Private members bill would require online gambling firms to hold UK license

matthew-hancock-online-gamblingOn Friday, Tory MP for West Suffolk Matthew Hancock introduced a motion to require online gambling outfits that wish to offer services to UK punters to hold a UK Gambling Commission-issued license. On February 7, Hancock will have 10 minutes to make his case to Parliament, after which an opposition MP will have 10 minutes to rebut. After that 20 minutes of fame, Hancock’s bill will go to the back of a very long line of bills hoping to be considered during the next Parliamentary session (between May 2012 and May 2013).

Although the government has expressed great interest in making changes to the UK’s current remote gambling rules, John Penrose, the Tory minister for Tourism and Heritage who oversees all things gambling, warned last week that he wasn’t “counting my chickens” on Parliament dealing with the online gambling issue in the packed legislative session. A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson told Gambling Compliance that while it supported Hancock’s intentions, “we believe that there may be more effective ways to achieve the broad aims behind this Private Members Bill.”

Hancock is a staunch supporter of the UK horseracing industry, whose members have loudly complained that the annual bookmakers’ Levy has been cut almost in half over the past three years. They blame the decrease on the 18 major bookmakers who have shifted online operations from the UK to white-listed jurisdictions like Alderney and Gibraltar, which offer more favorable tax rates. Hancock said he understood bookmakers “who say they have no choice but to go offshore because their competitors have already done so. Like them, I want to see a level playing field where everyone can compete fairly in the UK.” Hancock’s bill would also require everyone to donate ‘fairly’ to the Levy.