The UK gambling market has faced some challenges over the past few years and the result is that many gambling companies are exiting the UK. Political and regulatory turmoil has made some operators lose interest in operating in the UK or expanding services and some have left the UK to enter more prominent markets in other areas of the world.
The UK has always been known for being a well-regulated jurisdiction for online gambling and many major operators have offered sites to players over the years. Unfortunately, the UK is not an appealing destination it once was and an increasing number of companies have started to withdraw services and stop the operation of online casinos.
New Gambling Regulations
Over the past few years, the UK Gambling Commission has imposed new rules and regulations that are aimed to make the country a safer place for online gamblers. Strict rules have been enforced and operators now have more regulations they need to comply with to continue operating sites. The UK Gambling Commission altered rules regarding the licensing of sites. Now, only sites that hold a UK license can operate in the country. In the past, sites that were licensed by MGA or Kahnawake could operate in the UK, but this is no longer the case. These sites were forced to exit.
Another regulation that will affect the gambling industry is the ban on credit card use for online gambling payments. This is a measure that has been taken to help prevent problem gambling and to ensure a safer environment for players. However, credit and debit cards are the leading forms of payment and many operators rely on these. Those that do will find they have no choice but to expand their payment options or leave the UK.
Major Companies Have Already Exited the UK
The new regulations and the implementation of strict measures to offer protection to British customers have been grounds for many companies leaving the UK. Some have completely exited while others moved their headquarters out of the country but still have operating sites in the UK. The first company to announce they would stop offering betting services to UK customers was BetBright, an Irish company. This was followed by 188Bet ceasing operations in April 2019 and in August, InterCasino and Vera & john both withdrew Uk operations.
Throughout 2019, many companies announced they would cease to offer services in the UK and this has continued into 2020. The Malta-based company Max Entertainment stated it planned to leave the market in the UK and one of the more recent companies to make the transition out of the country is Royal Panda. Dunder is another casino company that has left the UK, ceasing operations in October.
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Heavy Fines Implemented
Not only is the high cost of applying for a license in the UK a reason for many companies leaving, but the new fines that have been issued to companies is another reason. Certain operators have been found to not following guidelines that relate to social responsibility and fines have been issued to popular operators.
Over the past few years, many fines have been imposed by the UK Gambling Commission and in June 2018, the Commission fined 32Red £2 million after the platform was found to not be abiding by anti-money laundering guidelines. In November of the same year, three more companies were fined for a total of £14 million, including the Casumo brand. A fourth company was not fined, but was forced to surrender their license.
These high fines have been a cause for concern for many operators and with the stricter regulations in place and the possibility of losing licenses, companies are making the choice to leave the UK instead of facing the possibility of millions in fines.
Brexit Causes Gambling Turmoil
The current political turmoil surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union is one thing that has had gambling companies considering withdrawing from the UK. If the UK does exit from the union, there would be significant changes to the gambling sector. Changes in the status of the UK would lead to legal changes for operators and some are already preparing by withdrawing services to UK customers.
Gambling companies have started to move their operations to environments with favorable regulations. It is expected that Brexit will have a significant effect on taxation, which is an important reason why many gambling companies are considering leaving the country.
As more companies are withdrawing from the UK, offshore companies will be picking up the slack. There are many companies that are licensed under other jurisdictions that provide gambling services to UK citizens and these sites are beyond the reach of new regulations and UKGC rules.