Betclic to Leave UK Online Gambling Market
French online gambling operator Betclic has announced that it will be leaving the UK market, over ‘low performance’ and a “very competitive market”. All of Betclic Everest Group’s brands will be pulled from the UK by October the 31st. These include Betclic, Everest and Expekt.
UK customers can no longer make deposits with Betclic services. Customers have until December the 6th to withdraw any funds deposited with the French operator.
Why Are Gambling Operators Leaving the UK?
Betclic is not the only gambling operator to halt its services in the UK in recent months. 188Bet made a similar decision in April , closing its operations in the UK and Ireland. According to the Asia based company, “this action is a commercial decision in a very competitive market.”. Like Betclic, 188Bet was not facing financial trouble and UK customers were able to withdraw their deposits. While 188Bet was operating in the UK, its main objective was creating sponsorship deals with UK football teams. UK football is a popular market amongst Asian sports bettors. Now that 188Bet has ceased its UK business, these sponsorship deals have been forfeited.
In August the JPJ Group, another online gambling operator, pulled its brands from the UK market. Vera&John and InterCasino were the two sites that would no longer be accessible to UK customers from September 3rd. The split was amicable, as both sites told customers they had been ”wonderful, but we’ve reached the end of our journey together”. Unlike Betclic and 188Bet, JPJ Group did not opt to leave the UK completely. Instead, the operator decided to focus its emphasis in the UK on its flagship brand, Jackpotjoy.
In September, yet another online gambling operator announced its exodus from the UK. Malta-based operator ComeOn has pulled three of its sites from the UK so that it can focus on more favorable markets. Customers of comeon.com, mobilenet.com and getlucky.com have all been told to withdraw their funds.
“The U.K. license has lost its symbolic value. Before you almost had to have one to be looked upon as a credible company. Today we hold licenses in many European countries and given that the U.K. has never been a big market for us, it’s a wise move to put our focus elsewhere.”– Lahcene Merzoug, CEO, ComeOn
Ceasing operations in the UK is not a light decision for any gambling operator to take. So why has this story become so common?
Tighter UKGC Rules
One of the reasons is down to the actions of the UKGC. This year the UK Gambling Commission has reinforced its regulations to boost consumer protections . This has caused a considerable amount of fallout, as many operators have been penalized due to the new rules. This year’s UKGC Enforcement Report outlines seven main issues that the industry needs to address. These are safer gambling, anti-money laundering, marketing and advertising, illegal gambling, affordability and consumer protection, and compliance.
While the Gambling Commission’s ”Raising Standards for Consumers Enforcement Report” is not intended to hurt the industry, there have been some serious repercussions for certain operators as their mistakes are exposed. Over of 12 months, more than 160 investigations carried out by the Gambling Commission led to a high number of sanctions. £19.6 million worth of penalty packages had to be paid by operators who failed to follow the rules.
“As the report shows, we will be tough when we find operators bending the rules or failing to meet our expectations, but we also want to try and minimize the need for such action by providing advice, a programme of support material and compliance activity to help operators get things right in the first place.”– Neil McArthur, Chief Executive, UK Gambling Commission
The UKGC has toughened up the rules for the benefit of the consumer and the integrity of the gambling industry as a whole. The down shot of this is that some operators have simply decided to cut off their UK operations rather than risk the possibility of receiving a hefty fine. Otherwise healthy businesses don’t want to risk losing any financial assets if they don’t need to.
There is another reason why gambling operators have been cutting their ties with the UK. Brexit has long been a cause for concern many businesses, in the gambling industry and beyond. It has been a ticking clock since the referendum took place in June of 2016. Since then, businesses have had to take a very careful look at their operations. Recently the UK Government set out its “Gambling Checklist”, offering advice for those working in the UK gambling industry.
In the event that there is no deal, it explains what operators must do to look after their employees. This includes things like checking visa and work permit requirements. Businesses themselves will also have to review their services and practices, as changes will likely need to be made. It is advised that gambling operators ‘appoint a representative in the EU’.
These are just a few examples of the kinds of changes that businesses, which want to continue to operate in the UK, will need to make. These changes come with a financial cost and considerable effort. For that reason, many online gambling operators are moving their operations to countries like Malta.