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 Brexit pushes casinos and bookmakers away from the UK 03/03/2020
• The wild west that was the UK gambling boom is officially over.

Whatever the law of unintended consequences says doesn't really matter because no one will take it into consideration before casting their vote. What's done is done and the online gambling world is changing because of Brexit, but maybe a change that was coming anyway. The UK market, long super-super-saturated with online casinos and online bookmakers, is having a shake-up. And consumers will ultimately be the losers.

Multiple reasons led to the feverish attraction the UK market had to new and old gambling companies alike. And not just bookmakers and casinos, but also a whole raft of software providers and service providers took up licenses from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, even though many were and are based overseas in the usual hotspots. Malta, Gibraltar, Cyprus and many other small islands, where they make up their own tax rules and licensing bodies, are home to nearly all the big names operating and licensed in the UK. Its not generally known but even the software providers behind platforms like the new nektan casinos have to be licensed to offer their product to people in the UK, and they are based in Gibraltar.

But as this is the strictest (although not very) licensing domain in the world it seemed a bit odd that all these new and old gambling operations still clambered to get here. The reason was the promise of pots of gold, a good name for a slot, that investors were convinced were forthcoming.

EU Single Market
The first reason for getting an office and a license in the UK was that it was part of the European Union Single Market and as such allowed any business based in it to offer its services to anyone else in the 500 million plus populated economic region. This is no longer the case. Of course being based in less expensive countries would give the same benefits but not the same cache and seriousness that the UKGC regulator wants to see. That UKGC license was the reason for the next attraction.

UKGC License
Getting one of these meant that you had passed the toughest test of any authority in the world and therefore more likely to be able to offer your services around it in any other country. Toughest however is a comparative term and in reality the threshold wasn't very high, nonetheless it gives every holder a lift when presenting their product to the gambling public. More over holding a license from the UK leads onto the next reason, sport sponsorship.

Sport Sponsorship
The number one televised sport in the world happens to be Premiership football and the third biggest football league in the world is the Championship. If you want your name on their shirts as a sponsor and your business is gambling then you must have a license to offer services to people in the UK. Two thirds of these football clubs agreed main shirt sponsorship deals with gambling operators because these are the people with most money to spend, not necessarily wisely, on getting worldwide air time and brand recognition. And the primary target for these sponsors is not the UK but continental Europe and Asia where all the free spending punters are.

The Wheels Have Come Off
Although new players are still appearing there are many operators who have withdrawn their services from the UK. Some because its just too expensive and pressure on the UK government to restrict gambling is growing, but Brexit finally going through was the final straw. The reasons for having a UK facing arm of a business are no longer there.

Betclic, Everest Gaming and Expekt went in the last quarter of 2019. Royal Panda, a jewel acquired by LeoVegas in 2017, closed its doors in January 2020. Aston Casino and MaxEnt also pulled out of the UK market at the same time. Meanwhile the sports orientated portal Blacktype, famous for once saying that it would not bar professional punters from having a bet (which it reneged on), went into administration. Horse Racing sponsor and bookmaker come casino, Betbright, had done the same earlier in 2019.

Meanwhile the relatively new player to the market, MoPlay, had its license suspended by the UKGC and the Gibraltar authorities simultaneously for basically being bankrupt. Not only did they stop trading in February 2020 but unlike others before them, were not able to let people withdraw their money because it doesn't exist anymore. This of course shines a light on what a UKGC license really means because it does not guarantee players' funds and that is after all else is what people are most concerned about.

Even William Hill, one of the oldest and largest bookmakers, has been struggling to move forward on the global stage. Back in 2016 it was unable to complete a merger with Rank and 888 which would have seen it better able to compete with the high spending new players. It hasn't been able to attract any new interest since then and so is largely focused on the future elsewhere in the world.

US Market Gets More Attractive
So to the final nail in the coffin of the UK gambling expansion. As state after state begin overturning the antiquated federal laws restricting sports betting in their region, so the big international gambling operators, most of them with UK origins, are signing deals with US casinos to offer sportsbooks. This was previously restricted to Las Vegas but now promises to spread across the vast gambling nation of the USA. William Hill was one of the first to get in on the act and already has self-service betting terminals all over Las Vegas but is spreading its wings to other states, like Michigan.

There is not going to be a shortage of online gambling outlets in the UK anytime soon but it is going to get harder to get loyalty offers that reward the general punter and the pros are going to find it harder to place bets. The wild west that was the UK gambling boom is officailly over.