SBC News Year in Review: British farce offers no help to gambling in dire times 

Year in Review: British farce offers no help to gambling in dire times 

The whirlwind period of July to September of 2022 saw gambling caught up in a farce of political affairs, providing leadership no help to navigate the headwinds of a changing economic climate.

Interim results saw all gambling PLCs outline deep concerns on averse macroeconomic trends driven by high inflation and the costs of living crisis. Challenging factors to test the old adage of gambling being a ‘recession resilient industry.

Concerns of ‘consumer belt tightening’ were at the forefront of Flutter Entertainment‘s interim results. Despite maintaining headline growth, the FTSE100 giant saw year-on-year losses widen to £112m, – reflecting a home market downturn for its Betfair, Paddy Power and Sky Bet brands. 

Elsewhere, ‘Big Pinch’ anxieties were further cited by Entain Plc investor update, which detailed a period decline for its online unit due to a “foreseen tougher regulatory backdrop and a weaker macroeconomic environment”. 

The gloom of a global economic downturn was further showcased as 888 Holdings struggled to find institutional investors to back its £1bn debt bond, funding required to complete its takeover of William Hill non-US assets.

A firm M&A prospect at the start of the year, Playtech was forced to revise all strategic options as cold feet saw Hong Kong PE fund TTB Partners withdraw its offer to acquire the FTSE250 tech group.  

Facing dark times in the UK, business and economic concerns are derailed by the dramatic collapse of PM Boris Johnson’s government following a series of senior cabinet resignations. 

Besieged by ‘Partygate and Pincher‘ scandals, Boris Johnson exits Number 10  as gambling again foresees a delay in publishing the White Paper of the Gambling Review, which had been promised before the summer of 2022.

Once again, Bookmakers are required to ‘price-up a clown cast as the Conservative Party begins a 2-month contest to elect a new leader. New PM markets are led by Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. 

Disruptions at Number 10 did not slow the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) tougher regulatory stance, ordered by new CEO Andrew Rhodes, which saw it issue its biggest-ever single penalty of £17m to Entain for compliance and AML failings. Entain responded by accepting full responsibility for ‘pre-2020 failings‘ but underlined its multi-million investment to expand and innovate safer gambling protections. 

Industry frustrations are compounded further in South America, as Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, refuses to sign the federally approved sports betting and online gambling regimes into law. Instead, choosing to sideline gambling, Bolsonaro cites tax concerns that will be settled by the winner of Brazil’s General Elections in October. 

Countering a summer of delays, global sports OTT platform DAZN keeps its schedule by soft launching its much anticipated DAZN Bet sportsbook platform in the UK. The keynote speaker at the SBC Summit Barcelona, CEO Shay Segev outlines DAZN’s ambitionsto become the single destination points for sports engagement“.   

Winning the ‘grassroots vote’, Liz Truss is declared new PM, defeating Rishi Sunak as the challenger of the Conservative Party’s leadership contest. Yet, less than 48 hours into a new premiership, Britain is rocked by the sudden announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, bringing the nation to a standstill. 

As sporting fixtures are postponed across Great Britain to mourn the Queen’s passing. UK Racing pays tribute to her majesty celebrating “Elizabeth II as horseracing’s greatest patron“. Gambling joins wider business by shutting down all retail trade to respect Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession. 

Following deep reflections, the UK government is again in a state of turmoil as Liz Truss announces her ‘mini budget’, rebuked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and triggering a ‘self-inflicted run-on Sterling’.

Lasting just 44 days in office, Truss is ousted by party peers, becoming the shortest-ruling PM in British history. A government in crisis calls on Rishi Sunak to become the fifth premier in seven years since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Granted no resolutions, Gambling casts politics aside as leadership comes to terms with a new economic climate of higher inflation, raising interest rates, combined with lower stock prices and the pressures of a market-wide tech sell-off… As apart from British politics, 2022 provides little to laugh at.


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