Shares in gambling firms plunge after MPs call for online crackdown
By Henry Saker-Clark
UK gambling firms saw their shares dive after MPs called for a crackdown on online casinos.
Betting firms such as Ladbrokes-owner GVC, Betfair-owner Flutter Entertainment and William Hill all saw their shares slip yesterday after a cross-party group of MPs called for an overhaul of online gambling to protect vulnerable people.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm called for a limit on maximum bets for online slot machines, similar to a recent cap introduced for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
Earlier this year, MPs introduced a maximum stake of £2, down from £100, for the betting terminals despite uproar from companies.
The parliamentary group has also proposed a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling online.
It said it wants a far more responsible approach to advertising and restrictions on VIP accounts, which can involve bigger rewards for frequent gamblers.
MPs in the group are understood to believe they have a good chance of influencing gambling policy regardless of the outcome of December's election.
The interim report comes after a six-month inquiry which included evidence sessions from industry bosses and gambling addicts.
Conservative MP Iain Duncan-Smith, who is part of the group, urged the gambling commission to look at the issue in greater depth.
He said: "For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator."
Investors in gambling firms reacted badly to the news, with shares in GVC falling 9.3% to 813p and William Hill sliding 13.3% to 175.05p on Monday.
Companies in the industry are still coming to terms with the impact of FOBT stake changes to their high street betting shops.
The changes have significantly hit retail revenues, with Ladbrokes stating they plan to shut around 900 stores due to the impact of the changes, while William Hill outlined plans to shut 700.