The UK government will introduce a £2 stake limit for 18- to 24-year-olds playing online slots, alongside a £5 stake limit for adults aged 25 and over.

The decision follows a 10-week consultation period, during which the majority of respondents supported the proposal outlined in the gambling white paper

The aim is to reduce the risk of gambling harm associated with online slot games, including the potential of large losses, extended play sessions, and binge playing. 

Unlike land-based gaming machines in the UK, online slots currently have no statutory stake limits.

The limits will come into force in September. 

Operators will have a six-week transition period to comply with the general £5 stake limit rules, followed by an additional six weeks to develop any necessary technical solutions to ensure full compliance with the lower £2 stake limit for young adults aged 18 to 24.

Higher problem gambling rate

The government said the lower stake limit for young adults, set at £2 per spin, reflects the age group’s higher average problem gambling score compared to other demographics. 

Factors such as lower disposable income, ongoing neurological development affecting risk perception, and common life stage challenges like managing money for the first time all contribute to their vulnerability. 

Evidence also suggests a stronger correlation between gambling-related harm and suicide among young adults.

Gambling minister Stuart Andrew (pictured) said: “Although millions of people gamble safely every single day, the evidence shows that there is a significantly higher problem gambling rate for online slot games.

“We also know that young adults can be more vulnerable when it comes to gambling related harms, which is why we committed to addressing both of these issues in our white paper.

“The growing popularity of online gambling is clear to see, so this announcement will level the playing field with the land-based sector and is the next step in a host of measures being introduced this year that will protect people from gambling harms,” he added. 

A concerning trend

GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond praised the government’s move as a crucial step in protecting young people from the harms of online gambling.

“Our research shows a concerning trend with this age group experiencing an increase in harm arising from gambling and online slots are very high-risk products.

“As we continue our work to tackle this growing public health issue, we will collaborate with the government and others across the gambling harms sector to ensure there are no missed opportunities when it comes to the introduction of robust preventative measures, including new regulations such as these,” she said. 

The stake limits represent just some of the proposals outlined in the government’s white paper to modernise the gambling sector. 

Other proposals include the introduction of a statutory levy for research, prevention and treatment, as well as the much-discussed affordability checks

The government said responses to the wider white paper measures will be published soon.

The UK government has responded to a petition calling for it to abandon plans to implement so-called ‘affordability checks’ for gambling customers.

The petition, launched on 1 November, has more than 86,000 signatures at the time of writing. 

The government is obliged to respond to any petition which exceeds 10,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures, the petition must be legally considered for a debate in parliament.

DCMS response

In its written response to the petition, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) reiterated several previously argued points around the frictionless nature of the proposed checks.

“We are committed to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks, to protect those at risk of harm without overregulating,” it said.

Both the government and the Gambling Commission (UKGC) recognise concerns over the checks, it added. 

The government and UKGC agree that the new system “should not unduly disrupt the millions of people who gamble without suffering harm, and should not cause unnecessary damage to sectors which rely on betting, in particular horseracing,” it said.

DCMS also suggested that the proposals will represent a “significant improvement” for businesses and customers alike when compared to the current situation.

At present, it argued, operators are applying “inconsistent” affordability checks on customers, often without clearly explaining why, and requiring customers to provide data to them manually.

The government has “challenged operators to be more transparent with customers in the interim,” it said, but the industry will benefit from the introduction of clearly defined rules by which all operators must abide.

Further, the proposed system will allow financial data to be “shared seamlessly with operators instead of burdening customers with information requests,” it added.

It also insisted that the government and UKGC will not mandate the proposed checks “until we are sure that they will be frictionless” for the vast majority of customers checked.

Horseracing support

In its response, DCMS also pointed to the “important link between betting and horseracing” raised by the petition.

The government recognises the “enormous value of horseracing,” it said, both as a spectator sport and through its contribution to the UK economy.

It pointed to previously published estimates from the Gambling Act review white paper, which suggested financial risk checks would reduce online horseracing betting yield by between 6% and 11%.

That, in turn, would reduce the income of the racing industry by between £8.4m and £14.9m annually, it said, or around 0.5%-1% of its total income.

The drop in income would come about via a reduction in levy, media rights and sponsorship returns, it said, but the government is “working with racing and refining that estimate”.

