UK Gambling Market in the News — Weekly Round-up for March 23, 2018

Challenges Ahead For The UK Gambling Industry

Weekend BBC article looks at the online and land gambling scenario

The BBC published a comprehensive article on the UK gambling industry over the weekend, flagging contentious areas but revealing nothing especially new.

Highlights include:

  • Tougher stance of the UK regulator and government, with the regulator taking an increasingly strong enforcement role against operators and their affiliates who do not comply with licence conditions and regulations. The harder attitude will apply also to advertising, where the Commission will likely soon be able to fine operators on ASA contraventions;
  • Gambling industry as a whole contributes GBP 2.8 billion in taxes annually to UK government coffers.
  • Concerns about compulsive and problem gambling remain;
  • Major gambling firms with retail operations holding their breath awaiting the government’s decisions regarding Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, warning of the consequences for jobs and the fiscus if maximum batting limits are slashed too far down;
  • Continued shift to online gambling, with online operations in the UK now delivering GBP4.7 billion out of overall gambling industry revenues of GBP 13.7 billion;
  • Remote Gaming Association comments on the imminent introduction of GAMSTOP, the national self-exclusion scheme that will be mandatory for online operators, CEO Clive Hawkswood points to the use of behavioural analytics to identify potentially problem gamblers;
  • Gamble Aware would like to tighten restrictions on operators further, saying: “There is no limit to stakes and prizes, which we think is unacceptable. We’ve also called for a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling”;
  • Many online operators now include sponsorship of UK football and other sports teams in their marketing strategies;
  • At the start of April, new standards for gambling adverts come into effect. The Committee of Advertising Practice will ban adverts creating a “sense of urgency”, for example saying “Bet Now!”, or those that trivialise gambling – later this year more guidelines will be published focusing on protecting young people;
  • Consolidation in the industry likely to continue following the FOBT decision. Interviewees say the industry seeks certainty;
  • If the US sports market opens up following a positive decision in the US Supreme Court for New Jersey, the online sector of gambling could become even more international as US casino operators look to experienced UK companies for the latest in sports betting technologies;
  • The Remote Gambling Association says the industry’s image problem needs to be addressed.

Read the full article here: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43418099

Will Gambling Commission Recommend GBP 30 A Spin For Max F.O.B.T. Stake?

Speculation that the Commission is set to recommend to government that staking limits be kept at a viable level

UK media reports this morning speculate that today (March 19) will be the day that the UK Gambling Commission recommends that maximum stakes permissible on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting shops be reduced to GBP 30 or less…a massive cut from the present GBP 100, but significantly higher than action group and political demands for just GBP 2.

The Times newspaper reports that a move away from a GBP 2 maximum stake on FOBTs, would protect most of the nearly GBP 500 million of tax revenue that the machines raise each year. According to the Government’s own estimates, a GBP 2 cap could lead to a GBP 5.5 billion loss in tax revenues over the next 10 years.

Bookmakers have previously warned that a GBP 2 maximum stake would result in hundreds of betting shop closures and thousands of job losses, as well as a hit to the horse racing industry’s finances of GBP 290 million in lost media rights and levy by 2020.

The watchdog’s recommendation is important to the final outcome of the much-delayed government triennial review launched in October 2016, which will include the decision on FOBT stakes.

Reports indicate that the Commission will recommend tougher restrictions to temper the more reasonable GBP 30 proposed; these include a ban on allowing FOBT players to switch quickly between betting on high-stake and low-stake games every 20 seconds, and requirements for operators to track customers’ playing patterns on FOBTs.

The Commission reportedly also wants the government to improve player protections on FOBTs, including allowing customers to set time and loss limits, while they will also recommend that slots games, which account for one in every 200 bets on FOBTs, will be reduced to a maximum stake of GBP 2.

Meanwhile, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Labour MP Carolyn Harris and the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan have written to UK Chancellor Philip Hammond saying the case for reducing the maximum bet was “overwhelming”.

The Gambling Commission’s recommendation will be significant because as the Government’s statutory adviser, ministers will be expected to act on its guidance.

Gambling Commission Makes Recommendations on FOBTs (Update)

Earlier speculation confirmed as UK Gambling Commission proposes a mid-range GBP 30 ‘or less’ cut to maximum stakes

Speculative reports earlier Monday that the UK Gambling Commission would make its recommendations on gambling and FOBTs public were confirmed later in the morning, proving the earlier reports accurate.

The recommendation that FOBT maximum stakes be cut from GBP 100 to GBP 30 or less is being seen by most observers as a generally positive step for bookmakers, who feared that action group and political calls for a destructive cut to just GBP 2 are a possibility.

Shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral rose around 4 percent on the news, confirming these observations.

However, Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said:

“In our judgment, a stake cut for fixed odds betting terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people. That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers.

“We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.”

The opposition clearly was less than enthusiastic about the Commission’s recommendation, with a spokesperson for Fairer Gambling, which has been campaigning for a blanket reduction in all B2 stakes to GBP 2 taking the “or less” part of the GBP 30 recommendation as the salient point, saying:

“The Gambling Commission is giving the government free rein to determine an appropriate stake. We are confident that when the evidence has been reviewed, GBP 2 a spin will be considered the most appropriate level.”

The generally anti-gambling newspaper The Guardian reports that DCMS minister Matt Hancock remains open to the idea of a drastic cut to GBP 2, but is “facing pressure for a softer option from the Treasury”.

All parties continue to await the government’s final decision.