Comments by David Clifton feature in an EGR.Global article by Scott Longley entitled “Covid-19 and gambling’s shifting regulatory sands”.
The article was written shortly after:
- DCMS Minister Nigel Huddleston MP issued a press release urging the UK gambling sector to do all it could to tackle any heightened risk of problem gambling during the coronavirus lockdown,
- the Betting & Gaming Council announced that its members would voluntarily remove all of their TV and radio gaming advertising in the UK during the lockdown, and
- the Gambling Commission published additional customer interaction guidance for UK licensed remote gambling operators, notwithstanding the Commission’s acknowledgement that there is “no evidence to suggest an increase in problem gambling”.
To amplify on David’s comments in the article regarding the consequences of the above:
- a channel shift from offline to online gambling was expressly referred to by the DCMS Minister in his above press release, when he cited “reports … of a recent increase in consumer activity around online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports, following the cancellation of most live sport and the closure of all land-based gambling premises”;
- consistent criticism by parliamentarians of all political hues of the Gambling Commission and its CEO (including, on 27 April 2020, by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee) will have played its part in the regulator’s recent tightening of the customer interaction framework notwithstanding that, as the article points out, (a) operator data submitted to the Commission showed an 11% decrease in active players and (b) a fortnightly consumer survey from YouGov, undertaken on behalf of the Commission, showed that the vast majority of gamblers had not increased either the time or money spent on gambling but instead suggested that more people had decreased gambling time and money spent than had done the opposite (with 2.7% of the 2,339 respondents having said that their gambling habit had increased either in terms of time or money in the past four weeks, whilst nearly 10% said they had decreased the time or money spent gambling or had stopped altogether);
- that the industry acknowledges the effect that the above could have on regulatory structures around gambling was clearly evidenced by BGC members volunteering, rather than being forced, to remove all of their TV and radio advertising in the UK during the lockdown.
The article also ponders the extent to which tightened regulatory measures during the coronavirus pandemic may be relaxed once a degree of normality returns. David is quoted as saying:
I’m afraid I see only more draconian online regulation coming in those jurisdictions that already have established gambling regulatory regimes. The winners could well turn out to be unlicensed online operators unless legislators and regulators alike wake up to the real threat that they pose.
A similar view is taken by analysts at Morgan Stanley, who are quoted in the article as predicting that temporary restrictions “may ‘stick’ and/or that regulators and political groups may move quickly onto the next set of issues (online stakes, affordability limits, VIP schemes) that could be further headwinds for revenue growth ….. We see online casino stake limits in the UK – and potential for concurrent duty rise – as the most material near-term risk.”