UK Report Would Cost Online Gambling, Boost Casinos, Bingo Halls

April 28, 2023
The UK government estimates that online gambling will lose revenue based on key recommendations in its white paper, but the land-based industry should make gains.


The UK government estimates that online gambling will lose revenue based on key recommendations in its white paper, but the land-based industry should make gains.

The long-awaited report contains 268 pages of recommendations on affordability checks, slots stakes, a consumer ombudsman, advertising and UK Gambling Commission oversight, with many details left to upcoming consultations.

It also makes estimates on the economic impact of all potential changes, some of which would be enacted by the Gambling Commission and others through legislation.

Overall gross gambling yield (GGY) could drop between 3 and 8 percent, according to the policy paper.

Online GGY could drop between 8 percent and 14 percent, a decline that may be partly offset by gains of 2 percent to 5 percent for the land-based industry, the department said.

The differing impacts were reflected in the stock market yesterday, where shares of the casino and bingo hall operator Rank Group rose 10.3 percent, while shares of the Ladbrokes and Coral parent Entain fell 0.8 percent and Flutter Entertainment rose 0.6 percent.

For example, projected online risk checks could cost the online industry between £380m and £710m, the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

If online slots staking limits were set at £8.50, the midpoint of recommendations, that could cost £135m to £185m, the report said.

The government said it expects to impose a statutory levy on the industry for gambling addiction treatment and research, but it will hold consultations on the details.

Anyone losing more than £125 in a month or £500 in a year is eligible for what the report calls “light touch” checks, for bankruptcy filings or county court judgements, while a gambler losing £1,000 a day or £2,000 in 90 days would get detailed financial checks.

The report claims 80 percent of checks could be done by credit reference agencies, with only 10 percent of “disagreeable checks” necessary, including the likes of demanding pay stubs or bank statements.

Slot stakes will be set between £2 and £15, with players aged 18 to 24 likely to get the most restricted stakes.

Adding sports betting to land-based casinos would increase GGY by £700,000 to £7m overall, and adding more gaming machines could add £25m to £65m, according to the department.

The 137 current casinos today that are limited to only 20 slot machines by a 1968 law would be able to raise their capacity to as much as 80.

Relaxing high-end casino credit restrictions could add £60m to £115m, according to the report.

Flutter Entertainment said changes it has made in advance of the report have already cost it £150m in annual revenue, and the measures proposed in the white paper yesterday could add an additional £50m to £100m in costs.

The impact is likely to come some time in 2024, the company said.

But impact could have been worse, as the company imposed a voluntary £10 limit per slots spin in 2021, and it has already addressed affordability concerns with “a well-developed and extensive player protection framework that identifies various at-risk player behaviours through a range of markers of risk”.

The company’s brands include Paddy Power, Betfair, SkyBet and Tombola.

Entain said it expects “no material change” to its expectations for this year, and an impact of less than 1 percent of group net gaming revenue in 2024.

The Ladbrokes and Coral parent company said it has already been making “soft checks” on players from as low as £100 in spending, and has already introduced personalised staking limits for online slots.

Rank Group said the “vast majority” of its 50 casinos will benefit from adding gaming machines and it welcomed the addition of sports betting to casinos, plus a review of payment options.

The company said it expected changes to be overall positive for the group, with land-based casino changes offsetting the impact of stake limits online, plus a statutory levy. It will supply details later.

Both Entain and Flutter are among a handful of UK gambling companies that have pledged 1 percent of revenue toward gambling addiction treatment, at least through 2024.

Flutter said it has so far contributed £18m this year.

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