It has also “commenced a review of the Horserace Betting Levy to ensure a suitable return to the sport for the future,” it added.

Both the government and UKGC continue to work with the industry to ensure checks can be implemented in an effective but proportionate way, the response said.

They are also “exploring the role of pilots or phased implementation to help ensure this.”

The UKGC is expected to set out more detailed plans related to the checks in due course.

Kindred Group has published a summary of its responses to the UK government’s public consultations on its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

After publishing its white paper on the review earlier this year, the government and Gambling Commission (UKGC) invited stakeholders across the sector to provide responses to the new policy proposals.

In an article published today (1 November), Kindred head of corporate affairs Tom Banks set out the operator’s response to several of the review’s key topics.

Financial risk checks

Among the most controversial government proposals set out in the white paper was the introduction of financial risk or vulnerability checks, designed to prevent customers from gambling with more than they can afford.

Kindred said it was supportive of the proposal generally, but “only where a truly frictionless check was possible in reality, piloted by operators and tested extensively before rolling out via a licence requirement.”

The operator fully believes in using technology to keep players safe, it added, and believes the introduction of financial risk checks is a natural progression from the framework it currently has in place across its UK business.

“However, we believe further work is needed on the nature of the frictionless check itself, so we supported the testing of the check before implementation as a licence requirement,” it said. 

“A pilot of this technology is critical to its future success – operators have the experience and systems in place to understand whether it will work in reality, and crucially if it meets the government’s ambition as genuinely targeted and frictionless for players.”

Kindred suggested the checks should be technologically driven and therefore “strongly disagreed” with a proposal for operators to manually review all checks, as this would be “impractical and unreasonable.”

Further, the operator disagreed with proposals requiring operators to acquire postcode and job title data from customers, which it suggested is “not helpful when assessing affordability” and would add unnecessary friction to the customer journey.

Direct marketing opt-in

Another proposal put forward in the white paper would require operators to obtain all customers’ consent in order to share direct marketing and promotional offers with them.

Again, Kindred expressed its support for the proposal in general but with some caveats.

The operator supports the introduction of a ‘by channel’ opt-in system where customers can choose through which communication channels they wish to receive direct marketing.

However, it said, the company strongly disagreed with a requirement which would oblige operators to seek ‘re-approval’ from those customers already opted in to direct marketing.

“Our current customers have already consented to receiving marketing communications across channels and for specific products – under law that is applicable at the time they gave consent – and should therefore not be in scope for this proposal,” it said.

Rather, a requirement for the operator to opt-out all of its existing customers and asking them to opt back in “would be going above and beyond the scope of the white paper,” it said.

“If any new requirement stops us from being able to contact these customers overnight, we will have a significant impact on our ability to communicate with them going forward (despite them having previously consented to receive communications from us) and it may impact the more sporadic and infrequent customers,” it concluded.

Online slot stake limits

The government also asked for feedback on its proposal to introduce stake limits to online slots of between £2 and £15, with the possibility of introducing a lower limit for customers aged under 25.

“We were supportive in principle of the overarching ambition to ensure online slots are safe – and made the point that on our platforms, we already integrate measures such as lower limits for 18-24 year olds and lower affordability players on a dynamic basis,” Kindred said in response.

However, it added that it believes stake limits should be based on risk and not “blanket numbers,” as any limit agreed upon will not be followed by operators in the unlicensed market.

“This impact is acknowledged in the white paper, but further consideration should be given to the knock-on effect of a slot limit that is too low in relation to player shifts to the unregulated market,” it concluded.

Consultations on the above matters have now closed, and stakeholders across the industry await feedback on their responses from the UKGC and government.

The UK government has set out proposals for a statutory levy on the gambling sector to help fund the research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction.

The proposal was revealed today (17 October) by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and will be open for public consultation over the next eight weeks.

Under the plans, online gambling operators would be required to contribute 1% of their annual gross gambling yield (GGY), while land-based operators facing higher fixed costs would be required to contribute a lower rate of around 0.4%.

Existing voluntary levy

At present the research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction is funded by a voluntary levy paid by UK licensees.

As a result of its voluntary nature, the government said some operators currently pay “as little as £1” towards the cause.

“The government is therefore acting to ensure all operators contribute their fair share,” it added.

