The negotiations for Brexit – the UK’s departure from the EU – only began last month (June 2017), despite the referendum itself taking place a year ago. For that reason, it is still hard to know for certain exactly what the implications will be for various industries, including sports betting, and the consequent effect which would be felt by sports betting fans.
However, that doesn’t prevent forecasts being made.
For a start, it is worth noting that many sports betting providers have their businesses based offshore, so they are unlikely to be affected by any changes to UK legislation, if they are not subject to UK law. For sports betting customers of these platforms, there is a good chance that nothing will change.
The End To The Sports Betting ‘treaty’?
At the present time, gambling is governed on a state by state basis, rather than at EU level. Similar to the way the broadcasting ‘passport’ enabled by the EU allowed UK broadcasters to distribute content anywhere in the union, British sports betting providers have – by and large – been free to offer their services throughout the EU. In fact, an organisation named the Remote Gambling Association has challenged several attempts by EU member states to lock their markets to UK sports betting providers and have done so successfully.
Could Brexit mark the beginning of a different landscape? It all comes down to the negotiations which prime minister Theresa May is fronting. It remains to be seen whether successor agreements will be made to protect this ‘freedom of movement’ for the activities of sports betting providers, and indeed, there is the chance that at some point in the future, sports betting sites might find themselves blocked from using their favourite platforms due to the fall out from Brexit.
Casting his eye forward at the negotiations, and just what they might mean for the sports betting industry, Kevin Smith, General Counsel at betting data provider SIS, says that the situation is far from clear. He explained: “Since betting is not seen as a strategic industry for the UK (unlike, say, financial services, life sciences, automotive and engineering, or the creative industries) it is an open question as to what kind of priority the post-Brexit government will give to securing the betting industry’s access to EU markets.”
The Industry Perspective
For those working within the industry, the implications of the negotiation outcomes pertaining to labour appear an element to keep a close eye on. Should the UK stop the free movement of non UK nationals from within the EU into its labour market, the sports betting industry looks certain to lose a large number of overseas workers. The knock on effect? Unless we see a mass influx of workers from non-EU countries into the UK to fill the vacancies, it seems likely that sports betting professionals will be in hot demand in post-Brexit UK. This could mean higher salaries, as organisations recruit talent from a much smaller group of candidates than they had the pick of previously.
In this eventuality, the opposite effect could be seen in the EU. Sports betting professionals returning from the UK to find a position could result in a bloated candidate pool, which has the effect of lowering salaries. Such is the growth of the sports betting sector in Europe, however, that it seems there will still be opportunities for qualified sports betting professionals, despite a mass influx of former UK-based workers.
Reassessing ‘the rock’
Gibraltar – an overseas British territory – is of huge significance to the online gaming sector, owing an estimated 20% of its total gross domestic product to the gambling industry. As such, the implications for the country next to Spain’s south coast are the focus of high interest when it comes to sports betting post-Brexit. As Gibraltar looks likely to be bound to the UK’s decision to leave the EU, concerns have grown over the future of the many Spanish sports betting professionals who have travelled over the border to work. However, fears might be eased by a decision from the UK and Spanish governments, which, if common sense prevails, will agree to negotiate separately on labour implications in Gibraltar.
One important treaty which it appears the UK will not longer be bound by is the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) which sets out various protections for the consumer – in this case, the sports betting customer. They include points which address the problem of gambling addiction, but it must be said that the UK’s existing governing organisations for the sports betting sector, such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Gambling Commission, appear to have effective consumer protections in place. Only recently, they announced a joint program to investigate the issue of unclear bonuses offered by sports betting providers, ensuring punters are not hoodwinked by confusing terms and conditions, and that winnings are able to be withdrawn more freely than is now sometimes the case.
Don’t Hold Your Breath
The full withdrawal of the UK from the EU is not anticipated until 2019 at the very least. And because the majority of gambling legislation is not EU related, a torrent of changes should not be expected upon withdrawal.
As we have just entered negotiations, the process might be viewed as untangling a great ball of wool – exactly where sports betting lies among the entanglement is yet to be seen, but experts have warned against harbouring any hopes of a swift and emphatic conclusion.
SIS’s Kevin Smith concluded: “An aggravating factor is that since all external trade arrangements have been coordinated through the EU for the last 40 years or so, there is currently no expertise in the British government as to how these things are done. All these factors suggest that there could be many years of uncertainty.”