Gambling Companies Hit by Stake Reduction Speculation

Shares in some of the UK’s top gambling companies have dropped dramatically following speculation that the industry regulator was thinking about cutting the top stake for online casino games.

Neil McArthur, the Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission, was speaking to a group of MPs earlier this week, as part of an ongoing investigation into the social and health problems of gambling. McArthur said that the Commission would consider the politician’s proposal to cut the maximum stake for online casino games to £2 over the next six months.

But when news of his comments reached the markets on Thursday, there was a widespread dumping of stock in the top gambling companies. Share in William Hill dropped by almost 8%, while GVC and Playtech saw drops of 7% and other operators saw smaller declines. According to one UK media report, the collective fall in stock market value of the UK firms was around £500m.

But speaking about the potential cut in the online casino stake, a spokesperson for the UKGC said that it wasn’t new, and had been announced as part of their ongoing review last October:

“This work is in addition to us focusing on VIP practices, advertising technology and game design. We will publish our assessment and next steps for online stakes and further protections later this year.”

McArthur’s comments had been made to the APPG, an influential committee, that played a leading role in the reduction of the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) last year. That cut saw the maximum stake reduced from £100 to £2, and as a result, a number of UK bookmakers opted to close retail facilities. Further uncertainty has been added by the intention of the new Conservative government to re-examine the Gambling Act of 2005, while there has been a continual drumbeat of negative stories about failings in the gambling sector.

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