Industry giants react to UK government’s gambling white paper
From supportive statements to critical comments, the responses to the white paper have been vivid and varied. iGaming NEXT has collected some of the most noteworthy below.
Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Paddy Power, Betfair and Sky Bet, was among the first to react to the white paper.
The company said it had already lost £150m in annual revenue from its UK business in response to the proposed measures by pre-emptively introducing safer gambling restrictions, with a further £50m-£100m hit likely to be felt sometime in 2024.
Flutter also welcomed the review of the UK’s gambling regulations and said it was necessary for raising industry standards and prioritising responsible play.
Flutter CEO Peter Jackson urged the regulator to tackle the growing number of unlicensed and unregulated gambling companies targeting at-risk gamblers.
“It is important to get new regulation right from the start, as it will ultimately provide the certainty our industry needs to continue investing in jobs and in further growing the UK’s lead in digital innovation in our rapidly evolving market,” he added.
The company said it has already taken steps to introduce player protection measures and, along with Entain, Bet365 and 888, pays a voluntary levy of 1% of its annual gross gaming revenue for research, education and treatment.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Jackson said he hoped the funds generated from the industry’s contributions would continue to be used for research, treatment and education around addiction, rather than for campaigning to stop gambling completely.
He argues that campaigners have had ample opportunity to make their case over the past two years, and it is crucial to avoid repeating those arguments.
However, Will Prochaska, strategy director of Gambling with Lives, which does not receive funding from voluntary contributions, insists Jackson is trying to influence how the money is spent in future.
Meanwhile, Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Coral, stressed that it too had already implemented several player protection measures, such as the introduction of affordability checks on customers from as low as £100 and the termination of its UK VIP scheme in 2020.
Entain expects the proposals outlined in the white paper, materially mitigated by the proactive actions it has already taken, to have an impact of less than 1% on group online net gaming revenue in financial year 2024.
Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen commented: “The UK Gambling Act Review is an important step towards having a robust regulatory framework that is fit for the digital age and creates a level playing field for all operators.
“We are firmly in favour of regulation that preserves the market for the vast majority of customers who enjoy recreational betting and gaming, while also ensuring appropriate protection to all players,” she added.
Alun Bowden, senior consultant at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, wrote in his blog The State of Online Gambling that the white paper “is more the end of the beginning than the beginning of the end for the UK online gambling sector”.
Bowden also disputed reports that major operators have already made necessary changes. “This is just patently not true,” he said and emphasised that there is still much to be decided upon.
“There are a dozen headline consultations and quite a few smaller ones and there are around 60 projects for the Gambling Commission to work on as a result of the white paper.
“All of this is intended to be completed before the 2024 general election and most of the consultations are set to run concurrently during summer 2023.
“You don’t need to be a natural born pessimist to think this is unlikely to generate optimal outcomes for anyone,” he added.Bowden also said that “the most extraordinary aspect” is how advertising and marketing effectively gets a total wave through, with no new limitations being proposed.
Dan Waugh, partner at advisory firm Regulus Partners, shared his analysis on GB News UK.
He gave the white paper an eight out of 10.
However, he said the most worrying element is that given the large number of consultations, the bulk of the work will need to be implemented by the regulator (which has a poor track record in his opinion) and outside of parliamentary scrutiny.
Numis director Richard Stuber agreed with Waugh and also pointed to the 260-page report and the fact that most of the proposed measures will require a further consultation in the summer.
However, Stuber noted that the announcement is not hugely price-sensitive, with the exception of the Rank Group, which is likely to see material earnings upgrades given that it generates the majority of its revenue from land-based venues.
Rank Group CEO John O’Reilly stated that while their UK digital business will be impacted by new regulations, their land-based operations will benefit from the proposed changes.
O’Reilly believes that swift implementation of these regulatory changes is crucial for the land-based sector to meet the needs of today’s consumers and uphold their commitment to safer gambling.
Matt Gaskell, head of the NHS Northern Gambling Service, disagreed with the proposed measures and argued they will not do enough to prevent harm caused by addictive products.
Writing in the Guardian, he said that evidence of harm has been submitted to the government.
Gaskell believes the threshold for affordability checks (after £1,000 is lost in 24 hours) is too high and suggests this figure should be lower.
He also advocated for a ban on all gambling advertising and stake limits of £2 per spin on online slots.
Neil Banbury, Kindred’s general manager for the UK, shared his interview with Sky News on LinkedIn.
During the interview, he stressed that the most important thing is that the money raised as a result of the new statutory levy goes to fund charities that “are already doing very valuable work”, and also that it funds truly independent and evidence-led research.
However, he avoided answering questions about how much Kindred spent on lobbying ahead of the publication of the white paper publication.
Betting and Gaming Council
Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council trade body, stated that the BCG needs time to consider the full detail and impact of the proposals.
However, he also said that now is the time to look forward.
“This white paper is a once in a generation moment for change and its publication must draw a line under the lengthy and often polarised debates on gambling,” said Dugher.“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.
“The focus should now be on continuing to drive higher standards, while investing in jobs and businesses in the UK’s world-leading regulated industry,” Dugher concluded.