New UK Government Proposals Welcome by Land-Based Casinos

While the UK Government is keen to reform the laws regarding online gambling, that’s not all they have in mind. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have also outlined plans for changes to be introduced to how land-based casinos are run.

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Last year saw the long-awaited publication of a White Paper into reform of the UK’s gambling industry, both on and offline. That didn’t lead to immediate legislation but yet more consultation on the measures mentioned. The Government’s pledge to reform gambling laws has been dragging on since 2019.

May saw the DCMS publish its consultation response on the measures aimed at land-based casinos. This came hot on the heels of news that maximum stake limits are to be imposed on online slot games from September.

Recent years haven’t always been easy for land-based casinos. Not just because of the shaky British economy but recovering from the problems caused by lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five land-based proposals will now be implemented by the UK Government. With a General Election on the way and Labour tipped to win it, the changes may well end up being reversed in the future.

At present there is a ban on the use of debit cards on the gaming machines seen in land-based casinos. This will come to an end, relative to applicable protection measures being put into place.

This will align the UK gambling industry with modern methods of payment. The ban on the direct use of debit cards was introduced to protect gamblers. In recent years, though, there has been a massive growth in non-cash payments. Some casinos, especially new sites, have seen business lost because customers haven’t got any cash on them, so that won’t be the case in the future.

Stuart Andrew is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the DCMS. He said the new measure “will help future-proof the industry” but there must be “appropriate player protections put in place.”

The Rank Gaming Group have welcomed this move and will work with the UK Gambling Commission to implement the changes.

The number of gaming machines that are allowed in land-based casinos will be increased to 80. This will be the case if they meet the sizing conditions that will be put into place by a 2025 Act.

Smaller casinos will be able to have over 20 machines and this will be on a pro-rata basis.

There has also been a positive reaction to the proposal that sees the ratio of gaming machines being amended. Rank says that the new ratio will see them being able to phase out some of their older games. That will particularly be the case in Mecca bingo halls.

In the US, the sports betting industry has been seeing large levels of growth in recent years. Some land-based casinos now offer their customers the opportunity to place bets on sport as well as try their luck on the machines and tables.

Now, under the new proposals, the same will happen in the UK. A sliding scale will be put in place for the number of self-service betting terminals a casino can have.

There will be an 18-or-over age limit imposed on Category D slot-style machines that pay out their winnings in cash. Under current law in the UK, a child cannot use a Category D gaming machine. The new proposals will make it an offence to invite, cause or permit under-aged players to gamble on these machines that pay out winnings in cash.

The DCMS say that this will “create a clear distinction between such machines and those such as coin-pushers and crane-grabbers where toys and key rings for example are the prizes not cash.

The aim of the Government is to give support to the sector by allowing increased flexibility in how games can be offered to their customers. Giving them the chance to play lower-staking machines can also help them avoid gambling-related harm.

There will also be a 15% rise in the licensing fees for maximum chargeable premises. The reason for this is to tie into regulating the gambling industry and further protecting casino customers from harm. The revenue from such fees will be used to allow licensing authorities to perform their administrative and enforcement measures.

The CEO of Rank is John O’Reilly and he believes the DCMS announcements will see progress made for land-based gambling establishments. That will be particularly the case in terms of boosting player experiences. He said that these “legislative modernisations cannot come a moment too soon.”