Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, today pledged BGC members will support the Government’s economic recovery plan with investment, jobs and tax revenues, but urged Ministers not to put this at risk in the Gambling Review with “well-meaning but naive changes” to regulations that could lead to a smaller regulated industry in the UK.
Ahead of the Spring Statement, he said the regulated betting and gaming industry was ready to help Chancellor Rishi Sunak recover the public finances after the Covid pandemic so that the Treasury can do more to alleviate pressures on the cost of living.
According to EY, in 2019 BGC members supported 119,000 jobs, generated £4.5bn in tax and contributed £7.7bn to the economy in gross value added. Industry experts estimate around 30,000 of those jobs are devoted to digital technologies, while last year the industry ensured over 50,000 employees underwent digital skills training.
In addition, BGC members’ have pledged to create 5,000 apprenticeships through their support for the Government’s Plan For Jobs.
Regulated operators are also signing up to the Government’s own Kick Start scheme to provide job opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit, as well as rolling out graduate recruitment schemes, offering career paths for young people straight from university.
The sector’s world-leading British tech giants are also investing for the future. BGC member Entain recently announced plans to launch a global innovation hub, named Ennovate, in London, which will plough up to £100 million into innovation projects, start-up investments and collaborations with UK, European and global partners, with £40 million specifically earmarked for investment in the UK.
Meanwhile, Flutter Entertainment has opened a new £15 million technology and innovation hub in Leeds, housing more than 800 tech professionals. And Stoke based bet365, already a major employer in the region, has created hundreds of new jobs in the north west, many of them at its Stoke HQ and at a new tech hub in Manchester.
Having been forced to close for months at a time during lockdown, land-based venues like betting shops and casinos are getting back on their feet and once again making a major contribution to support our hard-pressed high streets as well as hospitality, leisure and tourism.
Sport also benefits with vital funding from the regulated betting and gaming industry. During the pandemic, BGC members supported horseracing with £350m, the English Football League received £40m, and snooker, darts and rugby league received more than £12.5m.
But as the Government nears publication of the gambling white paper, the BGC also warned any new regulations must be evidence-led and not risk the huge economic contribution members make.
Meanwhile, the growing threat of black-market gambling risks undermines that prosperity agenda as well as player safety. A recent study by PwC found British punters using unregulated sites has risen to 460,000 and the amount staked is now in the billions of pounds.
Industry research has found European countries which brought in stricter regulations saw a spike in black market use, including Norway, which introduced a state monopoly for all gaming coupled with restrictions on stakes, strict affordability checks and curbs on advertising. Now over 66 per cent of all money staked in Norway, goes to the black market. In Italy, where betting and gaming advertising is completely banned, the black market accounts for 23 per cent of money staked.
These sites have none of the safer gambling tools used by the regulated betting and gaming industry, which has been encouraged by the most recent Government figures showing problem gambling rates in the UK are at 0.3 per cent up to December, down from 0.6 per cent 18 months ago.
Mr Dugher, said: “Our members are ready, willing and able to assist in the Chancellor’s post-covid economic recovery plan.
“They already support thousands of world-leading tech jobs across the UK, helping to generate billions of pounds in revenue for the Treasury. And with ambitious plans for further investment in the years to come to generate more quality and high skilled jobs in regions outside London, we are contributing to the levelling up agenda.
“But it is vital the industry’s contribution to sports, local communities, jobs and tax revenues, is not put at risk in the Gambling White paper and with well-meaning but naive changes to regulation.
“The growth of the unsafe, unregulated black market in online gambling is part of a global trend and it’s foolish to think that there’s an enforcement solution to this. The DCMS simply throwing more money and a few extra powers at the Gambling Commission won’t fix this for the Government. You have to protect the competitiveness of consumer products and avoid the kinds of intrusive restrictions that drive players to the black market. Anti-gambling campaigners may want to see a smaller regulated industry, but that would be bad news for the economy and the Exchequer”.