Are stake limits an effective way to address problem gambling?

UK Gaming Operators Could Face A £2 Stake Limit On Online Slots

Operators in the UK could face a £2 limit on online slots stakes this year, the gambling regulator warned Wednesday.

UK Gambling Commission CEO Neil McArthur told a parliamentary committee in Westminster the hard limit would be considered, with a decision made in six months.

Gambling stocks dipped on the news, with William Hill down around 7% and GVC down 5% on Thursday. The true financial impact of such a cap is not immediately clear. Morgan Stanley said it could cut earnings per share for gambling firms by anywhere from 20%-60%.

The same parliamentary committee on gambling-related harm has previously suggested such a cap, but the commission has been reluctant to agree.

Using a hammer to crack a nut

Those within the industry have also argued that a blanket £2 limit on stakes is a blunt way to protect problem gamblers.

William Hill Communications Director Ciaran O’Brien described a hard cap as “analogue regulation for a digital age.”

Online players are already subject to stringent identity verification and affordability checks. Operators also run algorithms designed to spot players at risk of problem gambling.

A rigid cap on stakes doesn’t do much more to protect these players. It does however hinder high-rollers who can afford to bet large sums. These players are therefore at risk of leaving regulated operators for the black market.

Former Sky Bet CEO Richard Flint echoed that view on Twitter:

UK gambling black market is growing

UK trade group Betting and Gaming Council warned that an estimated 200,000 people in the UK used illegal gambling sites in past 12 months.

BGC chair Brigid Simmons added: “We need to have an online betting gaming industry in this country which is best-in-class but also competitive in a world where, if you are not careful, you could drive people into the black market.”

The BGC said there were 27 million visits from UK IP addresses to black-market gambling sites.

The potential cap is the latest crackback on the UK gambling industry, which has led some to proclaim the sector will be “practically dead within 10 years.”

- Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.
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