Online casino operators in the UK will enjoy a stay of execution from regulatory change after it was revealed that changes to the Gambling Act have been delayed until the spring.
It’s a significant delay, given that the Conservatives promised to review the legislative landscape as part of their 2019 General Election manifesto. The White Paper to accompany any law changes has now been delayed by more than 18 months.
It has been reported that the publication won’t take place before February 2022, when it will be revealed who has been granted the next National Lottery licence.
No official reason has been given for the delay, although one of the factors believed to have been a factor has been the reshuffle in Parliament which has seen Chris Philp replace John Whittingdale as the Gambling Minister.
There is a feeling that Philp will be more pragmatic in his approach to reform than Whittingdale, who was considered a sympathetic figure towards the gambling sector. And so the delay may be due to the new minister, who is thought to be considering stricter ‘proportionate’ affordability checks on players.
The Gambling Act has remained untouched since 2005, and there are those who believe it is no longer fit for purpose given the technological changes that the sector has experienced since. Credit cards have already been banned as a payment method, and it now seems likely that the delay in reform will pave the way for new legislation implementing mandated affordability checks on players will be introduced.
In It to Win It
One of the sources quoted in The Guardian’s story into the delay has claimed that ministers want to issue the new National Lottery licence before their White Paper is published.
That’s a contest which has perhaps taken on extra importance of late given that the first half of 2021 saw Camelot report record sales of £3.96 billion – up nearly 3% on the same period last year.
Camelot, who have enjoyed a complete monopoly on the UK national lottery draws since their inception in 1994, is thought to once again be in the running for the new contract, which will last for ten years and take effect in 2024.
But they are expected to face stiff competition from Allwyn, the new corporate identity of the outfit formerly known as Sazka. They currently operate lottery draws around the world, and have been handed a £400 million investment from equity firm Apollo Global to promote their bid. Allwyn have appointed Sebastian Coe, amongst others, to their board of directors.
The UK Gambling Commission has confirmed the contest will be a four-horse race, however it has not confirmed the identities of the other two bidders – they are thought to be Sisal, the European gaming and lotteries specialist, and Sugal & Damani, who are the premier lottery operator in India and parts of Asia.
The regulator is expected to announce their recommendation as winner in February, and that will then be passed on to the government, who will have the final say on who takes on the UK National Lottery branding.