The Big Squeeze, European Regulation and Exciting News from Ukraine

Across Europe, the gambling industry is facing unprecedented change as government regulators shape up to crack down on gaming operators.

In the UK parliamentarians are calling for gambling laws, last updated in 2005 and 2014, to be updated to meet the challenges of the digital age.

Germany, too, is considering strict new limits on online gambling market.

And Sweden is putting limits on deposits, stakes and “Freeplay” money given away in promotional activities.

The UK online gambling market is currently regulated under the Gambling Acts of 2005 and 2014. These laws are now being labelled as ‘too liberal’ and said to be fuelling a growing gambling addiction crisis.

A recent GambleAware survey estimated that almost three per cent of the adult population has a gambling addiction. Experts in the industry, which is worth £11b a year, dispute this. But MPs say the study is enough to warrant change.

In June over 50 MPs and peers called for the industry to be restructured.

They want a total ban on gambling advertising, both online and on TV; a £2 (US$2.60) stake limit on all slot machines, current limit £100 (US$130); a ban on VIP schemes and other inducements; independent financial checks to pre-empt problem gambling.

Carolyn Harris, a Labour party MP and leader of a parliamentary group investigating gambling, is backing the changes.

“Gambling firms have shown time and again that they will not effectively self-regulate,” she said. “Urgent change is needed to stop this industry riding roughshod over people’s lives.”

The cross-party parliamentary group has already successfully campaigned to ban credit card betting and limit fixed odds betting terminals.

The UK Gambling Commission has also recommended curbing loyalty schemes, which forms a vital tranche of income for some gaming companies.

Meantime, mixed messages are coming from German lawmakers.

Online sports betting, poker, and gaming will be legalised as of July, 2021. But with significant restrictions.

Online slots will start from €1 per spin (US$1.18, £0.90), with an individual monthly deposit limit of €1,000 (US$1,179, £905). Gambling advertising will only be allowed between nine pm and six am.

Fixed Jackpots will be banned from online slots, as will autoplay functions. ,

Enforcement action against companies operating illegally is to be stepped up.

Sweden too is seeking to tighten its gambling laws.

Temporary measures, designed to “protect” citizens from gambling addiction during the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak and are now set to be extended until the year’s end.

These limits include a maximum weekly deposit of SEK5,000 (US$575.14, £441.21) and a bonus topped  at SEK100 (US$11.50, £8.82).

A new report by Sweden’s Equality Commission, Jämlikhetskommissionen, says online gambling should only be offered at “certain hours”; although it doesn’t stipulate what these hours should be.

Around two per cent the population suffers from gambling addiction, says the report, with an estimated 0.4 per cent of gamblers having a “severe addiction”. Women were more likely to show signs of addiction than men, the report notes.

“In the same way as with alcohol policy, the policy needs to focus on preventing abuse through balanced efforts rather than limiting all gambling. Excessive restrictions or high taxes can lead to an increased share of unregulated gambling,” the report recommends.

The commission calls for advertising restrictions for gambling products and the posting of anti-tobacco style “health warnings”.

These changes come in stark contrast to the Ukraine Bill. After following multiple amendments, SoP ministers settled on a working framework of Bill-2285 as Ukraine’s policy.

The Ukraine Gambling Law will offer a regulated marketplace for the eight gambling types including online casino, Land-based casinos, online sports betting, Slot machine halls, retail sports betting, totaliser contracts, online poker, and lotteries.

Regardless of receiving presidential approval, the Gambling Law remains up for debate around operator criteria for licensing, procedures, and taxes.

Ministers chose to hold separate hearings on how Ukraine would figure out its tax framework and licensing in an attempt to form a regulated gambling marketplace.

In the face of growing hostility and calls for greater controls, online operators and pro-gamers argue that draconian anti-gambling legislation will only drive the industry into the shadows of illegal activity.

Perhaps Ukraine has heard the calls of the industry and seeks to be one of the most exciting growth areas in Europe.

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