UK MPs Demand £2 Stake Limit for Online Casino Games

  • Report calls for a max stake of £2 ($2.58) on online casino games
  • It also says that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is not fit for purpose in its current form
  • Calls for a complete overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act to bring it into the digital age
  • Share prices in major gambling companies dropped sharply after the report was published
business team meeting
An interim report released by a group of UK MPs calls for major changes to gambling laws in the region, including a cap of £2 ($2.58) for online casino games. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Proposals to overhaul the industry

A group of MPs has released a new interim report that includes a number of proposals aimed at curtailing the online casino sector in the United Kingdom.

Among the many recommendations outlined in this report, MPs are calling for the introduction of a limit on max stakes in online casino games.

This would see online casino games being subject to the same £2 ($2.58) max stake that is now in place for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the UK. The report says:

If they are not acceptable in land-based venues they should not be allowed online.”

The MPs behind this report

The wide-ranging report was compiled as a result of an inquiry into these issues, which has taken place over the past six months. The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) that compiled this report is led by Carolyn Harris (Labour), Iain Duncan Smith (Conservatives), and Ronnie Cowan (SNP).

The APPG approached industry operators about what level of gambling is affordable, but the group did not receive an adequate response.

Shots fired at the UK regulator

Harris also spoke about the UK Gambling Commission, saying that it is not suitable in its current form to tackle issues in a digital age. She is calling for the UKGC to be given wider-reaching powers as it needs to “urgently improve its standards in the area of online gambling”.

The UKGC responded, saying:

We are disappointed that this report has been released before we have been given the chance to give evidence.”

The UKGC disputed many of the claims stated in the report. It gave an example of a recent speech by its Chief Executive Neil McArthur.

He spoke about the commission’s plans to introduce curtailments on online stakes, VIP accounts, ad technology, and more. It also was critical that the APPG published this interim report without considering any of the commission’s evidence.

Key recommendations

The main recommendations of the report include introducing a max stake limit on online slot games of £2 ($2.58), stopping the use of credit cards to deposit funds to online gambling platforms, and restricting VIP accounts.

The use of VIP accounts often sees problem gamblers rack up massive debts after being offered perks like gifts and cash back bonuses by operators.

Minor recommendations include having online operators improve their systems to identify problem or underage gamblers, in addition to simplifying their terms and conditions.

Commenting on these recommendations, Iain Duncan Smith, the vice-chair of the APPG, said: “It is outrageous that there are not stake limits online, that gamblers are still able to gamble using credit cards online and that operators are able to continue to offer inducements to the vulnerable without proper sanction.”

an overhaul would bring gambling legislation into the digital age for a sector that generates annual revenues of £5.6bn ($7.23bn)

The report also seeks a complete overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act. Such an overhaul would bring gambling legislation into the digital age for a sector that generates annual revenues of £5.6bn ($7.23bn).

It also calls for an investigation into the use of non-disclosure agreements by gambling operators.

The probability of change

The MPs at the center of this report are positive that these changes can be implemented, no matter what political party is in charge of the government.

The Labour Party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are in favor of having stricter rules in place on the sector. Johnson was one of the MPs who publicly criticized the government for delaying the introduction of the max limit on fixed-odds betting terminals earlier in 2019.

Shares prices tumble

When the details of this report went public, major UK gambling companies saw their share prices take a big hit. William Hill’s price fell by 7%, GVC Holdings shares fell 9%, and 888 Holdings shares fell by almost 5%.

These companies all have a big presence in the UK online gambling sector. When the max stake of fixed-odds betting terminals was dropped from £100 ($129) to £2 ($2.58), gambling companies were forced to close stores and get rid of staff after experiencing significant decreases in revenue.