Excitement, caution and trepidation are gripping the UK gambling industry as operators attempt to predict the impacts of the ongoing Gambling Act review.
Wes Himes, the executive director of standards and innovation at the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which is an industry body, warns that the possible impacts of the review on some areas, such as financial risk checks, are “very hard to determine”.
“It's quite daunting what the impact might be,” he said, adding that an impact assessment by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that predicts only 0.3 percent of people will have to undergo advanced financial risk checks is “very hypothetical”.
“In my view, it is likely that the number will be much higher. But it won’t be proven until we get to the end of this journey,” Himes said during a panel discussion at Regulating the Game conference in London on Wednesday (September 27).
Antony Gevisser, the senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for Super Group (SGHC), said: “We are all worried for a variety of reasons.
“I think there are worrying signs that whatever the government and regulator are proposing, that will be very expensive for the industry.
“They aren't listening to operators or interested in how much it will cost or impact margins. If you can't run a business effectively then the Gambling Commission has scored an own goal and will ultimately be hoisted by its own petard,” Gevisser said.
Gevisser fears that “no one talks about the black market”, which he says is “gigantic”.
He added that the online industry will “not get much out of this [process] at all” in its current form other than “perhaps a reputational enhancement”.
Steve Ketteley, a partner at Wiggin, said: “We have no idea whether or not we got the balance right yet, we have only just embarked on the consultation process.”
Ketteley questioned whether the Gambling Commission has the same aims as the government in terms of what the white paper will achieve.
However, one area where Ketteley has major concerns is the possible introduction of mandatory deposit limits. He called them “far too interventionist”.
The lawyer called on the gambling industry to “get on top” of it, warning that if such limits are introduced, then the industry “will see a rampant move to the black market.”
“The Gambling Commission needs to do its work to understand the impact of their changes. I am not sure with their first attempt that they have done that,” Ketteley said.
Taking a very different stance from the rest of the panel, Jon Duffy, the senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Genting Casinos UK, said the Gambling Commission and DCMS have been “first class” because “they have listened to us”.
Duffy did wonder whether he had become a “beaten dog” and “not set sights high enough”, but ultimately he believes there has been a “notable improvement” in the Gambling Commission regarding engagement with the land-based industry.
“If you are not from England, [you may] not be aware that at present casinos [are] set to 20 slots … that will increase to 80. It might not sound like a lot but is a material difference to land-based operators,” Duffy said of one benefit from the review.
However, even the land-based sector, which is widely expected to benefit more from the changes than the online sector, has concerns with incoming financial risk checks.
“My fear is, particularly in our London casinos, that over 90 percent of our customers are from overseas and none of them will have a UK credit file”, meaning that “checks won't be frictionless,” Duffy said.
Duffy's comments come as reports emerge that Genting's Crockfords Casino in London could close, partly the result of a Brexit tourist tax that scrapped VAT-free shopping for tourists in 2021.