Partner content

In a big surprise, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a General Election for July 4. With the Conservatives around 20% behind in the opinion polls, we could be just weeks away from Labour regaining power. It all adds to the uncertainty that is being felt by the UK’s gambling industry.

The General Election wasn’t expected to be held so early in 2024. Rishi Sunak had said it wouldn’t be until the second half of the year but the odds were more in favour of November or December for the date, not July.

Within 24 hours of the announcement of the July poll, Betfair Exchange took £1.35 million in bets on the General Election. £500,000 of that amount was placed on Labour to win the most seats with another £200,000 on them to win an overall majority.

Just like the opinion polls, the odds suggest that Labour will win the most seats. It’s around 1/33 that will be the case and 1/7 on an overall majority. The Conservatives are around 12/1 to win more seats than any other party.  Although most of the amounts staked were going on Labour, most bets were on a hung parliament or even the Conservatives winning most seats.

The subject of gambling is not likely to be mentioned a great deal during this General Election campaign. It’s not quite as high profile as the state of the economy or immigration. It will be interesting to see what mentions the subject of gambling receives in each of the party manifestos that will shortly be published.

Gambling reform is needed because the last Act of Parliament came into force 19 years ago, when Labour were in power.  That was before it was possible to gamble on your phones. As the online side of gambling has become so popular, it’s accepted that the current gambling laws are outdated.

The last General Election was held in December 2019 and saw the Conservatives re-elected with a large majority. They pledged to reform the gambling industry but it has been very slow progress.

Not until last year was a White Paper on gambling reform published. There has been plenty of consultation taking place since then. In recent months though, there have been some steps forward. This has seen reduced maximum stake limits for online slots announced and some new rules regarding land-based casinos.

The plan is that in September, those aged 18-24 won’t be able to gamble more than £2 per spin of an online slot. For those aged 25 and over, the limit will be £5. Now that a General Election has been announced, what will happen to the recent announcements?

A win for Labour on July 4 could well see changes made to the planned new maximum stake limits. The chair of a cross-party group looking at gambling-related harm is Carolyn Harris who will be attempting to retain her Swansea East seat in the General Election. Her view is that the £2 maximum stake limit should also apply to those aged 25 and over.

Her view is that the Conservatives have “sided” with the gambling industry and there should be a “rethink” of the planned changes, according to British Gambler, a UK gambling sites comparison platform. Could therefore the election of a Labour Government see stricter regulation of the UK’s gambling industry?

An article written by Lucia das Neves, who is a Labour councillor in the Haringey area of London, described the UK Gambling Commission as “weak”. It also called for legislative change and giving local councils more powers in dealing with the gambling industry.

Stuart Andrew has been the Minister in charge of gambling reform. He might not be for much longer though as he’ll be defending a slim 3,517 majority in his Pudsey constituency.

Speaking recently in the House of Commons, he stressed the importance of the new maximum stake limits. Other measures were also included in last year’s White Paper. These  include stricter affordability checks on gamblers to see if they can afford the amounts they are placing.

The Liberal Democrats are unlikely to win the General Election but have spoken about the need to introduce stricter regulation of the gambling industry, including affordability checks and a ban on sports sponsorship by betting companies.

For the UK gambling industry therefore, it’s a period of uncertainty. If the Conservatives remain in power, then the measures mentioned in the White Paper are likely to be eventually made law. A Labour win would possibly mean stricter regulation than the Conservatives are planning. It’s going to be an interesting time for the online gambling market.