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UK online gambling market likely to become more restricted upon a no deal Brexit

The continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit is a cause of concern for many industries operating in the UK non the least the gambling industry.

Many casino sites operating in the UK could be restricted following a no deal Brexit. Although the future is unclear, there are several possible scenarios which could work for or against online casinos/the iGaming industry in the UK in the case of a no deal Brexit.

Licenses and Regulations

The gambling industry in the UK is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. Any casino that wishes to operate in the UK must, by law, be licensed by them. It is no secret that there are lots of online casinos operating illegally in the UK market. The UK government introduced its own Gambling Commission in order to protect UK players. Online gamblers and punters should only sign up and play on sites that have the appropriate licenses which are issued by the UK Gambling Commission. Online casinos that have the Gambling Commissions stamp of approval include well known brands such as PlayFrank, WilliamHill and Bet365.

The licenses that are awarded by the UK Gambling Commission are not only given to online casino companies that are based in the UK, they are given to any legitimate online casinos that allow UK players to sign up to them. However, in the event of Brexit, it is thought that these rules could change. One theory is that the UK government will only give licenses to casinos that are based in the UK - meaning that UK players will not be able to access European based casino sites.

The Gibraltar and Malta iGaming hubs

Gibraltar is part of the UK, so when the UK leaves Europe, so will Gibraltar. This could have devastating effects on the gambling industry given that many online casinos have online gaming licenses in Gibraltar. The economy of Gibraltar is heavily reliant on the gambling industry but if the UK and therefore Gibraltar leave the EU then the attractiveness of being based in Gibraltar could disappear. The Spanish government is especially keen on keeping an eye on what is happening given that they have a border with Gibraltar whilst lots of employees in the iGaming industry in Gibraltar both live on and often travel to mainland Spain. However, as the FT reported in late 2018, the governments of Spain and the UK came to an agreement in regards to Gibraltar so that both countries were happy for Brexit to be fulfilled.

The former British colony of Malta is not in a too dissimilar position to that of Gibraltar. Malta is known as the iGaming capital of Europe. Dozens of online casinos that currently operate in the UK are based in Malta. English is one of the national languages of Malta and the number of jobs for English speakers in the iGaming industry means that the Mediterranean island is a popular relocation place for Brits. Although expats living in Malta are thought to be safe to stay here after Brexit, there are around 5000 expats working in the iGaming market that could see their jobs at risk if the UK decides that online casinos who wish to operate in the UK must be based in the country.

No deal Brexit v soft Brexit

It almost goes without saying that a no deal Brexit will bring about much more turmoil to the online casino industry operating in the UK then a soft Brexit would. A no deal Brexit would mean that the UK would completely cut its ties with the EU and will go on to fend for itself. On the other hand, a soft Brexit would ensure that Britain would reman closely aligned with the EU.

Of course, if a soft Brexit does occur, this will likely ensure that the UK gambling industry will keep its ties with Europe whilst the booming iGaming industry in the UK, which is worth over $40 billion, will continue to thrive without too many hiccups. A soft Brexit would see that the UK would stay within the EUs single market (like Norway) and its customs union (like Turkey).

Brexit delays causing more uncertainty

As of April 2019, Brexit has now been delayed for a further six months, with a new date set for October 31st 2019. Although iGaming companies that are operating in the UK are staying strong despite the chaos that Brexit is causing, the uncertainty is not making it easy, far from it. With so many jobs on the line, it is increasingly sad to see UK politicians playing politics with peoples lives. Whether you like the online gambling industry or not, it certainly employs and pays the salaries of tens of thousands of Brits across the world.

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