Conservative Election Victory – What it Means for Online Gambling in the UK

UK Gambling

A week or so ago we here at NewCasinos.org reported on what each political party in the UK said about online gambling in their manifestoes, issued in preparation for the December 12th General Election.

Now that the dust has settled on the latest UK political vote, we are going to take a look at how the landscape is likely to change for online gambling in the UK in the near future, after what have been a turbulent couple of years.

Boris is back – now what happens?

While the experts were predicting a closely-run contest with Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party just edging out Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, what actually happened was something quite different. Surprisingly, the UK public decided to put Johnson’s bumbling record as the former mayor of London and Foreign Secretary to one side, and gave him a large majority in the house. It’s actually the Conservative’s largest majority since 1987, and Corbyn has led Labour to their worst results since 1935.

It is unlikely that online wagering had much of an influence on people’s voting intensions (the main reason for the Tories’ victory is seen as being their intention to get the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union – commonly known as Brexit – concluded once and for all, and for better or – as increasingly seems more likely – worse) finally over and done with), Johnson’s win is being seen as ‘good news’ for the hotbed of online gambling that is the United Kingdom.

Gambling consultant claims Conservative majority a “cause for celebration”.

One of the first online gambling experts to voice an opinion about the election result was Steve Donoughue, a gambling consultant and former VP of Gambling Strategy at Cantor Gaming & Wagering. Donoughue stated that the current anti-wagering feeling among MPs in the UK is likely to remain, although it is likely to soften as the UK gambling sector “muddles through” the next couple of years.

It does seem likely that the Tories will have too much on their hands with Brexit to give any consideration to seismic changes to UK gambling legislation. The UK population, it has been claimed, mistakenly see the proposed January 2020 removal of the UK from the EU as the ‘end’ of Brexit when indeed it is barely the beginning. Once the UK is free from the EU it will have to negotiate a fresh trade deal between itself and EU bloc countries, which is something that could take months, or even years, especially as despite leaving it, the UK needs the EU more than the EU needs the UK.

Consultant Donoughhue says a Labour victory would have been bad news

Said Donoughue: “The fact Boris Johnson has got the biggest Tory majority since 1987 and Jeremy Corbyn has got the lowest number of Labour seats since 1935 can only be a cause for celebration for the British gambling industry Not a big party with balloons and a cake but one of those office-based things with no alcohol, rubbish biscuits and everyone just dying to go home.

Practically all MPs basically dislike gambling currently thanks to the way the big three bookmakers amateurishly dealt with FOBTs. But what we now have is a Tory Government focused on Brexit for the next few years and, as long as they can keep away from giving the gambling Ministership to someone susceptible to militant propaganda, we should be able to muddle through.”

Putting the FOBTs affair to bed represents a new dawn for UK gamblers

The ‘big three bookmakers’ to which O’Donoghue refers are William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral. In the mid 2010s they permitted the installation of FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) into their real-world betting shops. These terminals allowed betting shop users to play slots and casino games for up to £100 per spin or turn.

Such terminals were labelled the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and hundreds of stories emerged of people losing amazing amounts of money when using them. That £100 maximum betting limit seemed ridiculous and irresponsive to many, and a government bill was eventually passed in April 2019 that lowered the maximum ‘bet per turn’ down to a much more reasonable £2.

The UK needs to recover from the FOBTs debacle

That the ‘big three’ of William Hill, Ladbrookes and Coral (although Ladbrokes and Coral have now merged) acted so irresponsibly in installing FOBTs with such a high maximum betting limit significantly damaged their reputation – in particular – in parliament, and damaged the reputation of UK gambling as a whole.

Since the FOBTs debacle the UK government has established the Betting & Gaming Council, which is now being led by ex-Labour MP Michael Dugher. This also is seen as good news by O’Donoughue.

“Both know Westminster intimately,” he said. “Both are professional lobbyists and both are super intelligent. So with an almost neutral Government and a crack team at the trade association, hopefully no more bad things will happen.”

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