Gambling companies have previously been accused of making “insulting” contributions of just a few hundred or few thousand pounds to industry-funded addiction charity GambleAware, which received a total of £34.7m via the voluntary levy in 2021/22.

Under the new proposal, the government suggested a statutory levy could provide as much as £100m annually in new funding.

In addition, the proposal would also see the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) become the main commissioner of gambling-related treatment.

Therefore, “the gambling industry will no longer have a say over how money for research, prevention and treatment is spent,” the government said.

Government commentary

“The introduction of this levy will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to gamble safely,” said Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer (pictured).

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew added: “This consultation brings us a step closer to being able to provide £100m of new funding for research, prevention and treatment, including ring fenced investment for the NHS to help gambling addicts.

“Gambling firms should always pay their fair share and this new statutory levy will ensure that they are legally required to do just that.”

Meanwhile, national clinical adviser for gambling harms Henrietta Bowden-Jones welcomed the proposal, which she said would allow the sector “to continue our work of eradicating all gambling harms from society.”

Claire Murdoch, mental health director for the NHS, concluded: “It is only right that this billion-pound industry steps up to support people suffering from gambling addiction and I am pleased that action is being taken to prevent people from coming to harm in the first place.”

Industry response

The proposal has been welcomed by trade association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which said it had already proposed the introduction of a mandatory levy to the government before the publication of the Gambling Act review.

It called, however, for the National Lottery to be included in the proposal, “who are not immune to having problem gamblers gamble with their products like scratch cards and instant win games.”

Finally, it added that the levy “must be applied on a sliding scale, with smaller percentage contributions from land-based operators,” and that there must be “adequate oversight to ensure levy funds are only distributed to charities and organisations delivering genuine research, education and treatment services to ensure long-term, sustainable funding.”

The government has called for further responses from industry stakeholders, clinicians, practitioners, academics, those with experience of harmful gambling and the wider public on its proposal.

Gambling Commission (UKGC) CEO Andrew Rhodes has criticised the Racing Post for “imbalanced” reporting on the topic of financial vulnerability and risk checks.

So-called ‘affordability checks’ – more accurately referred to as financial vulnerability and risk checks – were a key element of the UK government’s white paper review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which is expected to bring about several changes to gambling regulation in the country moving forward.

The UKGC is currently engaged in a public consultation with gambling industry stakeholders and customers in order to understand how best to implement the checks.

UKGC snaps back

The UKGC said that in recent months, the Racing Post has on a daily basis “provided readers with imbalanced stories about the ongoing financial risk consultation and frequently failed to seek a right of reply from the Commission”.

“The Racing Post has refused to publish the letter despite its content being highly relevant to readers,” said a statement on the UKGC website.

“Considering this blatant lack of balance in a newspaper we have decided to publish the letter on our website.”

The letter

The accompanying open letter from Rhodes addressed readers of the Racing Post directly and invited them to engage with the ongoing consultation on financial vulnerability checks and other updates to UK gambling regulation.

The paper’s reporting has suggested that “under the proposals a good proportion of gambling consumers would have to be handing over payslips or bank statements when they want to place a bet,” Rhodes wrote. “This is not true.”

Instead, he offered, it is estimated that just 3% of accounts would need to undergo financial risk assessments under the proposals, while just 0.3% would be subject to checks that were “not frictionless,” such as those carried out via credit reference agency or open banking data.

“This means 99.7% of customers would not be asked to directly provide any information,” he added.

The Gambling Commission therefore invited Racing Post readers to share their “views on how the 0.3% of account holders could have their financial risk assessed if they are not asked to directly provide the additional financial information.”

Rhodes added that the vast majority of assessments (some 90%) would be carried out via credit reference agencies and open-source banking data.

The checks would not give operators access to customers’ full bank account data, while the information they do receive may only be used for assessing risks of harm – not for practices such as identifying and restricting winning accounts.

Further to these arguments, Rhodes added that checks would only be applied online – not at retail or on-track bookmakers, for example – and that any checks carried out by operators would not affect customers’ credit scores.

More misused statistics

Rhodes further added clarity on often-misused statistics around gambling harm in the UK, having previously called on the media to avoid spreading “misinformation” on the matter.

