May 11, 2023 4 min read


VIXIO’s Joe Ewens: “The White Paper is the Latest Development in a Story of Tightening Regulation”

Joe Ewens is a senior gambling industry analyst with VIXIO. In this interview, he takes on the release of UK's Gambling White Paper and the long-delayed arrival of the seminal document

Joe explains how the proposed changes and following consultations could affect industry stakeholders and the reception among gambling reform campaigners. He argues that the bottled-up introduction of important changes, such as affordability checks, stake limits and a statutory levy, will result in increased costs for operators as they face sterner scrutiny and are urged to do more to protect at-risk players.

Q: What do you believe the player reception of the online slot stake limits (if they are introduced) will be, Joe? Will it channel players toward the black market, as some believe, or is it unlikely? Or will it depend on the exact cap?

Many of the larger operators in the market already voluntarily cap stake limits at £10, so if the consultation ends at a higher mark than that, the impact will be pretty minimal.

But the industry should be aware of the very real threat that stakes are decreased to their lowest possible limits, especially for those aged 18-25. The same reform campaigners that successfully pushed for £2 stake limits on FOBTs are still on the case.

Q: Many players play for VIP programs and bonuses. Therefore, restricting them might not be a good idea, as some have suggested. What is your opinion?

There has been a significant climb down in VIP schemes already, thanks in large part to pressure from the Gambling Commission over the past few years, which was unequivocal in its quest to eliminate them. If a desire for the most deluxe form of VIP treatment was what enticed players to gamble, they will already have left the regulated market.

Q: As you have already said, Joe, the white paper has left gambling advertising “almost untouched.” Do you reckon this is a good idea, considering how vocal activists have been when it comes to restricting ads?

While gambling reform campaigners appear reasonably happy with most of the proposed white paper changes, they are unlikely to take their foot off the gas and the continued presence of gambling advertising around football, in spite of the Premier League’s shirt sponsorship ban, stands out as a key area where we can expect to see lobbying pressure applied in the years to come.

The white paper predicts that the proposed changes might impact operators’ revenues and reduce their revenues by 3-8% (8-14% for online operators). Do you believe these numbers are exaggerated? Or are they understated?

The reasoning the government has given seems sound. I would say that Flutter and Entain’s guidance for the UK revenue drags in 2024 would suggest that the impact the DCMS had guided towards is a little high.

As they’ve acknowledged, the impact of the cap on online slot stakes will be heavily dependent on the level at which it is set. The worst-case scenario of a £2 staking limit would result in a greater impact than 14 per cent (at the top end of the range they’ve modelled at the £8.50 midpoint).

Q: What do you think, overall, about the changes outlined in the white paper? Will they change British gambling for better or for worse?

The release of the white paper might seem like a step change for UK gambling, but the reality is that all of the planned changes are just the latest developments in a story of tightening regulation over the past few years – simply bottled up by the long delay in its release, rather than being drip-fed to the industry as they had been previously. Affordability, stake limits and a statutory levy have all been under discussion for a long time, as has a gambling ombudsman.

The added compliance burden will cost operators money. Whether it also serves to protect a meaningful contingent of players from gambling harms they would otherwise have suffered is a question that can only be conclusively answered by thorough research. But there’s little doubt that pressure will continue to build so long as enforcement cases showing egregious losses and a lack of care for at-risk players continue to be published.


Stoyan holds over 8 years of esports and gambling writing experience under his belt and is specifically knowledgeable about developments within the online scene. He is a great asset to the team with his niche expertise and continual focus on providing our readers with articles that have a unique spin which differentiates us from the rest.

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