online casino, software, and licensing jurisdiction representatives. Brian was also heavily involved with our forum as “Jetset“, he was involved as an informal consultant to eCOGRA, the OPA, and was a player advocate who assisted countless aggrieved players with his connections to industry folks. He also published “Casino Cautions” via Infopowa news for quite a number of years. These can be found in our news archives.

His passing in February 2019 was a dark day for us. He will be forever missed.

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