Online gambling developments that might possibly happen this year

In an EGR Intel article (published today 6 January 2022) entitled “Industry predictions: Data costs on the rise and increasingly stringent regulatory controls”, David Clifton joins with betting industry expert Matthew Trenhaile in predicting ‘the big themes in online gaming this year’.

The article is subject to a paywall with the consequence that it can only be viewed in full by EGR subscribers. However, David sets out below his predictions of online gambling developments that might possibly happen in 2022:

1. The Gambling Review White Paper will not see the light of day any earlier than the end of March 2022. When it eventually arrives, there will be no surprise about its main thrust, the Gambling Minister having already emphasised that, despite recent reductions in the overall problem gambling rate, “much more needs to be done” to protect people from gambling related harm. However, neither the Government nor the Gambling Commission will pursue the latter’s original proposal that operators must conduct defined affordability assessments at thresholds set by the regulator. Instead, the Commission will place more meat on the bones of its expectations insofar as proportionate affordability checks are concerned. Earlier suggestions in some quarters that the regulator might itself not survive the Review will turn out to be misplaced, the new leadership already taking steps to move forward their transformative agenda. Recognising this, the leading parliamentary advocates for far-reaching gambling reforms will moderate their demands to those that they believe stand the greatest chance of success, increasing the prospect of maximum staking limits for online gaming being imposed.

2. It’s no longer the British gambling regulator that is singlehandedly leading the charge towards the imposition of increasingly stringent regulatory controls. I forecast that, more so than ever before, the regulatory compliance requirements for gambling operators across Europe as a whole will become ever more demanding. Introduction of mandatory staking limits and weekly deposit limits for online gambling are likely to be seen in an increasing number of European jurisdictions, as too are more stringent gambling advertising and sponsorship controls. Travelling in a wholly different direction, the ongoing legalisation of online gambling across the U.S. will continue apace with State governors rejoicing in the resultant additional tax revenues that pour into their coffers. However, towards the end of next year, the U.S. industry’s current ebullient mood may well have begun to temper as it weighs up rather more seriously the heavy financial burden associated with customer acquisition cost in an environment where growing public concerns about gambling related harm and the sheer volume of gambling advertising could equally well have begun to make their mark.

3. Returning to British shores, the Gambling Commission is changing the research methodology that it uses to collect gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence statistics. A pilot online survey (currently running until March 2022) could serve to undermine recent much lauded statistics showing annual reductions (a) from 0.6% to 0.3% in the proportion of the UK population suffering from problem gambling and (b) from 1.2% to 0.7% in terms of those classified as at moderate risk of gambling harm. The Commission says its pilot is not aimed towards development of a headline score or scale of gambling-related harms, and nor is it designed to measure the cost of gambling harms to society. Instead, it is intended to provide improved quality data enabling the Commission to better measure and understand gambling harms and the wide impact they have. Nevertheless, I forecast this will have a major effect on future Gambling Commission policy, underlining the importance of industry collaboration in sharing knowledge and learnings in a concerted effort to reduce harmful gambling behaviour even further in 2022.