The Health Survey for England 2018 suggested that “the percentage of people who have bet online with a bookmaker in the past year and are experiencing problem gambling is 3.7%. And a further 5.2% are at moderate risk of gambling harm,” Rhodes wrote.

The government’s white paper intends to tackle those figures by implementing financial risk checks, he added, while “most customers would not undergo checks under these proposals.”

Racing Post reporting

A search of the Racing Post’s website shows no lack of reporting on the matter of the Gambling Act review and proposed introduction of financial vulnerability and risk checks.

Headlines from recent months include the following:

Racing Post response

In response to the letter, Racing Post editor Tom Kerr posted on X that the paper “told the Gambling Commission we welcomed a letter about its proposals, just as we routinely approach it for comment on relevant stories.

“However, we told the GC we were unwilling to publish a letter if it misrepresented disagreements over our coverage as errors of fact,” he added.

That, Kerr said, is what the regulator’s letter did, by repeating “contentious assertions from the white paper and consultation without engaging with the numerous concerns raised by Racing Post readers and contributors.”

Kerr concluded by inviting Rhodes to join him for an in-depth interview, in order to allow him “to communicate directly with Racing Post readers”.

The long-awaited white paper on the review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act is finally here.

In a press release announcing the overhaul, the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) had this to say: “Betting companies are already required to prevent harm, but there have been repeated instances where they have allowed losses which the majority of the population could never afford.

“The measures set out today will shield players in the grip of addiction from harm and hold gambling firms to account when they fail in their responsibility.”

Those measures are explained in more detail below.

Statutory gambling operator levy

A statutory gambling operator levy will be enforced to ensure that operators help fund treatment services and research for gambling harm and addiction, including through the NHS. ​

That contribution is currently voluntary and not mandated and was deemed “not fit for purpose” by the government, with some betting companies pledging as little as £1 in RET donations.

The compulsory rate will only be confirmed after further consultations and will take into account business size, operating costs and problem gambling rates. A 1% tax on GGR appears most likely.

The levy will be collected by the Gambling Commission (UKGC) and spending will need to be approved by the Government.

New online stake limit

A new stake limit for online slots will be introduced with the default maximum stake of between £2 and £15 per spin. Again these limits are subject to consultation.

The limits will help to prevent “runaway and life-changing losses” according to the government, while helping to level the playing field between the online and land-based sectors.

As it stands, there is no limit on bets for online slots, whereas in-person slot machines in pubs, arcades and bookmakers have a limit of £2 and casinos have limits of up to £5.

Some of the UK’s biggest licensed operators have already introduced slots limits of between £5 and £15, including Flutter, 888 and Entain, among others.

The £2 per spin stake limit may only apply to under-25s and will be finalised after consultation.

Player protection checks

Note the much-used “affordability checks” phrasing has not been used here by the government.

The white paper states that gambling operators will now be required to do more to protect customers.

Betting companies will be required to conduct player protection checks on the highest spending cohorts to check they are not racking up harmful losses.

The Gambling Commission will consult on two forms of financial risk check. Firstly, background checks at moderate levels of spend, to take place at £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year.

Second, at proposed thresholds of £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days, there should be “more detailed” checks for a customer’s financial position.

These thresholds could again be halved for those aged between 18 and 24.

Guidance states these checks should happen instantaneously and should not impact gameplay, unless there are signs of financial harm.

“The checks will be targeted to where there is the most risk of harm,” said DCMS in a statement. “They are not about checking up on people having a flutter on the football or placing the odd bet on horse racing.”

The government has suggested that around eight in 10 gamblers will never reach the threshold for these checks, with around 3% of accounts likely to incur more detailed checks due to high spending.

New Gambling Commission powers

The government has confirmed that new powers will be granted to the UKGC to tackle and block unlicensed black market gambling firms from targeting the UK. This was a major concern of the regulated industry and leading operators will be delighted to see its inclusion in the white paper.

This clampdown will be enforced through court orders requests made to ISPs, which have been carried out with varying degrees of success in other markets, including Australia and Germany, among others.

The review has also proposed reforming the fee structure for the regulator to give it “greater flexibility” to respond to emerging risks and challenges posed by the industry.

Bonus restrictions

According to DCMS, those suffering from gambling addiction and harm are at greater risk from certain aggressive advertising practices.

As a result, the UKGC will take a closer look at how bonuses, including free bets or spins, can drive harmful behaviour and trigger people to spend more than they intended.

