It’s been all quite in the UK gambling industry until the FullTilt bombshell exploded. Remember the scandal with the British players being unable to get their money from this poker website? Well, the Department of Culture, Media and Sports is now determined to protect all UK players against the evils of offshore online casinos.
It is really nice that the British government is so much concerned about the safety of its citizens’ hard earned money, but the question is: will British gamblers really benefit from a crackdown on non-UK based online casinos?
Supposedly, according to the new rules, all casino operators hoping to run a gambling business in the UK will have to submit applications to the Gambling Commission and obtain another licence. Although the Treasury is avoiding straightforward announcements, you will hardly find anyone who doesn’t understand the real reasons for this interference. It’s just the first step towards reclaiming taxes that had been lost when many of the UK online casinos went offshore.
Even some industry giants have moved to smaller jurisdictions in order to avoid really high UK taxation. They wanted to be able to effectively compete with offshore online casinos and now it looks like they will have to consider moving back.
In addition, the new licensing scheme may lead to the annulment of the so-called “white list”, which used to put online casino operators licensed in one of the named jurisdictions in a favourable position. With the introduction of the new law they will not be able to operate and/or advertise in the UK, unless they get a licence from the British Gambling Commission. For UK gamblers this may mean that the number of available online casinos will be significantly reduced.
Michael Caselli, one of the world’s leading experts on online gaming and an editor of iGaming Business magazine, said: “The tax rate pretty much relates to how much less value the punter gets. A 10% tax rate is 10% less value for punters.” Indeed, British players will only lose if online casinos will want to compensate for their extra spending on taxes.
At the same time offshore gaming jurisdictions, such as Isle of Man seem to be unworried about the possible licensing changes. They believe they already adhere to high regulatory standards which are comparable to those in Britain and, as Allan Bell MHK, Isle of Man Economic Development Minister, noticed, “the UK Gambling Commission has no wish to duplicate the work that our Gambling Commission does in regulating our operators”.
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