According to UK media reports, Chancellor Philip Hammond may be getting cold feet when it comes to measures to limit how much punters can bet using fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
After a concerted lobbying effort by Members of Parliament, church groups, anti-gambling associations and other assorted organizations intended to limit the potential harm done by FOBTs, plans were in the works to lower the maximum bet on such machines to £2. Currently players can bet as much as £100 every 20 seconds on such machines, giving rise to astonishing losses from gamblers unable to control their betting. Problem gamblers could loose up to £18,000 per hour.
The lowering of the maximum bet was set to come into force by the end of April, but a final decision has so far been delayed in the run up to May elections.
Chancellor Hammond, a member of the Conservative Party, seems to be concerned about the possibility that limiting maximum bets to £2 would have a detrimental effect of tax revenue garnered from such activities. The UK Treasury currently pulls down some £500 million per year in tax revenues off of FOBTs, a sum the Chancellor fears would go missing under the new rules, leaving a glaring hole in the budget.
UK players are said to lose some £1.7 billion per year to the machines, which opponents call highly addictive.
Meanwhile, FOBT operators have come out strongly against the measure, saying that lowering the maximum bet to £2 would lead to massive lay-offs in the industry, with some estimates saying over 20,000 jobs would be lost, and the closure of thousands of betting outlets across the country.
Nevada issues new rules for dealing with intoxicated players
The Nevada Gaming Association Commission has issued new rules when it comes to how casinos deal with intoxicated gamblers. While not a new rule, further clarification of the rules already in place mean that Nevada casinos will not be allowed to serve or allow to play gamblers who are “visibly impaired” by either drugs or alcohol.
“It’s not smart to allow impaired people to gamble. Previously, we used the words ‘intoxication,’ and intoxication sometimes gives the feeling of just alcohol … We want to make it crystal-clear across the board under all regulations that ‘impairment’ is not just alcohol; it’s being impaired by drugs,” said Commission chairman Tony Alamo.
Industry analysts explain that the rule change is important in light of the fact that Nevada legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2017.
Norway to crack down on international operators
In a move designed to protect the state-owned Norsk Tipping gambling monopoly, the government of Norway has announced plans to block the country’s financial institutions from processing payments to and from international online gambling sites.
With Norwegian banks processing some 40,000 transactions a day in relation to international online casino operators, the government aims to make it crystal clear that Norwegian financial institutions must block all transactions with international casino operators by law.
Previous legislation defined amounts beyond which Norwegian financial instructions would be required to block payments. This led certain operators simply to change their account numbers to bypass the law. The new legislative proposal aims to require banks to block operators by name and not just account number or amount.
Moreover, the proposed legislation, which will be formally debated on May 7 and looks likely to pass, will actually have teeth. The proposed new rules would give the Norwegian Gaming Authority the right to force banks to provide information about certain companies on demand.
While stopping short of banning international casino operators IP addresses outright, the legislation also proposed to create a warning for Norwegian gamblers that they are entering a site that does not conform to local laws and that they are free to proceed but only at their own risk.
Opposition parties who have come out largely in support of the new law would also like to see the country’s pension fund divest its $3.3 billion stake in gambling companies, including not only the state-owned monopoly, Norst Tipping but also the likes of 888 Holdings, Paddy Power, The Stars Group, William Hill, Betsson, Playtech, Las Vegas Sands, Melco Resorts & Entertainment and SJM Holdings.
Domestic gambling in Sweden stalls, global sites grow
A report released by Sweden’s Lotteriinspektionen gaming regulator has shown that even as Sweden’s regulated domestic gambling market stagnated in 2017, pulling in $2 billion, global online casino operators servicing the domestic market without official permission surged to $640 million, displaying a year-on-year growth rate of 14.6%.
The international operator’s share of Sweden’s internet gambling market hit 53.3%, with their share of the overall gambling market up from 16.5% in 2012 to 24.3% in 2017.
Licensed local operators were largely flat year-on-year, with the ATG horseracing monopoly posting 3% growth, the Svenska Spel monopoly showing less than 1% growth and Casino Cosmopol up 4% over 2016.