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Britain’s great big gamble on Online Casino Singapore

    Online Casino Singapore
    Online Casino Singapore

    As casinos, bookies and bingo halls lick their lips at the prospect of the biggest liberalisation for decades, Nick Mathiason weighs the odds on what the future holds


    Britain is set for a gambling binge. On Tuesday the Government will announce plans to liberalise and deregulate the gaming sector in what will be the most far-reaching reform seen for 40 years.


    Tight restrictions imposed on casinos, bookmakers and bingo in the Sixties will be scrapped. And as many of the reforms will be effected by ministerial order rather than legislation, they will be in force by the autumn.


    Among the changes outlines in next week’s ‘white paper with green tinges’ will be provision for more casinos with more slot machines – and these machines will be linked, thereby offering tantalising million-pound jackpots. The jackpot limit now is just £1,000.


    Delighted casino operators will be allowed to advertise. The 24-hour rule, which forces new punters to wait a day before they can enter a casino, will be axed. Further consultation on whether punters can drink at the gaming tables is expected, but live entertainment Vegas-style will be waved through.


    Top bingo prizes will double to a million pounds. More betting shops will open as the restrictive demand criteria are lifted. And they, too, will be able to house more slot machines, again offering bigger prize money, though not on the scale of casinos.


    Tuesday’s announcement will usher in casino clusters in places like Blackpool, Southend, Margate and – controversially – the Millennium Dome at Greenwich.


    Those in favour of the changes argue that high-quality gaming centres, equipped with hotels and conference facilities, will boost British tourism and allow the regeneration of down-at-heel British coastal resorts.


    There is one reform the Government will not go along with, however. Anxious not to damage National Lottery good causes, it will reject the bookmakers’ lobbying for side-bets on lottery numbers.


    Camelot, which argued that gambling reform could mean money raised for good causes dropping by £5 billion, is also delighted that though the £100,000 prize cap on rival lotteries for good causes will be raised, it will stay well short of the £1 million it had feared. ‘Every indication is that we’ll have good reason to be pleased next Tuesday,’ said a Camelot spokesman.


    But while the Government wants to please as many sub-sectors of the leisure industry as possible, the pub industry’s bid to host betting games will be rejected.


    There will be other serious casualties. Liberalisation will double the losses UK punters incur from gambling. The telltale ‘stake less win’ figures, including the National Lottery, will rise from their current £7.5bn to £15bn once all the measurers are adopted, according to research from Peter Collins, the UK’s leading gaming academic, based at the University of Salford.


    But the City will be delighted. Liberalisation will trigger flotations or trade sales that may well involve all seven of Britain’s leading gambling businesses (see below) being buoyed by the prospect of fat new revenue streams.


    Many of the UK’s leading gambling Online Casino Singapore businesses are currently owned by venture capitalists. The White Paper will allow them lucrative exits.


    Although gaming reform has been factored into the share prices of Rank, Stanley Leisure and Hilton Group, which owns Ladbrokes, their stocks should rise next week as the City digests its confirmation. The fact that so many of the proposals won’t require primary legislation will be particularly pleasing.


    But one issue that will take a change in the law is the legalisation of internet gaming, which will see big companies bring their computer servers onshore. They may be liable for higher taxes as a result, but being based in Britain is expected to be equivalent to a kite mark, and could see the UK become a global online gaming hub.


    Proposals to allow a mix of soft gaming (such as bingo), and hard betting (casino games and slot machines) under one roof, which will be permitted next week – have divided the industry. Some say it is not clear whether the higher tax yield from more betting for the Treasury will offset the cost of coping with problem gambling.


    Sir Peter Fry, head of the Bingo Association, fears many small bingo operators will go out of business as a result of the soft-hard mix: ‘I believe clearing up the effects of problem gambling will cost more money than the Treasury will accrue.’ His comments have, not surprisingly, been strongly rejected by the rest of the industry.


    Betting firms will have to contribute more to organisations that tackle problem gambling and will be forced to be socially responsible.


    The liberalisation is the final piece in a jigsaw that has seen the gaming sector emerge as a City favourite over the past two years.


    Last year, the Government abolished betting tax, which saw 9 per cent of stake money go to the Treasury. Now, the Government taxes firms’ gross profits at 15 per cent. The result has seen bookies’ turnover rise by 40 per cent.


    The prospect of more slot machines is especially welcomed by the industry. ‘Machines don’t go sick, or demand overtime,’ said one industry leader. In other words, they are a cash cow and potentially addictive – as the authorities in Australia have found.


    There, liberalisation created huge social problems and the Canberra government is now attempting to backtrack on reform. The prospect of slot halls will fill many backbench MPs and religious leaders with horror.


    But the one surprising thing about the road to gaming liberalisation so far has been the lack of opposition. There is just one cloud on the industry’s horizon: a furious row between bookmakers and the British Horseracing Board over how much bookies should pay for broadcasting and data rights in their shops.


    The BHB is demanding 2.5 per cent of turnover, which could work out at £180m – £120m more than the bookies pay now. The bookies say that if no decision is reached by 1 May, they will pull broadcasts of UK racing and screen overseas races instead.


    If a monopoly investigation by the Office of Fair Trading goes against the BHB, UK racecourses could end up negotiating individual rates with the bookies. The row has already delayed a planned float by William Hill and a sale of Coral Eurobet – Britain’s second- and third-largest bookies respectively.


    But this is a local difficulty. For big gambling businesses, Tuesday is jackpot day.


    And the winners are…



    Part of the Hilton Group with 1,900 shops, Ladbrokes is Britain’s biggest bookmaker. Turnover is rocketing. Run by Chris Bell. Eyeing up Coral shops despite being forced to sell Corals after a Monopolies and Mergers decision. Gaming sustained Hilton hotels after 11 September. Now that hotels are recovering a float or sale would finance hotel expansion. Float in final quarter of next year possible.



    Owned by Credit Suisse Private Equity. Public face is chief executive, John Kelly. Likely to float within 18 months at over £1 billion. Seen as the model modern gaming business straddling online gaming, casinos and bingo. Wants betting shops.


    Spurns high roller business for ‘grind action’ punters. Among the favourites to buy Coral Eurobet. Plans to launch gaming sheds, which will combine soft and hard gaming.


    Stanley Leisure

    Quoted firm run by former Tory vice-treasurer Leonard Steinberg. Keen to buy Corals. Biggest bookies in the North West. Possible bidder for London Clubs.



    Reinvented itself from a quoted leisure conglomerate to a gaming operation. Owns Mecca bingo, Grosvenor Casinos and Hard Rock Cafe, which Rank is branding as a casino. Run by Mike Smith, who used to be at Hilton. Favourite to buy Coral Eurobet but unlikely to pay more than £600m.


    William Hill

    UK’s second biggest bookie with 1,600 shops. Advisers appointed. May be sold but float at £1.2bn more likely. Sceptics are uncer tain as to the true worth of its internet gambling business. Venture capitalists Cinven and CVC Capital Partners bought it for £825m three years ago after previous owner Nomura scrapped a planned float.


    Coral Eurobet

    UK’s third largest bookie. Bought by Morgan Grenfell Private Equity for £395m in 1998. Lehman Brothers appointed to sell business for up to £750m. Fancied runners are Rank, Gala and Stanley Leisure.


    London Clubs International

    Once valued at £590m, LCI was the first UK operator to run a casino on the Las Vegas strip. Big mistake. Forced to invest hundreds of millions of pounds turning profits into loss. Effectively up for sale. Leisure tycoon Trevor Hemmings and Gala among possible buyers.




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