Podcast Review: Legislative Developments in Western Europe’s iGaming Sector

In the ever-evolving world of iGaming, the markets of Western Europe have been undergoing significant regulatory adjustments. The SBC team with its new iGaming Daily podcast focused on the market realities and regulatory transitions in mature Western European markets. 

The podcast’s host James Ross with Ted Menmuir, the Content Director at SBC, and Ted Orme-Claye, the Senior Journalist at SBC News explored the cost of living and affordability issues, as well as the impact of gambling on society.

These issues have taken center stage as governments and nations grapple with socio-economic challenges. Moreover, the iGaming industry faces scrutiny regarding problem gambling, advertising practices, and the relationship between operators and consumers, as well as regulators.

“I think a lot of this stems from COVID-19 pandemic when the land-based sectors closed down and people started betting online more often. That’s where a lot of public political and regulatory concerns start arising and then a lot of this connects with regulators looking at how can the industry better update its practices to ensure that affordability and cost of living are dealt with in the industry,” said Ted Orme-Claye. 

In European markets, various approaches have been taken to address the affordability issues. Germany implemented a monthly loss limit of 1,000 Euros for casinos, while Belgium imposed a 500 Euros per month loss limit on players at online casinos. Sweden is yet to decide on the implementation of limits, pending impetus from a new government. The upcoming launch of an online gaming framework in Ireland also sparks debates on affordability measures.

Spain stands out as a market closely watched for its stringent approach to affordability checks. Operators in Spain are required to carry out affordability checks on players, particularly for the first 300 Euros spent, with even stricter limits for players under the age of 25. The introduction of affordability checks poses a challenge for operators to adapt to heightened scrutiny while maintaining a balance of costs. 

Ted Orme-Claye also pointed out that as Western European markets undergo regulatory adjustments, regulators aim to steer the industry towards several key objectives. One crucial aspect is bringing gambling regulations into the digital age, given the significant surge in online gambling over the past decade. 

Regulators recognize the need to update legislation and regulations to keep pace with technological advancements and ensure consumer protection. A particular area of focus is reforming advertising practices to address concerns about the visibility of gambling among vulnerable and young individuals. 

“I think probably one of the biggest examples of that would be in the Netherlands and Belgium, where there’s been a political clampdown with bans coming in on sports sponsorship, on the use of prominent sports people in advertising material. 

“So, there’s a couple of different areas regulators are trying to take the industry, but I think the big one is addressing the increase in online gambling and visibility and the subsequent perceived societal impacts of that,” he added. 

Despite increased measures to tighten gambling regulation, both experts also agree that the law never stays the same. It is true that some countries, like Germany, have shown little inclination to review its stringent policies, however, others, like Italy, have initiated committees to revise laws with a focus on enhancing market competition and improving the consumer experience. 

“Now in Italy, there is actually a debate on whether they should repeal the blanket ban on gambling advertising. The reason why is because it’s affected football, as well as sports media and its revenues.”

Sadly, operators’ voices are rarely considered when making decisions, as governments are no longer confident that operators will regulate themselves effectively. Instead, regulators are seeking to enhance their own regulatory powers and increase the gap between operators and regulators. 

“In the UK we’ve had some consultations between the industry and the government in the build-up to the White Paper but across Europe, all these various national sectors have their own trade bodies. However, for the most part, regulators and policymakers want to be in control, and the trade bodies can voice their opinions, but the government has the final say.”

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