Gambling Shares Drop Amid Mention of Potential £2 Limit on Online Games

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Shares in gambling companies in the United Kingdom have come a-tumbling after the UK Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur, acknowledged that the Commission could take an interest in reviewing the maximum allowable bets on online slots, scaling them down to £2.

Mr. McArthur spoke to a cross-parliamentary group of MPs (APPG) overseeing gambling and specifically any harm stemming from gambling activities. Even suggesting a revision of the maximum allowable stake, presently at £100, down to £2, has caused mini-panic prompting bookmakers and online casino firms to begin selling off.

William Hill’s own stock came down 8%, the Guardian reported, and GVC’s Ladbrokes Coral registered 7% dive together with Playtech. Flutter Entertainment and 888 Casino managed to weather the storm best, with their stock taking smaller hits.

Yet, the UKGC, the main entity to face criticism from lawmakers, has been going above and beyond to ensure the safety of gambling in the UK. Not least of all, the Commission issued a ban on credit cards as a payment method with casinos and gambling companies.

Why the Panic?

Mr. McArthur and the UKGC have never acted out on a whim nor do they seek to clamp down on the gambling industry as a whole. However, in recent months the Commission has been stepping its efforts to streamline the regulatory process to the point there is no room for subjective interpretation.

KYC and AML prerequisites have been optimized so as of 2020, casinos need to verify a player’s identity within 24 hours and not allow any gambler to make a bet before their full legal name, address, and date of birth have been verified.

Before enforcing the new rule, the Commission had allowed for a 72-window for casino and sports betting companies to carry out the necessary checks, but this has changed. Maximum stakes have already been reduced for the so-called fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which have prompted a mass scare across the UK market.

Furthermore, the Commission is facing criticism that it hasn’t been doing its job well enough, and as a result, players have suffered. Those allegations have been dismissed by Mr. McArthur who has pointed out that lawmakers have been going over the Commission’s head and drawn conclusions that weren’t verified with official UKGC data.

Will Online Games Betting Limits Be Affected?

Commenting on online slot betting limits specifically, a UKGC spokesperson had this to say:

“We said last October that we would be looking at online stake limits as part of our ongoing work to reduce the risks of gambling-related harm.

This work is in addition to us focusing on VIP practices, advertising technology and game design. We will publish our assessment and next steps for online stakes and further protections later this year.”

Lawmakers, and particularly the all-party parliamentary group on gambling, have been clamoring for “stricter measures” and slashing the current stake size for online games drawing parallels with FOBTs. In November 2019, media reported on a set of measures designed to bite into the profit of the industry, possibly generating £2 billion in loss of value.

On this particular occasion, shares fell by £1.2 billion. Presently, the government and lawmakers are preparing to revise the Gambling Act 2005 and amend it in a way that reflects the present situation in terms of consumer habits, gambling products and media of distribution.  

The Commission has been in the habit of issuing stiff penalties to companies which it has perceived as having failed to meet regulatory standards, issuing some £14 million in penalties in 2018 to three companies alone.

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