The second quarter of 2021 saw major developments across the European betting industry, as Germany introduced a new tax regime, British regulators came under increasing scrutiny and a major bidding contest got underway.
In Germany, April saw the ratification of the federal Fourth Interstate Treaty on Gambling (GlüNeuRStV) by the Bundesländer of Saxony-Anhalt, following approval by 13 other states.
The news brought an end to long-term disputes within German political and business circles concerning the new regime’s duties, taxes, protections and licensing requirements as well as rules on online casino, with the 16 German lander (states) ‘settled in principle’ on the matter.
However, the legislation was and remains controversial among German sports betting and gaming incumbents largely due to its tax requirements. The German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) in particular criticised imposed rates as a ‘misguided tax assessment’.
The biggest commercial story of the quarter saw Caesars Entertainment close its £2.9 billion, £2.72 per share acquisition of William Hill on 23 April, after the British high-street staple and legacy bookmaker delisted from the London Stock Exchange and FTSE250.
Following the acquisition, Caesars initiated the biggest betting industry auction of the year, as a number of prominent firms scrambled for William Hill’s non-US assets. Some analysts anticipated the sale to generate up to $1.5 billion for Caesars, whilst contenders in the bidding battle reportedly included Apollo Global Management, 888 Holdings, Kindred and Betfred.
On the western side of the North Sea, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) continued to find itself in hot water due to the fallout of the BetIndex collapse, as the British government announced an official independent review into the matter. The UKGC would later issue an update on a particularly contentious issue relating to BetIndex’s demise – the redistribution of £4.5 million in funds to former Football Index customers.
Horse racing, meanwhile, continued with significant limitations, much to the frustration of many stakeholders in the sport. Calls for greater reopening of racecourses were eventually raised in parliament, whilst in other news the sport observed the loss of one of its most memorable characters in Barney Curley, the mastermind of the Yellow Sam betting coup of 25 June 1975 at Bellewstown racecourse.
Despite this, the industry was able to secure some regulatory assurances during the quarter, however, as affordability checks – one of the most controversial of the proposed measures set to be introduced via the Gambling Act review – were rumoured to be sidelined as the DCMS focused on its investigation into the UKGC over Football Index.
This was not the case in Finland, however, where Maria Ohisalo, Finland’s Minister of the implemented a monthly loss limit of €2,000 – initially introduced as a temporary measure during the pandemic – as a permanent feature of the country’s betting infrastructure.
The new regulations will also require all online casino and slot players to set their own daily and monthly loss limits, which must be below the daily €500 and monthly €2,000 threshold.
Heading back to the UK, Northern Irish authorities began to mirror their Southern counterparts, notifying operators active in the province to prepare for changes to established gambling laws – representing the first legislative update in 35 years.