New industry ombudsman

The government has committed to working with the industry and all relevant stakeholders to create a new independent ombudsman for gambling dispute resolutions.

Around 2,000 consumer complaints per year are registered with dispute resolution providers and the UKGC.

These most often relate to social responsibility breaches, gambling harm and safer gambling.

“At present, customers seeking personal redress currently have no choice but to pursue potentially costly and uncertain court action,” said DCMS.

The new body will adjudicate complaints relating to social responsibility or gambling harm where an operator is not able to resolve the case.

The government expects the new ombudsman to be accepting complaints within one year.

Plans to relax land-based regulations

The UK government plans to reset regulation for land-based gambling while maintaining safeguards to protect vulnerable groups from harm.

Proposed changes include increasing machine allowances in casinos, allowing sports betting alongside other activities, and permitting credit to non-UK residents subject to AML checks.

The government also pledged to work with the Gambling Commission to develop cashless payments on gaming machines, including adequate player protection measures.

The proposed changes for the land-based sector were welcome news for investors. The share price of Rank Group, which generates approximately 70% of its revenue in land-based venues, increased by nearly 6% upon the publication of the white paper.

What they said

UK culture secretary Lucy Frazer: “We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets. It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen.

“We are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm. This will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to play safely.”

Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes described the review as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to deliver positive change for gambling in Great Britain.

He added: “Given the correct powers and resources, the Gambling Commission can continue to make gambling safer, fairer and crime free.

“This white paper is a coherent package of proposals which we believe can significantly support and protect consumers, and improve overall standards in the industry.”

Consultations over conclusions

The fact that further consultations are required for most of the major restrictions in the review will anger the strongest proponents for gambling reform.

Tory MP and former party leader Iain Duncan Smith described the government’s plans to continue undertaking consultations as “a cop-out.” 

“I just don’t know what we’ve got to consult on any longer. What is there we don’t know about the gambling industry, and their abuses?” he asked.

“If the government does this then it has itself open to the charge that they have caved in to the lobbying. I know this is my party’s government, but you will then have to ask how many ministers have accepted hospitality.”

The published white paper follows a call for evidence and is based on nearly 16,000 written submissions sent to DCMS during a process spanning more than two years.

It can be read in full here.

British trade association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has insisted it would welcome a mandatory levy on gambling firms, but has urged the government to adopt a tiered approach when deciding how much operators should pay.

Background context

Members of the BGC – consisting of operators representing the vast majority of the UK’s gambling industry by amount of revenue generated – have long been committed to a voluntary levy funding research, education and treatment (RET) in the area of gambling-related harm.

That levy is currently set at 1% of the operators’ revenue annually, with funds distributed among independent charities aimed at reducing gambling harms among the UK population.

The voluntary levy currently supports an independent network of charities, which treats around 85% of all problem gamblers receiving treatment in the UK, according to the BGC.

The association also points out that its four largest members alone have pledged a significant increase to the amount contributed through the levy in recent years, with the country’s top operators expected to provide an additional £110m to the funding between 2019 and 2024.

Operators that pay the levy have no say in how or where the funds are spent as they are allocated independently, a system which the BGC insists must be maintained alongside any changes in the government’s upcoming Gambling Act review.

Last year, the association itself proposed to the government that the contributions should be made mandatory under UK gambling laws.

Enter the white paper

After several long delays to its progress, the UK government is finally expected to introduce its Gambling Act Review white paper this year.

As reported in several media outlets including the Financial Times and Daily Mail, many expect a mandatory levy to replace the current voluntary system, a prospect which has led the BGC to speak out today (3 April).

“BGC is concerned the government may announce in its forthcoming white paper a blanket 1% fee on all members,” the trade association said. 

“Just like other businesses working on the high street or in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, land-based operators, like bingo, casinos and betting shops, are facing severe economic headwinds, including a slower than expected post-Covid recovery, rising fixed operating costs and high inflation, as well as pressures on customers caused by the cost-of-living crisis.”

Those factors, it suggested, would lead to land-based operators paying an unfairly high proportion of their profits when compared to their online counterparts.

“BGC industry analysis suggests a new blanket 1% statutory levy to land-based operators would be the equivalent of between a 10% and 15% hit on post-tax profits, because of the fixed costs which do not equally apply to online operators,” it said.

