Why 2020 Is A Huge Year for the Gambling Industry

Gambling Commission

Before any of us had even heard of COVID-19 the year 2020 was shaping up to be big one for the UK gambling industry. The movement to tackle what has frequently been described as an ‘epidemic’ of problem gambling by the media and MPs has been growing in momentum and size for some time now. In April 2019 new laws to reduce the maximum bet on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals had a sizable impact on high street bookmakers. This year it is the turn of online operators to have their wings clipped. Credit card bans, reduced max stakes, outlawing of VIP programs and much stricter advertising regulations are all either in place or being aired by the Gambling Commission and parliamentary committees.

Now in the face of a global pandemic, long term lockdowns, and the risk of a global recession, some are insisting that measures go even further. No question 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for gambling in the UK, and whether you are into having a flutter on sports or at online casinos, these changes will affect you, as they will those who work in the industry.

Here’s quick rundown of what we might see this year.

A Ban on Credit Cards

In place from 14th April 2020, the ban on credit cards has been introduced to prevent addicted gamblers racking up big debts that they cannot afford to pay off. It is estimated that over 10% of deposits are made via credit card and this will affect revenues for online operators. For most gamblers though, it’s business as usual as we deposit and withdraw to debit cards.

Reduced Maximum Stakes on Slots and Casino Games

The introduction of a new maximum stake of £2 on slots and casino games has not been agreed yet, but the Gambling Commission has said that it will be considering it this year. Such a move would mean a sizable hit to the value of casino operators, and for some gamblers it would take a lot of fun out of the game. Whilst most like to bet at small stakes of 10p or 20p, for those who can afford it the kick only comes when the risk is much higher. For campaigners though, this is another critical piece of the plan to limit the risks of addiction and it seems likely that the new limit will be in force at some time in the next 12 months.

Outlawing VIP Programs

Online casinos, just like their offline counterparts, like to reward their highest spending customers with VIP treats that include extra free bets, personal account management and hospitality tickets to big sporting events and concerts. Some problem gamblers have said that high roller bonuses caused them to continue playing with more money than they could afford and for longer than they planned. Outlawing VIP progams is seen as a way to prevent operators from using exploitative tactics to drive more revenue from vulnerable customers. It is a controversial move as anyone who has ever been a high value customer knows, it’s great to be rewarded for your play. But again, we can expect to see measures like these introduced over the coming months.

Restrictions on Advertising

The proliferation of gambling sponsorship in football has led some to compare the industry to tobacco which became synonymous with motor racing in the 80s. But it’s not just sport where gambling ads are ubiquitous. Social media and print are also packed with offers of bonuses from gambling sites. MPs and the media are pushing for much stricter regulation to end the ‘normalisation’ of gambling, particularly for those under 18s who are exposed to ads when they turn on the TV or go to watch their favourite Premier League team.

Over the next year there will likely be big curbs on where and when ads can be place which will seriously impact online revenues. At the same time the Gambling Commission will look to put in place new rules will be in place to monitor third party advertising agencies, often referred to as affiliates. These are the casino comparison sites and the sportsbook odds aggregators like Oddschecker, that appear in google search results and on social media advertising the latest bonuses at gambling sites. MPs want to ensure that these businesses can be held to account in the same way that operators are, and any shake up of the industry will include these too.

This is just a snapshot of the likely changes for gambling firms in 2020 and beyond, and there could be more on the cards as a new Gambling Act is also in the offing. How far the new regulations go we will have to wait and see but the landscape in 12 months time might be looking very different.

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