How will Brexit affect international gambling?

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When it comes to high stakes, there has hardly been a bigger bet than Brexit. Whether you’re a proud re-moaner, or under the impression that Brexit is the best thing to happen to Britain since fish and chips, no-one can say it’s been a smooth ride. Between huge amounts of civil service time being spent on working out the fine details and forming a precarious relationship with some of our closest allies, we all know that the payoff is going to have to be pretty big to cover our costs. Britain, as a global hub of online gambling, is full of people quite used to taking a few risky bets in existing legal online casinos. But will that betting culture see us through Brexit and how will our gambling industry be affected by it?

Some joked around the time of the referendum that the only businesses in Britain that would do well out of Brexit were the gambling companies. Indeed, many people bet against political upsets, so once the result was announced on the 23rd, all bets were off. The upside of this is that Britain is home to some of the biggest names in online gambling. Although gambling companies haven’t skyrocketed in value as joked, compared to much of the economic performance of other stragglers, they’re not doing too badly. British online gaming companies seem to be resilient to some of the more severe effects of Brexit. Despite the weak performance of the pound since the Brexit vote, some companies seem to have climbed back in value, to where they were just before Brexit. Although their value has had something of a rocky time of it over the last two years. Other companies such as 888 seem to be climbing steadily in value since the referendum.

Another question that must be addressed when it comes to how international gambling will be affected by legislation. Gibraltar, the little slice of Britain attached to Spain, is a major player when it comes to the gambling industry. In fact, many of the most well performing online gaming companies are based there. It is estimated that around 25% of the GDP of Gibraltar is tied to gambling, and this has a big impact of gambling around Europe and Britain too. Although politically and culturally, Gibraltar is a British overseas territory, it relies heavily on Spanish workers, with up to 60% of its workforce living in Spain and crossing the border twice a day. This means that it relies heavily on the highly useful freedom of movement that membership of the EU brought. Without it, with Spanish workers who must apply for Visas and securing job offers and tedious bureaucracy before they can hope to cross the border may go elsewhere. In this case many companies will likely move. But the question is of course, where?

However, there is another side to the question of legislation. What about the legislative changes between Britain’s gambling and the EU regulation of it? How is the flutter of the average Brit going to be affected? Will leaving the EU bring, at least, that long yearned for freedom, away from the stifling bureaucracy of Brussels? Well, no. There is no EU wide legislation for gambling and the majority of laws regarding gambling are set by the British government. So really, in terms of what is allowed and what is not, it’s pretty much certain that almost nothing will change.

Perhaps from a certain perspective, the changes are a good thing. Although not everyone who likes a little flutter is in danger of losing their house over it, gambling is a highly addictive behaviour and does, regularly destroy lives. Perhaps pushing our much-loved companies abroad will do us good in the long run. It is likely that falling out with important companies, will highly affect the £14bn a year that the online gaming industry contributes to the economy. Certainly, gambling is not just going to role over and die, but as people have less money to spend and the UK offers fewer staff to employ, the squeeze is on. As far as it goes, gambling on Brexit is a pretty dodgy bet.

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Writer studying at The University of Nottingham

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