For nearly two weeks, Brexit has dominated the world news. Most polls and analysts did not believe that the UK citizens would actually vote to withdraw from the European Union, but nearly 52 percent of the voters did just that on June 23, 2016.
As the first nation to leave the EU, there is no precedent for the process, though there is a general expectation that it could take up to two years to complete all necessary political and economic changes. Until decisions are made, many aspects of everyday life of UK residents will remain in flux. That includes the gaming industry, with the UK Gambling Commission at the center of numerous questions that have yet to be answered.
UK Breakup Could Further Confuse Matters
The changes for UK residents may not be done. Scotland has been discussing the idea of withdrawing from the United Kingdom and remaining in the EU. The voters of Scotland did choose to stay in the EU, so a new referendum is likely to decide on the future of Scotland. There is also talk that Northern Ireland may choose the same path, which would also bring a potential referendum on Irish reunification into play.
Gibraltar is another issue, as it has some level of independence but is officially a British Overseas Territory and under the responsibility of the UK. Gibraltar seems to want to remain in the EU but remain a British territory, though Spain has already indicated an interest in negotiating with Gibraltar.
UK Gambling Commission Effects
The UK Gambling Commission was formed by way of the 2005 Gambling Act to oversee and assume responsibility for most forms of betting in the UK, including bingo, casinos, slot machines, lotteries, sports betting, and even arcades. Remote – or online – gambling is also under the UKGC’s umbrella, so all of the regulations and protections afforded to online players were included in the organization’s responsibilities.
In 2014, the remote gambling laws changed to include a 15 percent point-of-consumption tax for operators catering to UK customer. And operators had to obtain licenses from the UKGC to enable monitoring, reporting, and all accountability to the group. All of the new laws have since been implemented and enforced.
Online poker sites licensed in the UK are allowed to share liquidity with others around the world, so they have never been held to most of the EU standards that are often in contrast to UKGC rules. However, should Scotland or Ireland withdraw from the UK and enter the EU individually, those countries could lose all of the progress made for online poker and gaming in the past years. Players in Scotland and Ireland would suddenly be without regulations, and new government movement on the subject would likely mimic that of France, Italy, Spain, and others, which would remove the site liquidity.
Players remaining in the UK will likely see fewer changes in their ability to play on many of the world’s largest online poker sites. And the UKGC’s corporate affairs officer, James Cook, told InterGame Online that they will be working through the implications and provide further advice. But for now, “it is business as usual.”
Various Jurisdictions May Be Most Complicated
There are more than a few jurisdictions under UK control that might be affected by Brexit.
As mentioned above, Gibraltar is an interesting case because of its ties to the UK but also because it is the home of dozens of online poker companies. The future of Gibraltar with the EU will not only effect the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, but all online gaming operators based on the island will have to abide by the laws of the European Union, which at yet and still confusing and piecemeal on the topic of online poker and gambling.
The Isle of Man is widely known as the home of PokerStars, which operates under a license through Malta but does have a license to operate in the UK, as well as numerous other markets in the EU. That access to those markets may be in jeopardy as the EU and UK make decisions about the breakup. The Isle of Man will likely do whatever possible to keep PokerStars’ headquarters on the island, but Amaya may have a different vision for the future of the company.
When Will We Know?
It is going to be some time before answers become apparent to the many questions Brexit proposes. While the official timeline is two years, many in the EU want the UK to face immediate consequences. Some are pushing for meetings to begin immediately to speed up the process of the UK darting out on its own. In that case, more may be known about the future of UK online poker, the UK Gambling Commission, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, and players everywhere much sooner – possibly by the end of 2016 and into early 2017.