What would a Dec 13 labor win mean for the UK gambling industry

The UK casino sign up bonus gambling industry has undergone a significant upheaval this year with the imposition of a £2 max bet limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).  The FOBTs had long been criticized for promoting bettors’ ability to sustain quick losses at a quick pace.

Now the Labour Party is talking about imposing even more stringent regulations on the gaming industry in the UK if they win the December 13th election.  What would a Labour win mean for British gaming? 

Gambling Act

The Labour party is aligning itself with the Liberal Democrats in pledging stronger regulations on gambling in the UK.  Will they be successful in craftin a new ‘Gambling Act for the digital age?’

 In their election manifestos, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party have tried to walk a narrow tightrope, balancing Brits’ traditional enjoyment for betting while being aware of issues such as online gaming and gambling addictions that must be addressed by stronger regulations.

The Liberal Democrats have promised to ban credit cards for gambling, restrict gambling advertising, establish a Gambling ombudsman and “introduce a compulsory levy on gambling companies to fund research, education and treatment of problem gambling”.

Labour politicians are mostly in agreement. They say that they want to curb gambling advertisements in sports,  place renewed focus on problem gambling and introduce a new Gambling Act “fit for the digital age.” The platform has not detailed the intent but, it seems, it will aim to control offshore gambling, establish gambling limits and establish “mechanisms for consumer compensations”.


If Labour wins, it promised that it will tighten up regulation of the gambling industry.  This is ironic because Labor deregulated the gambling industry in 2005 via the Gambling Act which legitimized FOBTs in the first place. Now a new Gambling Act must take into account online gambling which is very popular in the UK. Presently, online casinos are left to operate almost completely freely but Labour says that it wants to make changes.

A new Gambling Act would certainly take into account the subject of gambling with credit cards. Tom Watson, Labour’s former deputy leader has been promoting this step for years. Watson is stepping down as an MP but he has been at the forefront of Labour’s  focus on gambling and his vision still guides the Labour party as they grapple with what needs to be done.

Watson wants to see  “a culture of limits” on online gambling which will safeguard customers through “thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed.” Some of this would presumably focus more on fixed-margin products and casino games as opposed to racing and sports betting. Watson described that industry as a “cat-and-mouse game of industry excess and regulatory chasing.”

The legislation would also try to control the practice where casinos offer incentives – free bets and distorted odds -- to big losers that keep them betting. Labour has already said that it would provide exemptions for horse racing due to horse racing’s intrinsic and traditional relationship with the British public.  Labour declared, in its position pager, that “there is nothing in today’s manifesto which evolves that position.”

In relating to problem gamers, Watson declared that “company profits have come before consumer protection for far too long.” It remains to be seen if, after his exit, his party will follow through on the path that he started.


Meanwhile, new proposed gambling laws in Ireland are alarming another public that likes to wager but in the case of Ireland, the outrage is directed at the government’s plan to change bingo laws. David Stanton, Minister of State, proposed that a maximum of 25% of proceeds go to bingo operators, 50% would go to prize winners and a minimum of 25% would go to charity.

Irish bingo enthusiasts have not been impressed and have set up protests outside the Dáil to express their concern over their worry that bingo halls would be closed. The legislation was proposed because bingo halls are required to give some of their proceeds to charity but until now, there has been no restrictions on how much of the proceeds go to charity.  The halls are often run by big operators and The Gamings and Lotteries (Amendment) Bill would regulate how the hall’s income is divided.

While some citizens are protesting the imposition of controls on the bingo halls others, including Independent Offaly councillor John Leahy, are harshly critical of the bill as being too little, too late.

Leahy objected to the government’s reticence to place real controls on gambling in Ireland. "I have continuously highlighted the problem gambling is having on our society and how we are way too lenient in dealing with all betting companies who are wreaking havoc on our society, bringing many people into the gambling world. The ease at which people can set up online accounts and bet 24/7 is frightening. These betting companies are ruining many lives and our TDs seem to be doing nothing on the issue……I couldn’t believe the legislation which is being proposed around gambling. Now I thought it would have went about dealing with the real problem but no it doesn’t. Instead it threatens to close bingo halls down across the country. What sort of madness is this? We are all familiar with people who go to bingo; it is a social outlet which has never brought misery on any family I know. This government must be living in cloud cuckoo land and it seems anything they do just further pushes people living in the countryside into further isolation.”

Leahy wants the government to leave the bingo halls alone since, he says, they are not the real issue. The problem that the government should be addressing, says Leahy, involve betting and bookies shops that open early in the morning and stay open late in the evening, as well as arcades and casinos that stay open all night.”

Bingo hall enthusiasts have been running bingo games outside the Dáil in protest over the proposal.

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