Gambling firms welcome new regulations but warn ‘devil will be in the detail’

Gambling firms welcome new regulations but warn ‘devil will be in the detail’

Gambling companies have welcomed a long-awaited Government shake-up of industry regulations, but said the “devil will be in the detail”.

Proposals were announced on Thursday to force gambling companies to step up checks on punters as part of efforts to address problem gambling.

Flutter, the gambling giant behind SkyBet and Paddy Power, said the reforms were a “positive moment” for the sector but the changes are expected to knock its revenues by up to £100 million.

The significantly delayed gambling white paper includes rules to lower maximum bets, require more background checks, and a new levy to fund research and treatment for problem gambling, in a series of measures targeting the online industry.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Today we are bringing our pre-smartphone regulations into the present day with a gambling White Paper for the digital age.”

The confirmation of the much-postponed review, which was initiated in December 2020, has been broadly welcomed by the UK’s roughly £14 billion-a-year gambling sector after the long period of uncertainty.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, chief executive officer of Ladbrokes owner Entain, said: “The UK Gambling Act Review is an important step towards having a robust regulatory framework that is fit for the digital age and creates a level playing field for all operators.

“We welcome the clarity that it will bring to the industry and customers.”

Ms Nygaard-Andersen said the policies included a number of measures which had been “already implemented” by the FTSE 100 company.

Rival Flutter, which also owns Betfair, said the proposed measures will impact its trade by between £50 million and £100 million a year from 2024 onwards.

Peter Jackson, chief executive of Flutter, added: “We welcome the publication of the White Paper, which we see as a significant positive moment for the UK gambling sector, raising standards and bringing the regulatory framework into the digital age.

“We believe proactive change will lead to a better future for our industry and have introduced industry-leading safer gambling controls via our Play Well strategy over the last few years, including setting mandatory deposit limits for customers under 25, reducing online slots staking limits and making material investments in our safer gambling operational capabilities.”

The new rules also include new stake limits, of between £2 and £15 a spin, for online slot games.

While curbs have been tightened for online formats, some regulations for physical casinos are set to be relaxed, such as increasing the number of machines allowed in venues.

Nevertheless, there is still uncertainty over some of the measures due to be enforced, with a consultation process set to take place.

Simon Thomas, executive chairman of the Hippodrome casino in Leicester Square, London, told the PA news agency that the announcement “looks positive” for the venue.

“There are still things to be confirmed, ironed out, so the devil will be in the detail,” he said. “But the key thing is that we finally have something to work with.

“It has been hanging over our heads for years and we now have far more clarity.

“It seems like there has been some effort to rebalance the regulations somewhat between online and physical venues which was sorely needed.

“As it stood, we have 1,500 customers in our casino at a time but were only able to have 20 machines, while regulations had not kept up with growth online at all.”