UK Gambling Industry in the News — Weekly Round-up for October 26, 2018

Five New Rules From UK Gambling Commission

Program director says the goal is consumer protection

New rules from the Gambling Commission come into force from 31 October 2018,in the form of changes to the licence conditions and codes of practice that will provide stronger protection for consumers and ensure they are treated fairly by gambling businesses.

Ian Angus, program director for Consumer Protection and Empowerment, and Pradeep Rajania, Senior Manager for Consumer Policy at the Commission have released a video explaining the changes and how consumers will be better protected.

Hike In UK Online Gambling Tax Imminent

Chancellor of the Exchequer set to announce increase in remote gaming tax to replace slashed FOBT tax revenues

According to a Financial Times report over the weekend, Philip Hammond, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, is preparing to announce an increase in remote gaming duty on operators in his budget presentation later this month.

The move has been expected by the industry since government slashed the maximum staking levels of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in retail betting shops earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) and has been looking at other tax options to plug the hole in government tax receipts which the FOBT cuts will leave when implemented.

The FT reports that government aides expect the online tax increase to raise around GBP 1 billion over the next five years as government seeks to replace the GBP 400 million a year in tax receipts which came from FOBTs.

Hammond is expected to announce a range of revenue-raising measures on October 29, as he seeks to present a Budget that will pave the way for an end to years of austerity, according to the FT.

The gaming industry is expecting to see the remote gaming tax rate on GGR to go up from the current 15 percent to between 20 – 25 percent, the newspaper claims (FOBTs are presently taxed at 25 percent).)

The newspaper quotes an unnamed industry source, who said: “This means it’s a double whammy for UK operators because they’ll be hurt by the FOBT move and now this as well.”

The government brought in the remote gaming duty in 2014, insisting that any operator who took bets from UK-based customers had to be licensed by the Gambling Commission. At the time ministers expected to raise GBP 300 million a year, but the industry believes the figure is now about twice that sum.

End Of An Era As Will Hill Sells Off UK Racecourse Pitches

Sid Hooper believed to have paid around GBP 2 million for 82 on-course stalls

William Hill, for the first time in 80 years, will no longer hold a presence at racecourse pitches following the sale of 82 on-course stalls to Racecourse Pitches Ltd, aka independent bookie Sid Hooper.

William Hill said it will strengthen its focus on its 41 racecourse betting shops and digital channels.

While not confirmed, industry speculates the sale of the pitches was at a price tag of GBP 2 million.

Terry Pattingson, trading director for William Hill :

“With a William Hill betting shop now at 41 racecourses, we have reviewed whether our rails operation continues to make commercial sense.

“Our focus now is to provide on-course customers with a full retail experience on the racecourse, so it makes sense to move away from our rails operation, hence, we have agreed a sale with Racecourse Pitches Ltd. We wish them the best of luck with their new expanded operations.”

Sid Hooper’s managing director, John Hooper:

“We have been looking for expansion opportunities for some time and we are thrilled to have acquired the William Hill on-course portfolio of pitches.”

New Sky Chief Says Technology Can Help In Stemming Problem Gambling

Suggests there has been a change in moral responsibility from player to operator

Recently appointed CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming, Ian Proctor, discussed problem gambling in an interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post this week, acknowledging that operators have a moral responsibility to do everything possible to stem problem gambling following a shift in public and political perspectives that sees operators accepting more responsibility for player behaviour.

‘A few years ago, everybody who worked in the industry would have considered that it was up to the customer as an adult to make choices,” Proctor said. “That was the mantra. The shift has been to an almost paternalistic model where there is a moral obligation to think about affordability.

“This is not just about problem gambling. It goes further than that, because people can develop problems over time. We don’t want people to spend beyond their means.”

Proctor said that technology can play a significant role in combatting problem gambling, explaining that operators have access to a wealth of player data that can help analyse and understand spending patterns as a starting point.

