After the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) advised members of Parliament that online casino betting limits could be lowered to just £2, Europe’s major iGaming firms suffered an immediate impact on the stock market.
Neil McArthur – who serves as chief executive officer of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission – appeared on February 12 before the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) committee on gambling related harm.
As part of his testimony to U.K. lawmakers, McArthur revealed that the UKGC would spend the next six months considering the APPG’s proposal to lower betting limits for online slot machines, table games, and other casino offerings.
UKGC Exec Stuns the Market by Agreeing to Consider Lower Limits
The announcement represented an abrupt about face for the UKGC and McArthur, who one week earlier told a select committee of the House of Lords that harmful gambling afflicted only a small percentage of players overall.
In a public statement, a spokesperson for the UKGC later confirmed McArthur’s 2020 timeline for a full review of the £2 limit initiative:
“We said last October that we would be looking at online stake limits as part of our ongoing work to reduce the risks of gambling-related harm.
This work is in addition to us focusing on VIP practices, advertising technology and game design.
We will publish our assessment and next steps for online stakes and further protections later this year.”
One day after McArthur spoke to the APPG committee, shares of William Hill – London’s oldest continuously operated sportsbook turned regional iGaming kingpin – saw their price slashed by nearly 8 percent. In a similar response from local markets, shares of Ladbrokes / Coral parent company GVC and iGaming software industry leader Playtech both fell by 7 percent.
Other iGaming firms with a United Kingdom / European focus such as Paddy Power / Betfair / PokerStars parent company Flutter Entertainment and worldwide iGaming software provider 888 Holdings experienced more modest retreats.
McArthur alluded to his apparent willingness to review UKGC policy on maximum betting limits back in December, during a speech delivered to fellow agency regulators:
“We will be gathering data on online play and what that means for stakes limits.
We already know that harm can occur for consumers at any stake levels and that effective use of account-based play data can be used to protect players.
Nevertheless, we are looking closely at the case for introducing further protections for consumers online and this includes the evidence for imposing stake limits online as a means of further reducing the risk of harm.”
Parliamentary Committee Praises Progress on Gambling Harm Reform
In the wake McArthur’s latest comments, MP Carolyn Harris – who serves as chair APPG committee on gambling harm – offered a backhanded endorsement of the UKGC’s six-month review plan:
“Online slot content games should be reduced to £2 a spin in line with the rules in betting shops.
The Gambling Commission must stop being reactive and take action to protect the vulnerable from harm in line with their licensing objectives.
A review of stake limits online has been clearly recommended by the all-party parliamentary group and is long overdue.
I am very pleased that the Gambling Commission has finally seen sense on this.”
The UKGC is no stranger to imposing stringent limits on the individual wagers gambling enthusiasts can place. Back in 2018, the regulator required operators of fixed odds betting terminals – devices offering slot machine style betting in public places – to reduce their limits from £100 to £2.