CEO’s comments 

BGC CEO Michael Dugher added in a statement today: “I have said for some time that I am relaxed about a so-called statutory levy given that the money is already on the table from BGC members, it is already allocated independently of the industry and given that it was the BGC who proposed to government last year that contributions should be mandatory.

“But we want to see continued sustainable funding for RET provided it recognises the fact land-based operators are under greater cost pressures, so there has to be appropriate mitigation, and that funds continue to be distributed effectively and genuinely independently.

“Our largest members already pay 1% to fund Research, Education and Treatment services via a wholly independent system. For the BGC and our members, the priority is ensuring the money reaches charities doing exceptional work and funds truly independent, evidence led research. The mechanism used to generate those funds is an irrelevance by comparison.”

Dugher suggested that the most important question is where the money ends up, rather than where it comes from.

“What’s important is that the money goes to helping the tiny minority of people who need it, not wasted on the cottage industry of anti-gambling prohibitionists, masquerading their biased work as ‘research’,” he said.

“But most importantly, any new system must be tiered to protect land-based operators like bingo, casinos and betting shops, who have disproportionately higher fixed costs because of buildings and tens of thousands of staff.

“They are still struggling post-covid, like every other retail, hospitality and entertainment business, with all the difficult economic headwinds.”

The land-based gambling sector is a major source of employment in the UK in addition to the tax contributions it makes each year.

Around 15,000 jobs are supported by the land-based casino sector while a further 42,000 people are employed in the land-based betting sector, the BGC suggests.

Is 1% too much, or not enough?

Elsewhere, some have suggested that a 1% levy on industry revenues is insufficient given the financial and social cost of gambling-related harm in the UK.

Christian organisation CARE, for example, has released a statement today calling for a statutory levy to be set at 5% for all gambling operators.

“[The] money given by the industry falls far below what is needed to help all those affected by harmful gambling, and NHS addiction services refuse to accept gambling industry money for ethical reasons,” it said.

CARE’s gambling policy lead Tim Cairns added: “The gambling industry boasts profits of almost £15bn per annum from British punters. These profits come at a high cost to the public. Gambling addiction shatters individuals, families, and communities. 

“Tragically, there is one gambling-related suicide every single day. It is past time big betting was made to pay. Under current rules, betting companies make voluntary contributions towards addressing gambling harms. But these contributions are woefully inadequate.”

Cairns went on to suggest that the additional £110m pledged by the UK’s four largest operators “isn’t even a drop in the ocean” of the £240m it estimates is required to treat gambling-related harm in the UK each year.

The BGC, meanwhile, points out that the voluntary 1% RET levy contributed by its members is paid in addition to the £4.2bn contributed in taxes by the industry each year, which already helps to fund NHS services.

Will it go through?

It is not yet certain what policies will be introduced in the forthcoming white paper.

While media sources have suggested a mandatory levy is likely, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously objected to the policy when he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Boris Johnson, according to sources in the Mail.

“Rishi opposed it on the grounds that we pay billions in tax already and he didn’t want to look as if he was in favour of new ‘nanny state’ taxes on business,” one source said.

“He also has the Catterick racecourse in his constituency, and was worried that it would hurt racing.”

A review of the 2005 Gambling Act was commenced in 2020 but faced several delays during a period of political turmoil in the UK, which has seen three Prime Ministers hold office since then.

The review has been continually pushed to the bottom of the government’s agenda, creating significant uncertainty for the country’s gambling sector as rumours of what might be included continue to spread.

In addition to the introduction of a statutory levy on revenues, new rules on advertising and sports sponsorships, stake limits for online casinos, and a partial liberalisation of the land-based casino sector have all been touted as possible changes coming to the sector.

Romania has clarified its intention to implement a new and vastly increased withholding tax on player winnings from as soon as next week.

Under fresh proposals published yesterday (4 July) by the Romanian government, player winnings in excess of 10,000 Romanian Leu (€2,022) will face an automatic deduction of 1,700 Romanian Leu (€344) and will be taxed at 40%.

Mid-range winnings of between 3,000 and 10,000 Romanian Leu will be taxed at 20% at the point of withdrawal, while 300 Romanian Leu will be deducted immediately.

