Gaming operators collectively give millions of dollars each year through “voluntary” arrangements to support health and charitable organizations in the UK. If a new report in Mail on Sunday is correct, those arrangements will no longer be voluntary when the UK government releases its updated gambling white paper.
A taxi sits in front of a Genting Casino property in the UK. Rumors are heating up about affordability checks and new taxes in the UK gambling white paper. (Image: Alamy)
The concept of forcing a new tax on the gaming industry in the UK has been a rumor circulating for as long as gambling reform has been on the table. But there has been a divide over whether it would make it into the final draft of the reforms.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) won’t accept any money that has the gaming industry’s donations at its source. Therefore, a mandatory levy would be a necessary alternative to make it happy and boost the government agency’s finances.
Money Earmarked for Gambling-Related Harm
There’s no way to predict how much the operators would have to pay. But previous comments have indicated that it could be more than what they’re giving now. If the rumor is true, the money will be used to fund programs that address and treat gambling-related harm.
This is despite the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) indicating that the level of problem gambling in the country is less than 0.2%. That level has been steady over the past few years, the result of the millions of dollars the operators have already provided in addition to their mandatory taxes, which have reached into the billions of dollars.
The UK’s gaming regulations require annual contributions, which have totaled more than $123.18 million since 2019, but it hasn’t been a legal statute. The NHS, which gives money to GambleAware and other programs, has said that receiving any gambling industry contributions to fund gambling harm would be a conflict of interest. It apparently doesn’t feel the same about receiving the money through a mandatory levy.
In addition to the levy, affordability checks are once again coming to the surface. This time, though, they’re being called credit checks. Mail on Sunday added that sports betting operators will have to perform automatic background checks on bettors who spend “moderate sums.”
This includes checking for any open debt collection judgments and other types of scrutiny. A definition of what constitutes a “moderate” sum is still pending and may change, based on the spending level.
White Paper Still in the Works
The media outlet cited an unidentified but credible insider as the source of the rumors. The UKGC would reportedly be in charge of determining the tax at an operator level, developing calculations based on the company’s revenues. The tax is in addition to the money the operators give to the regulator, and the hundreds of millions of dollars it receives through fines and settlements.
That process will reportedly include a consultation period, which means the levy won’t arrive immediately after the white paper is presented. The government hoped to present the white paper last September before facing several delays. Most recently, there was a chance it would appear before the end of March. But that has failed as well.
The white paper updates many gambling laws that have been in place in the UK since 2005. Operators and others in the industry have been anxious for its arrival in order to plan the next phases of their operations, and the delays increase that anxiety.
Even after it arrives, there will be more time needed before any definitive changes are made. The white paper lays out the government’s plans, but it still has to provide time for feedback and input before implementing any new laws.
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