The UK’s gambling white paper, the government’s most extensive reforms for the industry in almost two decades, arrived on Thursday after several delays. There was some surprisingly good news for the industry and some expected disappointments, and insiders have been voicing their opinion over the new regulations.
One of the biggest concerns in the white paper is the proposed measure of online gaming affordability checks. This could make it difficult for operators to offer a seamless gaming experience, although the mechanics of how these checks will work still needs to be discussed.
The maximum stake proposals – possibly reducing the cap to £2 (US$2.50) – are also likely to impact operators’ revenue. However, they won’t be an excuse to lower contributions to responsible gambling programs, as operators will have to start paying a mandatory levy of 1% following approval of the reforms.
Overall, operators and other industry insiders seem pleased with the reforms. This doesn’t mean, however, that they’re not preparing for dynamic market changes.
Flutter, Entain Ready To Reduce Expectations
Flutter CEO Peter Jackson said the company is glad to see the white paper finally arrive, calling it a “significant moment for the UK gambling sector” in a statement. He added that the team is still scrutinizing the reforms, but that “proactive change will lead to a better future” for the industry.
At the same time, though, Jackson admits that gross gaming revenue is going to be cut significantly by the reforms. He said Flutter’s “best view” is that “gross incremental revenue” could suffer losses of £50-100 million (US$62.3-$124.6 million).
These would become part of a financial hit that already began with the previous introduction of restrictions on the market. As a result, Flutter believes the cumulative revenue impact could be as much as £250 million (US$311.5 million). The company has some time to prepare, since the blow won’t be felt until next year at the earliest, according to Jackson.
Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen offered a similar take on the proposed measures. She is happy the government is finally providing clarity on the reforms, but hinted at ensuring changes are based on objective consideration of the facts, not whims.
She explained, “We look forward to working with the government and the Gambling Commission on evidenced-based consultations and implementation of the proposals outlined today.”
Gaming Affiliates Offer Their Take
Affiliates have weighed in, as well. Better Collective echoed the “welcome” arrival of the white paper and suggested that it doesn’t anticipate a negative financial impact from the reforms.
EasyOdds CEO David da Silva feels the current player protections were enough and that the new rules could push more consumers to black market gaming. This is a concern that other industry insiders have raised, as well.
Duncan Garvie, the founder of the BetBlocker gambling charity and an expert on affiliate activity, said the reforms are mostly positive. However, he cautioned that poor implementation could affect the “sustainability of the gambling marketing in the UK.”
Garvie also wrote an insightful piece on the importance of the new ombudsman program described in the white paper. This, he believes, could be the single-most important reform the government introduced.
Not The Final Word
The white paper demonstrates the UK government’s resolve to update the gambling industry, but the proposals are just the first step. As operators and other relevant entities review the reforms, there will be questions and concerns that have to be addressed.
The Betting & Gaming Council worked closely with the government to help shape the rules, but still needs to review “the full detail and impacts” of the proposals. Its initial response to the white paper was favorable and CEO Michael Dugher expressed his satisfaction with the dismissal of overbearing suggestions from “anti-gambling prohibitionists.”
Betting and gaming is popular, contrary to misconceptions, the numbers of people betting are stable and not increasing, problem gambling rates are stable and low, and our members are a genuine British business success story, ploughing billions into the economy,” said Betting & Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher.
The BGC and operators will now continue to work with the government to polish the reforms. Joining them will be the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which expressed some concerns over the affordability checks.
As described in the white paper, these checks will be “frictionless,” but there’s no mention of how this will be accomplished. The BHA reiterated this in a statement, adding that its bettors might be “more impacted than the average.” The Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that the checks will only affect as much as 3% of bettors.
The industry must now come together and help the UK put the final touches on the reforms. The goal is to have most of the proposals in place before the end of this summer, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to act.
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