The introduction of compulsory affordability checks is threatening the UK’s regulated betting and gaming industry, warns a report by EY for the Betting and Gaming Council. The research shows the measure is “already hitting revenues,” the trade body noted. The latest study comes as the Government works on the long-delayed publication of its White Paper on gambling regulation.
While the EY report confirmed the sector remained robust despite the pandemic – now weathering an energy crisis and a cost of living crisis – it also warns the enforcement of tougher affordability checks is contributing to reduced revenues. The study backs up recent polling that showed nearly 70% of people who place a bet said they would be unwilling to allow regulated firms to carry out compulsory affordability checks to prove they can afford to wager.
According to the new publication, despite the external pressures facing all businesses – which the trade body says have been exacerbated by affordability checks – BGC members’ total Gross Value Added contribution to the UK economy was £7.1 billion ($8.7 billion). Additionally, BGC notes the regulated industry supports 110,000 jobs on high streets, in hospitality and in global tech powerhouses; and contributes to the Treasury £4.2 billion ($5.1 billion) annually.
Across the industry, overall Gross Gambling Yield – total revenues after winnings have been paid but before costs are deducted – was slightly up from 2019, despite massive global volatility. But a new White Paper setting out new laws for the gambling industry is believed to be published within weeks, and in expectation of Government limits on spending, BGC members have already started applying more stringent checks, which are hitting revenues.
The EY study noted: “Online GGY has declined since mid-2021, probably reflecting the re-opening of physical venues, the introduction of affordability checks on online, and the decline in real household incomes.” Moreover, the decline in the online regulated betting and gaming sector as a result of factors including the impact of affordability checks could push customers to the black market, the study further warned.
“European countries applying tough sanctions on betting, including restrictions on stakes, blanket affordability checks and curbs on advertising have witnessed an increase in black market betting,” stated the BGC, citing Norway, France and Italy as examples. The trade body is calling “to end the uncertainty” presented by the delay of gambling laws and ensure new regulations put the industry “on a sustainable foundation for future growth.”
Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “The UK’s regulated betting and gaming sector is a genuine global leader. Some 22.5 million adults enjoy a wager, on the lottery, on bingo, on any number of sports, online and in casinos. Our members pump billions into the economy, support the Treasury with more billions and support over one hundred thousand jobs.”
“But this contribution is never guaranteed. This industry needs to thrive if it is to maintain its status as a global leader,” warned Dugher. “As ministers consider the regulatory framework for this industry, they should stop and think, and ensure the decisions they make support a sustainable future. This is a sector that is ready to invest on hard-pressed high streets through bookmakers, in tourism and hospitality through world-class casinos and online where our tech giant members are looking to increase the number of apprentices they hire.”
The BGC is urging the Government to find “an evidence-led, balanced White Paper” that protects the vulnerable, allows the vast majority who bet safely to continue to do so, and crucially allows business to thrive.
Dugher added: “This industry is serious about safer gambling, and it’s encouraging that the rates of problem gambling among UK adults remain low by international standards at 0.3%. We want to see technology used to ensure checks on spending are carefully targeted towards the vulnerable, not the vast majority who show no signs of harm.”
“But without Government clarity on affordability checks, our members are concerned they are driving frustrated customers to the unsafe, unregulated black market,” he noted. “These sites have none of the safer gambling tools employed by our members, do nothing to protect young people, don’t invest anything in the sports we love like horse racing, rugby, darts and football and crucially don’t contribute a penny in tax.”