Racing Post logo
Search icon
Menu icon
Menu icon
  • MoreChevron down

Shares slump after MPs call for tighter online gambling reforms

Carolyn Harris MP: 'Her language has the tones of a McCarthy witchhunt'
Carolyn Harris MP has called for a 'root and branch' review of online gamblingCredit: GambleAware

Gambling firms lost more than a billion pounds in value on the stock exchange yesterday after an influential cross-party group of MPs called for a major reform of the online sector.

An interim report by the group of MPs into online gambling recommended the introduction of stake and deposit limits on casino games, and described the Gambling Commission as not being fit for purpose.

Shares in gambling companies fell sharply as a result with 888 down more than 13 per cent, William Hill more than 12 per cent and GVC Holdings, the parent company of Coral and Ladbrokes, down nearly 10.5 per cent. Paddy Power Betfair’s parent company Flutter Entertainment was down 3.39 per cent at 7,932p.

The publication of the report by the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) provoked a strong response from William Hill who said it did not take into account the progress made by the industry.

The APPG also accused the government and the Gambling Commission of allowing the industry “to continue to prey on vulnerable gamblers”.

The report follows a six-month inquiry into online gambling which found there was “no justification for online slot machine style games with staking levels above £2”, and called for similar restrictions to those imposed earlier this year on FOBTs.

Other recommendations included the “urgent need” to ban the use of credit cards to gamble online, improved affordability checks and restrictions on ‘VIP’ accounts.

The APPG’s chair, Labour MP Carolyn Harris, said the report highlighted the need for a “root and branch review” of online gambling.

She added: “Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector. It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator.

“There must be consistent and appropriate regulation of all forms of gambling.”

The Gambling Commission said the report did not reflect its work
The Gambling Commission said the report did not reflect its work

The APPG’s vice chair, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, claimed gambling addiction was becoming a “public health crisis”.

He added: “For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator. We cannot continue to fail vulnerable gamblers. I therefore urge the commission to look into this issue in greater depth.”

However, William Hill said the report’s recommendations were “retail solutions for digital products”.

Director of corporate communications Ciaran O’Brien added: “The recommendations would have significant unforeseen impacts given the black market already attracts over £1.4 billion in stakes and takes no account of the significant progress made in the online sector in terms of tracking play against markers of harm using algorithms, affordability checks for all players, enhanced due diligence checks for higher staking players and the development and promotion of safer gambling tools.”

The APPG said the political context meant that it had not yet met with the new gambling minister Helen Whately, or with the Gambling Commission, and that it would publish its full report after the final hearings.

A spokesperson for the commission said: “The report does not reflect our considerable action and progress on most of the areas of concern set out in the report and we look forward to being given the chance to outline that work to the APPG.”

Latest share prices of bookmaking groups

GVC Holdings - down 10.47 per cent
Flutter Entertainment - down 3.39 per cent
William Hill - down 12.66 per cent
888 Holdings - down 13.83 per cent

If you are concerned about your gambling and are worried you may have a problem, click here to find advice on how you can receive help

Bill BarberIndustry editor

Published on 4 November 2019inNews

Last updated 20:45, 4 November 2019