Finally, as part of the new three-tier model, player winnings up to 3,000 Romanian Leu will be taxed at the lowest threshold of 10%.

The proposals are bad news for Romania’s online operators as the figures represent a significant tax hike on previous levels. This will likely serve as a major deterrent to players.

Previously, all gambling winnings up to 66,750 Romanian Leu were taxed at just 1%.

Wins between 66,750 and 445,000 Romanian Leu were deducted 667.5 Romanian Leu and subject to a 16% tax, while a 25% tax applied to wins in excess of 445,000 Romanian Leu.

AOJND president Odette Nestor: “In the short and medium term, there will be losses for all parties, including the government, whose revenues, instead of increasing, will be reduced.”

For comparison, a player who won 11,000 Romanian Leu (€2,224) while online gambling under the old system would have taken home 10,890 Romanian Leu after tax.

Under the new proposals, however, the player would be left with just 5,580 Romanian Leu after tax, representing a near 50% decrease in profits.

Odette Nestor, president of Romanian online gambling trade body the Association of Remote Gambling Organisations (AOJND), insists players will turn to the black market if the new tax is enforced.

She said: “The adoption of this measure will have the opposite effect to the one expected by the government, so that the number of players on the licensed sites in Romania will be reduced.

“All these players who will no longer access legal sites licensed in Romania will migrate to an illegal area, that of the unlicensed sites.

“In the short and medium term, there will be losses for all parties, including the government, whose revenues, instead of increasing, will be reduced.

“For players, protection will be void if they play on unlicensed sites or in locations that do not apply this change,” she added.

Romania’s leading gambling operators include Superbet, MaxBet and Fortuna.

Jacob Rees-Mogg creates government back-logg

As the UK government edges closer to publishing its review of the 2005 Gambling Act, it appears the last man standing in its way could be Victorian ghost-child turned Minister for Government Efficiency and top hat enthusiast, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

According to a story published by the Daily Mail, the apparently reanimated skeleton of a member of the landed gentry has made a last minute intervention in the review, complaining of what he described as “nanny state” proposals creating the need for unwarranted intervention in people’s lives.

A Whitehall source told the Mail: “It’s ideological with him – he doesn’t think the state has a role in dealing with problem gambling despite the misery it causes. For now he is using delaying tactics – raising a whole load of questions about the details – but it looks like his agenda is to block it.”

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith is said to have described Rees-Mogg’s position as “nonsense,” adding that Britain’s gambling laws are hopelessly outdated and ill-equipped to deal with the prevalence of online betting.

Smith added: “Gambling companies are behaving atrociously. People need protection because they are getting into terrible difficulties. We have a situation where companies are making huge sums from people’s misery – some of these people are getting into horrendous debts and even committing suicide.”

It seems, then, that not only does the gaming industry disagree with the government’s plans for the sector – but the government also disagrees with itself.

Slots for tots

A story published on gaming media website Dexerto highlighted a potentially worrying development in the online casino sector: the emergence of slot games which look as if they have been designed for children.

According to the article, online slot streamer ‘xQc’ was left speechless after stumbling upon Fluffy in Space, a slot created by Playtech-owned Eyecon that features ‘cuddly toy’ imagery and squeaky sound effects.

The streamer noted that the slot also has a relatively low maximum bet of $12.50 – a far cry from the hundreds of dollars per spin often wagered by casino streamers on Twitch.

xQc himself has a chequered history with gambling, having claimed to be suffering from gambling addiction some months ago and expressing regret at leading so many of his viewers to gamble too.

Indeed, he claimed that customers using his personal promo code had gambled $119m over the course of his career.

Being the ever-curious sleuths that we are, the iGaming NEXT editorial team investigated further to find out if these games were available in the UK, or only in jurisdictions with more “accommodating” iGaming regulations, shall we say.

What we discovered was a slew of kid-friendly slot games on UK-licensed operator websites, using imagery ranging from stuffed animals, kittens and puppies to birthday cakes, unicorns, rainbows and fairground rides. 

According to UK gambling laws, these slots are all above board – as long as the imagery is not used in advertising.

Still, we found ourselves asking: just because you can, does that mean you should?

NFL puts sports betting high on the hill

The NFL made a splash in the sports betting world this week, as ESPN revealed the league had made its first hire dedicated to overseeing its business in sports betting.

