It’s estimated that nearly half of the UK population has taken part in some form of gambling activity within the past few years. There can be no doubt that gambling online is a major contributor to the British economy and any changes to the industry would have far-reaching consequences.
Now, with Brexit looming large on the horizon, it’s time to start asking what impact this process will have on players and the gambling industry alike in the UK and beyond.
However, just before we begin working through the possibilities of what might occur once the Brexit transition period is complete, it’s important to say this. There are still so many unknowns around the whole process of the UK exiting the European Union that setting any of the following forecasts in stone would be foolish.
Only once the full terms of the withdrawal are known can the industry carefully plan its next steps. Until then anything written here or elsewhere is pure speculation and the implications could easily change at any given moment.
Relocations from Gibraltar
The UK and Spain are no strangers to disputes over ‘the rock’ of Gibraltar which is currently considered part of the United Kingdom. But Brexit is set to escalate tensions around an already sensitive situation between the two nations.
Close to 99% of Gibraltarians voted to remain a part of the UK in a 2002 sovereignty referendum. Then 14 years later, 96% of the inhabitants of the rock also voted to remain in the EU in the Brexit referendum.
It is estimated that around 60% of the employees who work in the gambling industry actually live in Spain and commute across the border to work each day. This could present a big headache if Gibraltar is forced to leave the EU along with the UK and free movement between Gibraltar and Spain ends.
Gibraltar is currently home to an estimated 60 online casino companies with some major brands amongst them. Any changes to the highly attractive low tax rate are sure to prompt them to start considering a relocation.
The future of the gambling industry in Gibraltar is therefore wide open to the future approach adopted by the Spanish government. Any effort to make it harder to commute in and out of Gibraltar to the Spanish mainland could make it much less of an attractive place to base any gambling companies.
Regulations and Licences
The widely acknowledged feeling right now is that the UK has operated very separately to the rest of the EU for a long time. Brexit is only likely to increase this difference here and see the UKGC taking whatever future course they see fit regardless of the rest of the EU gambling market.
Given this state of affairs, Brexit itself is unlikely to have a large impact on UK regulations and licences. If in the future the EU begins to introduce its own controls then it may become tougher for UK based online casino to get access to this market.
Visas and Immigration Rules
The Brexit debate was fought on the central theme of ‘taking back control’ in the UK, meaning an end to freedom of movement of people and goods from the EU. Of course, this plays both ways and any attempt by the British government to restrict EU citizens entering the UK could be matched by member states.
Restrictions on the freedom to settle and work in the UK gambling industry could pose a negative impact on companies and players alike. For example, it may make it harder for UK based gambling operations to attract star talent from EU countries if it’s tough for them to gain entry to the country.
Longer-term, the impact could come from a need to obtain a working visa as employees do in other non-EU countries. We are yet to see any details on how future restrictions would work or will be enforced but the current UK government is drawing up proposals for an Australian-style points-based immigration system.
For now, at least, EU citizens from outside of the UK who are currently working there can apply for ‘settled status’. This should mean that the EU freedoms and rights they currently enjoy should continue in the UK even after Brexit is completed.