The last couple of years have been challenging for the UK gambling market and the companies that offer their services there. Regulatory and political turmoil has shaken the sector and has made some operators lose interest to further expansion there, with some of them even leaving the UK for more prominent markets.
The UK gambling sector has always been earmarked as a safe and well-regulated destination for gambling companies to offer their services. These qualities have been considered major advantages by the operators to invest their efforts into bolstering their presence there, and for years, the UK has been an attractive destination for them to step into and consolidate their presence there.
Unfortunately, this status quo has changed over the past could of years, as an increasing number of gambling companies have found it hard to keep up with the rhythm of a market that has been getting more and more regulated, with the stricter requirements for the companies making them harder to operate on the territory of the country.
Stricter Regulatory Regime Imposed by the UKGC on the Local Gambling Sector
In the last few years, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been aimed at making the country safer and better-regulated than ever. Stricter rules regarding both the retail and the online gambling sector have been unveiled, with the operators suffering the impact of the tougher rules they now need to comply with.
In April 2019, the UK Government finally unveiled a long-awaited regulation for the retail gambling sector, under which the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) was slashed from £100 to £2. The measure has been taken after strong criticism that the machines are one of the major reasons for quickly rising gambling participation and problem gambling rates.
Some of the largest FOBT operators have raised their voices against the measure, sharing fears that the regulation would end up with massive lay-offs in the sector and many betting shop closures. This, on the other hand, would result in a significant reduction in the annual gambling tax revenue that the British Government gets from the sector.
Online gambling operations have also faced tougher rules in the past couple of years. Mere hours ago, the UK gambling watchdog has confirmed that it intends to fully ban credit cards from being used for online gambling payments as of April this year. The measure comes as part of the regulator’s efforts to tackle problem gambling and ensure a safer and better-regulated environment for the most vulnerable members of society at a time when online gambling is becoming more popular by the hour.
Political Uncertainty Brings Turmoil in the British Gambling Market, Too
Brexit talks and the related political turmoil surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union has caused uncertainty in different aspects of the country’s economy lately. At the time when both “soft” and “hard” Brexit has been taken into consideration, the consequences for businesses in the UK have been taken into account, too.
As Casino Guardian has already explained, the exodus of the UK from the European Union would have its impact on the performance of the local gambling sector. Considering the fact that it has been preferred by a large number of offshore gambling companies, the changes in the status of the UK as part of the EU would lead to changes for these operators, too, including withdrawals from the sector.
The reflux of some gambling operators from the UK has already started, as companies have been looking for a more favourable regulatory environment to offer their services. Such companies have preferred to shift their operations to other destinations, a trend that has already impact not only the UK but British Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar, as well.
Furthermore, Brexit is expected to have a considerable effect on domestic taxation, which undoubtedly is an important aspect of the various reasons why gambling companies have taken into consideration when leaving the country.
Gambling Companies Have Already Been Leaving the UK Gambling Market
The last few years have seen some major changes in the sector in regard to regulation, implementation of stricter measures to protect British customers, and political uncertainty surrounding the upcoming exodus of the country from the EU. All of these factors, however, have been taking their toll, as a number of companies have already left the UK gambling sector, while others have continued to operate there but preferred to move their headquarters out of the country.
First, the Irish company BetBright revealed that it chose to stop providing its betting services to UK customers on a permanent basis. After spending a couple of years as one of the most aggressive bookmakers at the Cheltenham Festival, the brand concluded that it could hardly make its business profitable in a highly competitive gambling sector such as the one of the UK.
Then, in April 2019, the gambling company 188Bet revealed its decision to cease operations in the UK and Ireland, citing the competitiveness of the market as a major reason for the exit. In August, two brands of JPJ Group – Vera&John and InterCasino – followed suit and withdrew their operations from the gambling sector of the UK. At the time, the company shared that it intended to focus mostly on the UK presence of its Jackpotjoy brand.
Also in August, FSB Technology (UK) Limited has voluntarily suspended the operations of its UK-facing gambling website Blackbet. The decision was made following a review initiated by the UKGC into the gambling tech provider.
In September 2019, EveryMatrix officially announced a decision to leave the country. The move followed the UKGC suspension of the company’s B2C license in the UK and meant that the company would let go of its B2C operating licenses for its online gambling and casino operations. As EveryMatrix shared at the time, its Remote Gambling Software license is remaining active and would allow the company to continue offering gambling software to other UK licensed operators.
It was also back in September when the Nordic gambling company Cherry AB initiated the exit of its ComeOn brand from the country.
In October 2019, The French gambling operator BetClic Everest Group revealed its decision to stop the provision of its services for UK customers due to upcoming Brexit and the stricter regulatory regime that has recently been unveiled by the regulators.
The year 2020 literally started with another announcement of a gambling company set to leave the UK. Malta-based online gambling company Max Entertainment has shared its intention to shift its development focus on well-regulated sectors other than the UK. The operator cited some concerns associated with upcoming Brexit for its decision, too.
The most recent withdrawal from the British gambling sector was announced only a few days ago. The growing regulatory pressure and the latest changes in the local watchdogs’ priorities have made LeoVegas Group cease operations of its Royal Panda brand in the UK.