The United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission is considering whether or not to put limits on the amount consumers can bet online.
Back in February, Neil McArthur, chief executive of the UK’s betting regulator, told a parliamentary committee that he would ensure that limits to online stakes would be considered.
The decision is expected to be made by the end of August, but it is so far unknown whether the current climate may postpone the decision until the end of the year or beyond.
In November, Members of Parliament called for a £2 bet limit per bet on a slot machine game. The current limit on land-based machines throughout the country in High Street betting shops is also £2.
Combating gambling addiction problem
The theory behind this limit is a way for MPs to combat the public health crisis of gambling addictions in the UK. According to the Gambling Commission, £14.3 billion was spent on gambling in Great Britain between October 2018-September 2019. There was a slight drop in the last period from the industry’s peak of £14.4bn for the period April 2017-March 2018, compared to £14.3bn between April 2018-March 2019.
This represents a substantial amount of tax to the government, which can make a good case to block a limit being created. The industry in the United Kingdom alone employees nearly 100,000 staff as of September 2019. This figure is down from 107,345 employees as of March 2016. Redundancies would surely be in line should a limit be put in place, as many would expect a substantial loss in profits.
Pandemic lockdown already hurting betting sector
These staff are employed in nearly 10,000 primes across the country, with 7,315 betting shops currently open. There were 11,615 premises open in March 2016 and the decline in the British economy in 2020 is already expected to have a negative impact, so any restriction placed on betting limits online would only further this.
The number of licensed operators in the UK is already on the decline, down from 2,862 in March 2016 to 2,652 in September 2019. This is largely down to the year-on-year growth in online casinos, which require fewer staff and are becoming more and more popular among consumers who can access them from home, work or on their travels.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists believe that gambling is a problem for about nine people in every 1,000, almost 1% of the population. Whether limiting the maximum stake would deter addicts is questionable, as many could turn towards the black market, where 200,000 played in 2019 anyway.
As a result of the MPs wanting to limit the maximum bet of online slot games, shares in gambling companies plummeted a staggering £1.2 billion.
Online betting limits higher onlinr
Rules in betting shops limit consumers to a maximum £2 per spin for slot machines so MPs want this to be reflected online too, where games are more accessible. Prior to April 2019 this limit was £100 per spin.
The UK gambling industry on the whole has faced a large number of changes in the regulations over the past couple of years, such as stricter age verification checks, the inability for consumers to use credit cards and higher tax. Paypal slot games remain a popular alternative.
Boris Johnson’s Conservative government promised a review of the current gambling legislation as part of their election manifesto to bring a similar stringent regulation online. Many would expect this change to bring a huge structural decline to the online gambling industry.
Opposition claim that the country currently has the best in class online betting industry and that it needs to remain competitive, but limiting consumers to £2 a limit could drive them away, as far as the black market.
Interesting related article: “What is Gambling?“