UK Plans to Change iGaming Regs

July 14, 2011 - 8:12 PM EDT
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The United Kingdom’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport today announced its intentions to dramatically reform British internet gambling regulations. The planned changes would require all sites that serve British customers to obtain a UK license.1

Currently, the United Kingdom does not require a license from online gambling operators provided that their equipment is not in the UK. However, in order to advertise to the British market, gambling sites must have a license from a country in the European Economic Area (for example, Malta) or from one of the “white-listed” countries: Alderney, Antigua and Barbuda, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, and Tasmania.2 So, though the United Kingdom Gambling Commission does already license many gambling sites, including the casinos and sportsbooks of Eurobet and William Hill (though not their poker rooms), most of the larger gambling and poker websites that serve UK customers are based offshore in tax havens such as Gibraltar and the Isle of Man.

The DCMS did not clarify exactly when it planned to make these changes or exactly how they planned to implement them. However, the agency did suggest that the new regulations would be implemented carefully, and that the changes would require action by Parliament:

  1. The government will be working with the Gambling Commission and other stakeholders to develop the detailed arrangements for the new licensing system, which will require changes to primary legislation.
  2. To ensure minimum disruption for operators in the British market, a period of transition will be put in place, which will see operators already fully licensed in EEA member states and the existing white-listed jurisdictions entitled to, or eligible for an automatic transitional licence to prevent them having to cease trading.

Bodog announced today that it has actually just obtained UK licensing. Indeed, the company has acquired both a remote license and a non-remote license (i.e. an internet gambling license and a brick-and-mortar gambling license), and Bodog plans to open a brick-and-mortar establishment in London as well to run a dedicated UK gambling site, Bodog UK. Bodog’s press release mentions today’s statement from the DCMS, but it is not immediately clear whether the dual announcement was intentional, how long Bodog had been seeking these licenses, or whether the company knew in advance that these proposed changes were coming.

Some earlier statements from British officials discussed Full Tilt Poker’s troubles and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission’s response, but the official releases contain no mention of either FTP or its regulator. Instead, Minister for Tourism and Heritage at the DCMS John Penrose MP emphasized the potential economic effects of the proposed changes:

British consumers face different consumer protection arrangements and have to deal with a myriad of different regulators and languages depending on where the gambling they are taking part in is regulated. This problem is growing as more countries permit online gambling.  At the same time, it is unfair to GB-licensed gambling operators that overseas competitors benefit from access to the market in Great Britain without bearing a fair share of the costs of regulation, or of research, education and treatment of problem gambling.

It is too early to tell whether all sites would obey these new rules if adopted and how they would affect the online gambling market for consumers in the UK and worldwide. Subject: Poker will, of course, continue to follow this story.

Edited on 7/14/2011 8:22 PM EDT: Added link to Guardian article and removed misleading wording about how Full Tilt’s situation may have influenced this.
Edited on 7/15/2011 9:42 AM EDT: Clarified that Eurobet’s and William Hill’s poker rooms are not licensed by the UK. Thanks to @pokerfuse.
Edited on 7/15/2011 11:11 AM EDT: Changed a misleading statement about Bodog’s brick-and-mortar intentions. Thanks to commentor Bob.

Footnotes

  1. The DCMS released three different statements about these plans: a brief summary, a “full news release“, and a “written ministerial statement” from John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism and Heritage for the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.
  2. The Alderney Gambling Control Commission recently suspended Full Tilt Poker’s licenses, PartyPoker.com is licensed in Gibraltar, and PokerStars and Paddy Power are licensed in the Isle of Man.

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4 Responses to UK Plans to Change iGaming Regs

  1. Bob
    July 15, 2011 at 10:52 AM EDT

    When have you seen Bodog announce their intent to open a casino? I think they’re talking about retail betting shops on high streets, not full casino operations…

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 15, 2011 at 11:12 AM EDT

      I suppose the word casino is a bit misleading there. Thanks for the correction.

  2. dave
    July 18, 2011 at 5:57 AM EDT

    Noah what do you think is most likely here at this stage:

    1.) UK players only being able to play versus UK players

    or

    2.) UK players still being able to play versus rest of the world

    • Noah Stephens-Davidowitz
      July 18, 2011 at 2:30 PM EDT

      The new regs don’t exist yet (and might never exist), but I’ve seen no indication that they’ll segregate the player pool.

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