UK Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson wants to impose gambling ad restrictions in an effort to address what he calls “a public health emergency.”

A September 20th report out of London suggests that the United Kingdom may be among a growing number of jurisdictions looking to clamp down on gambling advertisements to vulnerable consumers.

According to the BBC, UK Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson (pictured) has announced a regulatory proposal that would impose the following guidelines:

  • A “whistle to whistle” gambling ad ban for live UK-based sporting events
  • A 1% Gross Gaming tax on UK gambling operators to support problem gambling awareness
  • A ban on credit card use for placing real money wagers
  • Allow customers to instruct their bank to block financial transactions associated with gambling

Gambling companies have to take more responsibility for harm caused by their products and contribute more to research and treatment,” said Watson. “We must also face up to the negative effect the explosion in gambling advertising has had and act accordingly.”

Some UK Conservative Party members who oppose the legislation say the restrictions are simply a political method for “liberalizing the gambling market.”

Proposal for UK Gambling Ad Restrictions

The proposed regulatory guidelines are similar to recently-implemented laws in Australia that restrict advertisements during TV broadcasts and live streams of sporting events, as well as a blanket Italy gambling ad ban that prohibits commercial gaming marketing while providing an “exempt” status for products offered by state-sponsored lotteries.

The United Kingdom in particular has been moving swiftly to correct what some activists believe has become a “social blight” in high street betting shops.

An impending crackdown on UK FOBT machines could curb fixed-odds betting terminal wager restrictions to £2 every 20 seconds (from £100) while leveraging iGaming revenue to enable a “double taxation” mandate for 2019 to offset anticipated land-based losses as a result of the FOBT machine betting limits.

Proposed UK Gambling Ad Restrictions (Commentary)

* All commentary belongs solely to the author.

A sharp contrast in problem gambling awareness rhetoric appears to be forming in the United Kingdom and perhaps spreading to the United States.

In the September 20th BBC article, Sky Betting & Gaming CEO Richard Flint expressed nonchalance about the idea of an additional 1% gambling revenue tariff into Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to address problem gambling, while questioning the long-term effectiveness of credit card and gambling ad restrictions.

However, the Sky Bet executive’s views are not necessarily shared by William Hill Chairman Roger Devlin, who told government officials earlier this year that the incoming regulations for high street FOBT machines will trigger a takeover bid.

Roger Devlin - UK Gambling Ad Restrictions

William Hill CEO Roger Devlin

Consolidation within our sector continues and I would…not want to see the impact of a disproportionate triennial (review) outcome being a factor in the name of William Hill being added to the list of companies now in foreign ownership,” warned Devlin.

The William Hill UK brick & mortar betting shops business model could suffer massively from an ongoing wave of gambling restrictions, resulting in over 20,000 lost jobs in the sector according to Devlin.

Yet the high profile social pressure applied by activists such as The Guardian columnist and poker player Victoria Coren Mitchell (whose goals on protecting problem gamblers seem to solidly align with The Stars Group’s RG initiatives) could eventually prove too effective in stopping UK gamblers from risking anywhere near £100 every 20 seconds on FOBT machines.

Victoria Coren Mitchell - UK Gambling Ad Restrictions

Victoria Coren Mitchell

READ: A Stupid Gamble on Evil Machines (Victoria Coren Mitchell – The Guardian – Aug 20, 2017)

The Stars Group and Gambling Regulation

Sky Betting & Gaming — which could soon receive regulatory approval to merge with iGaming heavyweight The Stars Group — appears to have become the latest gaming service corporation to embrace high taxation and strict governance over problem gambling outreach as a condition for licensing.

According to September 2017 testimony before the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee on The Stars Group Responsible Gaming Policies, TSG in-house Certified Addictions Counselor Jeanne David told lawmakers that the company has aggressively pursued formal licensure in recent years.

Jeanne David - UK Gambling Ad Restrictions

TSG Head of Responsible Gaming Jeanne David

“We went from one license in 14 years to seventeen. We now have 17 licenses. The [most] recent is Portugal,” David informed. (TIMESTAMP 1:10-1:25)
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Specifically in the online poker world, TSG enjoys a dominant market position through its PokerStars brand and ‘new business’ generation capabilities to counteract soaring regulatory costs associated with problem gambling and statewide authorization.

Communication from PokerStars Headline Pro Daniel Negreanu in recent weeks (via DAT Poker Podcast) suggests that the online behemoth is practically the only internet poker company that provides meaningful investment into the business.

The notion that Partypoker (owned by GVC Holdings) has piggy-backed off of proprietary TSG marketing to “poach” customers that TSG CEO Rafi Ashkenazi wants to get rid of 51 weeks out of the year has been routinely spread throughout the industry as common knowledge since at least 2017.

READ: New Year’s Poker Predictions (Alex Weldon – Part Time Poker – Jan 10, 2018)

Recent DAT Poker Podcast discussion by Negreanu has also included a few shots at Partypoker sponsored pro Isaac Haxton, plus insinuations that PokerStars may soon embark on a major regulated statewide U.S. online poker campaign that might further minimize Partypoker’s online presence in America — a market that is currently dominated by WSOP and PokerStars. (EPISODE #1 TIMESTAMP 39:22)

Whether Kid Poker‘s hints of an online poker push are legitimate (or more along the lines of his 2016 “Amazing Things” promises) remains to be seen.

However, PokerStars’ positioning to have a major influence over internet Responsible Gaming rhetoric in the U.S. could be equal to its ability to successfully exhibit regulatory compliance capabilities in the maturing New Jersey market along with the incoming Pennsylvania iGaming space.

And it is becoming increasingly clear that such a scenario might include getting ahead of the gambling ad restrictions debate while making a legitimate attempt at self-regulation before blanket bans gain serious lawmaker consideration here across the pond.

Read More Gambling Regulation News from Part Time Poker

Regulated Statewide U.S. Online Poker Update (Aug 14, 2018)
Analysts: MGM-NBA Deal Makes Integrity Fees Less Likely (Aug 2, 2018)
Florida Amendment 3 Highlights Casino Lobbying Challenges (Sep 16, 2018)
Arkansas Casino Petition Shows Rising Gambling Lobbyist Costs (Jul 13, 2018)
Pennsylvania Compulsive and Problem Gambling Regulatory Guide (Jun 9, 2018)
Michigan Online Poker Bill FAQs (House Bills 4926-4928) (May 5, 2018)
Michigan Regulated iGaming Study Guide (Feb 6, 2018)

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