Have Brexit divisions brought about unity in the UK gambling industry?
For anyone living in the UK, the past couple of years have been one of the most divisive and tumultuous in society in living memory and it is all thanks to one thing; Brexit. Since the referendum result, Britain has been plunged into a state of chaos as the Prime Minister has tried to negotiate a deal with the EU for Britain to leave.
Even a few years along the line since the referendum, there are many aspects of live outside of the EU that businesses and individuals do not have a clear understanding of how things will work and what will actually happen if and when Britain does leave the EU. This has, understandably, led to a huge lack of confidence in the government and many businesses and industries are taking precautions to ensure their welfare in the future. That is in the event of an agreed Brexit, a no deal Brexit or even if Britain somehow stays in the EU.
The effect of these several years of confusion and a lack of clarity has seen many businesses opt to leave the UK. Many factories around the country are being shut down and production moved elsewhere, often to the EU, companies like Dyson, Honda and Jaguar are just three of many that have been quick to leave the UK due the issues regarding Brexit.
Indeed, Brexit has been seen as almost entirely divisive in the UK, splitting the population down the middle and being the reason or an upheaval in British politics, the likes of which has not been seen previously. However, somewhat paradoxically, Brexit could also be a key factor in helping bring together one important part of British society and that is companies that are involved in gambling.
Gambling Industry Establishes New Union Body
Until recently, the companies that were involved in all forms of gambling within the UK, such as sports betting sites, online casino companies, high street casino and bingo companies, poker sites and the like tended to fall into one of two trade bodies.
There were the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) which tended to look after companies that had been established from high street bookmaking firms such as Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral, Betfred and similar as well as those sports books that have earned their popularity online, such as bet365, 888 and Betway to name but three.
Companies such as Microgaming and other companies that produced slots, casino games and the like tended to be represented by their trade body, the Remote Gambling Association and though there was significant overlap between the two bodies, both operated as separate entities.
However, by having two bodies, the strength of both were effectively diminished by half, which made it easier for governments to push through legislation which some of these bodies found punitive, such as levying a maximum bet of £2, rather than £100, every 20 seconds at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in the UK.
Whether this issue was brought to a head by the uncertainty of what will happen with Brexit, and despite claims to the contrary just a few months back from leading individuals within the ABB and RGA, it now appears that all the largest online betting and gambling operators will soon be sharing a single unified voice.
The likes of bet365, GVC Holdings, Paddy Power Betfair, The Stars Group, William Hill, Microgaming, Playtech, Aspers and The Rank Group are just some of the names from the online gambling industry and also from the high street that have agreed to become part of a single unifying voice for British gambling businesses.
The group, which at this stage is operating under the name Newco, although that is subject to change in the future, has already advertised for key positions within the group, namely a chairman and a chief executive who will take on roles within what the advertisement says will be "the largest and most prominent organisation representing the gambling industry".
The Guardian newspaper in the UK has cited a senior industry source who stated:
"All of the issues on responsible gambling and tax cut across the industry, so it's time to get lined up a bit better.
While the Guardian postulates that it is the "threat of new regulatory curbs" which have brought about this unification into a single lobbying body, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the issue with Brexit is also playing a key role in persuading these once disparate businesses to finally come together.
Indeed, in the advertisement for the Chief Executive and Chairman post, the candidate that is successful should have "a track record of successfully influencing the political and lobbying process within Westminster, Whitehall and ideally, Brussels."
Certainly, the main thrust seems to be that gambling companies want a stronger, more unified voice when it comes to dealing with parliament and government's intrusion into their industry but there is also the fact that by having a number of large businesses in one union, together, then the debilitating effects of any Brexit deal can be mitigated or reduced if they can lobby strongly enough.
Like many companies in the UK, gambling giants like William Hill, Microgaming and The Rank Group are unsure as to how Brexit will work, particularly in the online arena. Will European citizens still be able to play games at online casinos owned by companies in the UK? Will UK citizens be able to play at casinos that are run from other EU countries? These issues may be way down the list of concerns for the Prime Minister as she tries to negotiate a deal, but they are very pertinent for those companies with significant investment in the gambling industry within the UK.
And given the number of jobs that the industry creates across the country, it is one that could have serious repercussions should Brexit be more damaging than anybody expected.
By coming together at this time, this allows these companies to have a single unifying voice to try and lobby politicians when required. Of course, there will be those who will feel that this move is entirely funded by self-interest and if this was solely about maintaining profits, that would undeniably be the case.
However, while Brexit still rolls on and the uncertainty created by it remains impenetrable and incomprehensible, then there will be many other businesses who will look at what the gambling industry has done and who could well follow their lead.
Byline: This article was published by Mega Moolah expert Henry. Media and other enquiries.
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