Bookmakers get temporary stay from UK betting shop wager restrictions on FOBT machines, but UK online gambling tax hike looms.

There was breaking news out of the United Kingdom over the weekend. The Guardian, SBC News, The Times UK and other outlets are covering the government’s decision to delay restrictions on UK Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT Machines) that would reduce maximum per-wager amounts from £100 to £2.

The shift comes less than a month after UK-based gambling industry watchdog journalists including Victoria Coren Mitchell appeared to have claimed a major regulatory victory when the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport determined that FOBT machines wagering limits must be restricted to a maximum bet of £2 every 20 seconds.

UK Betting Shop Jobs Saved, For Now

The ruling would have immediately resulted in the loss of more than 20,000 jobs, according to William Hill CEO Roger Devlin.

However, Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) has informed the public that implementation of such wagering limits on FOBT machines at UK betting shop establishments will require a period of two years, due to secondary legislative requirements.

Changes to the stake will be made through secondary legislation,” a Treasury spokesperson told The Times UK on Thursday, June 14th. “We will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure it is given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes.”

The Times UK estimates that the temporary reprieve will result in £4 billion in industry revenue from now until April 2020, when the restrictions would take effect.

Online Gambling Tax Hike Announced

To offset anticipated losses once FOBT machine wagering restrictions are put into place, officials have announced a plan to “impose a higher tax rate on online gambling services which will be delivered in the April 2019 budget,” according to a separate report by SBC News.

As contributor Ted Menmuir points out in the article, “the potential introduction [of the online gambling tax increase] before the lower FOBT stake mandate would see the UK Treasury benefit from a year of double taxation.”

Personal Responsibility vs. Operator Liability Debate

The debate over where the line should be drawn between consumer responsibility and operator liability remains heated.

Fervent calls from many who raise awareness about Problem Gambling issues to curb consumer wagering habits have been met with reminders that compulsive gambling behavior tends to exist whether in a licensed environment or not — as millions of real money wagerers around the world patronize unregulated brick & mortar establishments or online sites that offer similar products.

The pending wager restrictions are also expected to dramatically re-shape the UK land-based gambling industry while forcing the closure of roughly half of 8,500 current UK betting shop locations.

Online Gambling Regulatory Woes Continue

The news of an upcoming UK online gambling tax hike represents yet another regulatory challenge for internet operators to deal with.

Government crackdowns on internet gambling have become rampant in 2018, with various countries moving to restrict consumer access to real money online verticals such as poker, house-edge table games, and slot machines.

On the U.S. front, regulated iGaming interests are quickly coming to terms with a Pennsylvania market that will face numerous hurdles out of the gate, according to OPR analyst Steve Ruddock.

READ: When PA Online Casinos Finally Launch, They’ll Face A Lot Of Obstacles (Online Poker Report)

The website also published a story this past weekend notifying readers that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has received zero applications for online gambling licenses since it began accepting corresponding paperwork from potential brick & mortar Certificate Holders two months ago.

Laws in the Keystone State — which will soon become only the fourth statewide U.S. jurisdiction to formally regulate real money online gambling products — will charge operators $10 million USD for all-inclusive online gambling licenses while requiring internet operators to pay a 54% tax on their slot machine Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR).

Pennsylvania regulated iGaming products will also be competing with the newly-introduced PA Online Lottery, which currently offers real money games that possess a number of slot machine traits.

Online State Lotteries and U.S. Affiliates

With the regulated U.S. iGaming environment becoming increasingly restrictive and sweeping regulations hitting online gambling worldwide, some U.S. affiliates are turning to online lotteries as an alternative revenue source.

Online lottery is an intriguing product simply due to the widespread appeal of lottery products, which are easily the single most popular form of gambling in America,” stated regulated iGaming stakeholder consultant Chris Grove in a February 2018 interview with Affiliate Insider.

The advice may have already been taken to heart by affiliates who keep up with the latest gambling news for Pennsylvania. Part Time Poker has confirmed that a small number of U.S. iGaming affiliates have already initiated promotional campaigns with the PA iLottery, including “$5 Free” signup offers to adults age 18 and over who are physically located within the state.

GAMLING PROBLEM? CALL 1-800-GAMBLER (Pennsylvania Gambling Helpline)

UK Betting Shop Wager Restrictions (Summary)

UK betting shop wager restrictions are likely to remain an extremely controversial topic between now and their anticipated implementation in April 2020.

So far, there has been no compromise on FOBT machine wagering limits, which means customers at UK betting shop locations will still be allowed to risk up to £100 every 20 seconds on a single machine until then.

That may result in the temporary preservation of thousands of jobs along with a business model that is willingly supported by consumers, but it may also further the political divide between Problem Gambling activists and UK bookmakers.

Read More Part Time Poker Gambling Industry News

Pennsylvania Compulsive and Problem Gambling Regulatory Guide (Jun 9, 2018)
Kentucky iLottery Prohibits Withdrawal of All Player “Deposit” Funds (Jun 6, 2018)
WPT Season 17 Final Tables Moved to Esports Arena in Las Vegas (May 28, 2018)
Big Fish Casino Play Money Games Deemed “Illegal Online Gambling” (Mar 30, 2018)
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