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3 Questions to Ask About Gambling in the EU after Brexit

2020 seems set to be the time when, after four years of delay since the original 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU, it might actually come to pass.

Flags near Parliament - Photo by ChiralJon

Admittedly, this might only be the start of a long and drawn-out period of negotiation that could take several years to sort out. But if Boris Johnson does manage to achieve at least the first phase of his plan to "Get Brexit done" by the end of January 2020 then it will be a step in the right direction - for the UK's "Leave" supporters, at least.

During this process, there will undoubtedly be many areas to consider beyond just trade and border restrictions and one of the sectors that may well be affected in the aftermath if the Withdrawal Bill is passed by the UK parliament is gambling.

Three particular questions are especially relevant and may well need to be answered.

Will the legal status of the UK providing gambling services to EU be affected?

The UK is recognised as having one of the most highly regulated gambling industries in the world, thanks to the efforts of the country's official body, the Gambling Commission. Obviously, they have no control or jurisdiction outside of the UK, even where UK gambling companies are operating in the EU. As these countries are generally allowed to set their own rules, free from EU intervention, it would seem that, on the face of it, the legal status will not be affected.

What happens with Gibraltar?

Gibraltar - Photo by andre.wojtowicz

Over the past few decades, a number of UK-based gambling companies have their headquarters in Gibraltar - which is technically part of the UK, although Spain would dispute this. Many British workers employed by the companies live on mainland Spain and their commute to work involves crossing the border with few, if any, controls at the moment. If no deal is agreed overall, it could well mean that every time a worker crosses the border there will need to be identity checks and other security measures. Whilst Johnson's comfortable majority has led some to believe no deal is off the table, others disagree. In fact, many have bet on a UK Brexit with no deal, with Betfair's odds. Still very much a possibility, no deal would cause a potentially massive inconvenience for all Spain-based Gibraltar employees of iGaming firms.

Will UK-based gambling companies move to EU countries?

There is the possibility that gambling companies that are physically based in the UK could follow financial services organisations such as Goldman Sachs in moving staff and assets to EU countries. This would certainly become more likely in the case of a no-deal scenario when it could well become something of a free-for-all, with UK businesses having to work to ensure that their lucrative trade links EU countries in general remain open. Already, a number of UK gambling businesses operate out of Malta so this could well be somewhere several more may be considering.

Naturally, at this stage everything is pure speculation, and the outcome will gradually become clearer. Until then, you can rest assured that the industry will be asking itself many more questions in addition to these.

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