BUSINESS

Antigua comments on UK licensing plans; gaming investors’ rollercoaster ride

TAGs: Antigua, Germany, UK Gambling Commission, white list

antigua-rollercoasterAntigua’s Minister of Finance Harold Lovell has weighed in on the UK’s recent decision to essentially phase out the so-called ‘white list’ of online gaming regulatory jurisdictions. Like his counterpart in the Isle of Man, Lovell was encouraged by what he described as “the UK’s intention to ensure minimal disruption to operators already operating in the British market by having a transition period. In particular, operators licensed in white-listed jurisdictions will be eligible for an automatic transitional license to prevent them having to cease trading.”

Lovell also expressed his belief that “the UK Government and British Gambling Commission will continue to work with Antigua & Barbuda and other white-listed jurisdictions to maintain their confidence in our respective regulatory regimes” and that Antigua’s Financial Services Regulatory Commission would “continue efforts with UK counterparts and others in the International Association of Gaming Regulators technical working group in pursuit of a harmonized approach enshrined in international best practices.”

While Lovell praised the benefits of stability, investors in some publicly traded online gaming companies must be feeling a tad nauseous from the recent ups and downs. On Monday, when the UK’s Economic Secretary to the Treasury Justine Greening confirmed that her department would “review the case for changing the taxation regime in line with John Penrose‘s proposal and taxing operators on the basis of customer location,” shares in William Hill, Ladbrokes and other public companies took a tumble. Betfair took the biggest hit, trading as low at 607.5p (a new record) before staging a mild recovery by the end of the day.

On Tuesday, a lot of those same shares (Betfair and bwin.party, in particular) shot up on news that the European Commission wasn’t happy with Germany’s plan to impose highly punitive revisions to its own online gaming taxation scheme. Market watchers at Numis were bullish on what this news meant for bwin.party, given that the company (illegally, in the opinion of many) derives almost a quarter of its revenues from Germany’s current grey market. But analysts at Investec weren’t as impressed, convinced that the Germans would respond to the EC’s concerns with only minor tweaks, and predicted that “a draconian German online gambling law is likely to be voted in and enforceable for 1 January 2012.” So what will Wednesday bring? Higher dramamine sales?

On a somewhat related note, a survey of 500 British-based millionaires by investment outfit Skandia found that 56% of them were considering a permanent move abroad. One of their major beefs with Britain? High taxes. D’oh!

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