Using this information intelligently and with care, punters could for example be provided with a daily, weekly or monthly profit-and-loss account.

Yorkshire-based Sky Betting and Gaming’s headcount has grown from 400 five years ago to 1,500, with an average age of 32 years, Proctor revealed. The company takes on an average of 40 new graduates every year and will continue to expand, Proctor said, noting that there was still room for expansion in the UK market.

UKGC Readies Implementation Of Tougher Licence And Code Of Practice Conditions

In Force from October 31, 2018

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has ramped up consumer protection rules, in force as of 31 October 2018.

The new requirements, which followed an open consultation, offer consumers stronger protection when dealing with gambling businesses.

Changes include fines imposed against operators who break advertising rules, operator responsibility for third-party advertising failings, quicker action for players in terms of consumer law, the requirement for improved complaints procedures and action against spam and unsolicited approaches.

The UKGC has released a video in which Ian Angus, programme director for consumer protection and empowerment and Pradeep Rajania, senior manager for consumer policy discuss the changes.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive said: “Protecting the interests of consumers is a priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators. These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that they can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean that firms have to deal with complaints more swiftly.”

Thirty Percent Rise In Calls Seeking Gambling Assistance

National Gambling Helpline reports 30 percent increase in calls for help over the past five years

Calls to the UK-wide National Gambling Helpline from people with a gambling problem have escalated 30 percent in the past five years, the organisation reported Tuesday, revealing that it took 29,889 calls in 2017-18, up from 22,875 in 2013-14.

Anna Hemmings, the chief executive of the National Gambling Helpline, said about two-thirds of calls were about financial problems while about 50 percent of callers were worried about their mental health.

Funding for the helpline comes in part from Gamble Aware, an independent national charity funded by donations from the gambling industry.

Hemmings urged anyone with a gambling problem to make contact as soon as possible.

“We can work very effectively and in quite a short space of time,” she said. “That will help reduce the impact on family and the impact of gambling-related harm more broadly.”

Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, told the BBC: “It is important that those struggling with gambling are able to access support when they need it.

“But a focus on preventing harm in the first place is equally important [and] that’s why we will continue to take actions to require gambling companies to spot those being harmed by gambling and step in to protect them.”

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We are cutting the maximum fixed odds betting terminal stake to £2 and introducing increased safeguards on online gambling.

“On top of that we have brought in tougher rules on betting adverts and ensured the betting industry funds a new multi-million pound responsible gambling campaign.”

Tiga Proposes Video Games Investment Fund

To UK Government

UK independent games developer trade association TIGA has called on the Government to introduce a Video Games Investment Fund (VGIF) in the 2018 Budget.

TIGA believes while the fund will enhance studios’ access to finance, it will also lead to increased development of original IP and encourage studio growth.

Under the proposal, the VGIF would make grants or loans of between GBP 75,000 and GBP 500,000 available to games businesses on a matched funding basis.

Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“Britain’s video games industry is a world leader, and it’s vital that it stays that way. TIGA’s proposal for a Games Investment Fund is something Labour is seriously considering as a way to boost innovation, investment and jobs in the sector. We need to make sure we sustain success in one of our most important creative industries.”

Chris Law MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Video Games in the Westminster Parliament, said:

“Establishing TIGA’s proposed Games Investment Fund would boost investment and employment and help to grow the video games industry in the all of the UK’s creative hotspots, including the Dundee and wider Scottish games development clusters.”

According to TIGA, return on investment of GBP 26.5 million over five years will represent good value for money and over the five years from 2019 to 2023, the VGIF would create over 2,700 indirect jobs, increase gross domestic product and contribute an additional GBP 197 million in tax revenues.”

Dr Richard Wilson OBE, TIGA CEO, said:

“A similar scheme in Finland operated by the agency Tekes has provided financial support to over one fifth of the entire Finnish games industry’s studio population. The programme has more than paid for itself: for every euro invested by Tekes in the games industry, a return ranging from nine to 26 euros has been generated.”