David Highhill, who has been with the NFL for 10 years, most recently in its corporate strategy group, has been promoted to the position of vice president, general manager of sports betting.

In this role, he’ll be tasked with leading efforts to protect the integrity of American football in relation to gambling, advance the league’s brand and reputation, grow the value of its data and intellectual property and drive fan engagement globally.

The NFL is a relative newcomer to the sports betting sector, having aired sportsbook ads during its games for the first time last season. It also now holds partnerships with several sports betting operators, and is selling its official data to bookmakers in the US.

Highhill was clear that the league does not hope to enter the space as an operator, however. “We’re going to focus on serving fans and the games rather than becoming a sportsbook,” he told ESPN.

He also wants to ensure the league approaches betting in a balanced way. He added: “We know there is a profile of fans that are most interested and a profile of fans that are less interested.

“So serving fans where they are is very important and that goes right alongside with supporting our relationship with the National Council on Problem Gambling and ensuring that we take a leadership position on problem gambling,” Highhill concluded.

Going on a bear hunt?

BBC News gave us a round-up of downturns taking place across stock markets globally this week, after the US central bank announced its biggest interest rate hike in 22 years.

Following the increase, major share indexes across the world began to drop like flies.

“Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index fell by 3.8%, while shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange were down by 2.2%. Australia’s ASX 200 closed 2.2% lower.

“Those falls followed the Dow index, which includes big names such as Apple and Nike, sliding on Thursday by more than 1,000 points to end 3.1% lower. The wider S&P 500 fell 3.6%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq plummeted by almost 5%,” the piece explained.

Other macroeconomic factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are thought to be having an additional impact, as the increase in energy prices as a result of the conflict continues to weigh upon the wallets of individuals around the globe.

And the effects could still be far from over. US government figures released this month showed the country’s economy contracted by 1.4% during the first quarter of 2022.

The latest tumbles in share prices have left a big gap between where markets were in January and where they are today. Since the beginning of the year, the Dow is down almost 10%, while the S&P 500 has dropped by 13%, and the Nasdaq has collapsed by 22%.

For those hoping to capitalise on bargain stocks as markets continue to fall, Forbes brought us the following word of warning from Jim Stack, founder and president of InvesTech Research.

“The one thing you learn in a bear market is that forecasting the bottom is like catching a falling pitchfork. It’s a spectacular feat if you pull it off, but it’s painful and dangerous to try.

“One of the dangers in anticipating a bottom lies an understanding that the showdown between Fed policy and inflation is just beginning.”

Hoping for a five star review

The Racing Post got stuck into UK gambling regulation this week, with a piece on Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher’s demand for an evidence-based approach to the Gambling Act review currently taking place.

Dugher argues that the review should be carefully balanced, after research found that the rate of problem gambling in the UK had decreased from 0.4% of the population to 0.2%.

“These latest figures showing that problem gambling is falling once again will no doubt come as a profound disappointment to anti-gambling prohibitionists,” Dugher said. 

“It should be a warning to ministers to ensure future changes are carefully balanced, proportionate and targeted.

“They are further evidence of that positive progress and underline our calls for ministers to take a genuinely evidence-based approach to the upcoming white paper and not pander to the anti-gambling lobby.”

Dugher also insisted that the majority of gamblers in the UK do so responsibly, and warned that any significant affordability checks could lead them to bet with unlicensed black market bookies.

Bally’s adds a big plus to its portfolio

Bally’s is set to become the latest big gaming firm to traverse the division between the gambling, sports and media industries, with the upcoming launch of its new sports streaming service, Bally Sports+.

Sportico put out a piece this week explaining that the streaming service, built on the Bally Sports regional network brand, is expected to soft launch next month, with access costing $188.99 per year or $19.99 per month.

“The initial launch will enable the validation of the quality and reliability of the product prior to the full DTC rollout of the Bally Sports Regional Sport Networks planned for September,” said Sinclair Broadcasting Group CEO Chris Ripley.

“In the months after launch, we expect to roll out an enhanced DTC product incorporating additional functionality, content and features, with incremental ways to monetise the viewer through a more personalised, interactive experience.”

As you might have guessed, that likely means the addition of gambling functionality is becoming increasingly likely in the world of sports streaming.