The UK was once seen as a thriving area for online gambling.
It had a well respected regulator, but didn’t take legislation too far. Hard but fair was probably the best way to describe the UKGC.
However, things have been changing over the last twelve months and it appears that more and more online gambling operators are removing their custom from the UK.
What is it that has caused this to take place? Why is a very valuable market and thriving industry seeing so many operators moving out of the country?
Well, it’s actually a twofold issue. The first is a political problem and the second is based around regulation.
Brexit: Not Quite what People Expected
Brexit was expected to provide the UK with a lot more freedom to trade with the world. Well, at least that’s what the factions that supported leaving the EU liked to say.
In actual fact it is throwing up a significant amount of headaches for companies that want to trade with the UK. For a number of different regulatory and tax reasons, a lot of companies that operate online casinos are based in Cyprus and Malta.
This means that they are within the Eurozone. There are also companies that are based in Curacao, this is obviously outside of the Eurozone, but still require trade agreements in order to trade with the UK.
This might seem like not a big deal at first, but once Brexit is finally ratified and official, it means that these countries will no longer have trading agreements with the UK.
As such it means that any companies that operate casinos in the UK will no longer have the correct business rights to offer services within the country. It will create a lot of legal headaches for casino operators.
This is a huge political problem, one that is not the fault of either the operators of the UKGC. It is basically something that cannot be solved until the UK Government is able to negotiate trade agreements with these countries.
While an actual physical product isn’t being provided, the offering of an online casino counts as a service. This means that it has to have the correct legal paperwork in place before the service can be offered.
It has caused a number of online casinos to think twice about whether they will stay in the region. The uncertainty surrounding what will happen combined with potential limits on any new trade deal means that it might not be worth online casino operators staying in the UK.
This will cause the number of available online casinos to UK players to significantly drop.
This wasn’t something that too many people thought about when the UK leaving the EU was first floating. As we have already mentioned, most people bought into the idea that leaving would be a swift and seamless process.
It’s evidently not the case and it could have a huge impact on many different online businesses. It’s also not the only factor that is causing online casinos to pull out of the UK.
Many felt that this would be something that could also be related to Brexit initially. However, this is not the case. The UKGC is one of the strictest regulators on the market.
It means that leaving the EU won’t actually have too much of an impact on casinos that operate in the UK because the regulation that is in place is already industry leading.
However, there are other factors related to the UKGC that are causing online casino operators to think twice about staying within the UK market.
This is also closely linked to political issues, as the UK parliament is unusually aligned when it comes to the issue of gambling. Parliament has been putting pressure on the UKGC to actually tighten up regulations over the last year.
Even though the UKGC has some of the tightest regulations in Europe, politicians in the UK still don’t think that this is enough. They want more restrictions to be placed as well as increasing the level of tax that is paid by casino operators that offer services in the UK.
While this hasn’t had totally adverse impacts on some of the bigger names on the market, it has led to some of the smaller online casinos to remove themselves from the UK arena.
Royal Panda, Black Type and MaxEnt are just some of the smaller names that have removed themselves from the UK market over the last 18 months. In fact, even before Covid hit the UK gambling market was on a downturn.
While it’s unknown at this point whether Covid will have a positive or negative effect on gambling revenues, it’s safe to say that as a general rule, the UK market is starting to slow down.
This means that many gambling operators are seeing it as a market that’s not worth the hassle.
The competition from the big name players combined with heavy restrictions and wide scale taxation means that the costs involved with operating an online casino are just too high for the risk that’s involved.
Added to this the talk of stricter regulations coming into play, and many online gambling companies are cutting their losses and leaving the market. This means players have a significant amount of choice removed from them.
While it is unlikely to be the end of online gambling in the UK, it does push the UK industry closer to a monopoly as large sized gambling companies hoover up all of the custom.