The impact of Brexit is clear to see at this point, now that the UK has properly and finally departed from the European Union. As with any such large scale political decision, the effects can be argued about endlessly; some would suggest that the results of Brexit have been great for the UK economy, while others point to a wide range of issues directly or indirectly associated with the decision to leave. The gambling industry, like any financial service, has been affected as well, and a big question on bettors’ minds is whether their choice has been affected—so today we’re going to examine that question.
Impact of Brexit on betting
Firstly, let’s look at the broad brush issues that the gambling industry has faced with Brexit. To start with, the UK is already one of if not the most heavily regulated gambling market in all of Europe. So, leaving the EU, at least initially, didn’t have much of a noticeable effect on the choice of betting operators out there. The Gambling Act of 2014 was a landmark statute that, among other things, covered foreign operators wanting to offer services in the UK, and that still applies.
Many betting operators are based in Malta, but Brexit will certainly have an impact there. The Gaming Authority of Malta holds that any licence granted must be granted to a country within the EEA, or the European Economic Area. With their departure from the EU, the UK is no longer within this zone—so companies will need to be somehow re-established in the EU.
All of this additional red tape certainly makes an impact on how services are offered, generally speaking. Operators will simply have a more difficult time offering their services, and so naturally there is going to be a certain number of operators which simply cease their offerings altogether. How common or widespread this will be is hard to say, as again the effects will take years to be fully realised. One way or another, though, one of the biggest questions about the impact of Brexit is about the choice that UK bettors will have. Let’s see how it would be affected.
We’ve seen, then, that there are additional challenges to offering betting services in the UK post-Brexit. For the most part, the UK is still an important market for most big operators and it is more than worth getting through the Brexit red-tape in order to continue offering betting services in the country. Around 6-7 million people regularly bet on live events in Britain in some capacity or another, and the gross yield for the whole industry was over £14 billion in 2022. On average, people in Britain spend around £141 a year on betting.
The option to bet on events, then, is never going to disappear entirely—that is out of the question. The question, though, is about whether bettors will be forced to settle for sub-par deals and services, or at the very least they will be forced to settle for whatever is available.
One solution that many in the UK are already turning to is off-shore betting companies, particularly those based in Ireland. Paddy Power is a particularly popular example and one which offers services in both Britain and Ireland, but which is able to do so much more competitively in Ireland in some ways.
The impact, then, is definitely there—though it may still be a matter of debate exactly how far the impact goes. In any case, as things stand in the years immediately following the UK’s departure from the EU, choice has been affected by the decision and not everyone is entirely happy about how things have turned out.
Brexit has wide ranging impacts for the industry, then, and even at this point it is not entirely clear what the results may be in the coming years. Plainly, many British bettors are taking their betting elsewhere and using off-shore betting companies, given the reduction in choice and competition domestically. These decisions also affect the operators themselves, and so we end up with a domino effect—so who knows what the future might look like for betting in an exited Britain.
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