Thursday 13 February 2020 1:46 pm

Gambling stocks fall as watchdog mulls capping online slots bets

Shares in gambling firms fell today after the industry watchdog told MPs that it was considering capping the amount punters can bet online.

FTSE 250 betting firms William Hill dropped 6.2 per cent today, and GVC Holdings fell 5.7 per cent. 888 Holdings also fell 1.5 per cent, but Rank Group however bucked the trend, rising nearly two per cent.

Read more: Gambling companies used schools data on 28m children

Yesterday Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, told the all-parliamentary group on gambling related harm that a decision on a potential limit would be announced within six months.

In November MPs called for gambling firms to commit to a £2 limit per bet for online slot machines, which would align them with the machines found in high street shops.

At the time the announcement sent shares sharply downwards, with all four FTSE companies seeing a drop. In total, the proposal wiped £1.2m off the sector leaders.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who heads the parliamentary commission, said that she was pleased the Gambling Commission had “finally seen sense on this”:

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“A review of stake limits online has been clearly recommended by the all-party parliamentary group and is long overdue.

“Online slot content games should be reduced to £2 a spin in line with the rules in betting shops. The Gambling Commission must stop being reactive and take action to protect the vulnerable from harm in line with their licensing objectives”.

The UK industry has become increasingly regulated in recent years as the government tries to bring legislation up to date with the expanded digital betting sector.

Last month the watchdog announced plans to ban betting using credit card deposits, which comes into effect from April, covers all online and offline betting, with the exception of “non-remote” lotteries including the National Lottery.

Read more: Gambling firms’ shares slide following credit card ban

The new proposed limit would help to tackle the “public health crisis” of gambling addiction, MPs said.

A spokesperson from the Gambling Commission said: “We said last October that we would be looking at online stake limits as part of our ongoing work to reduce the risks of gambling related harm.

“This work is in addition to us focusing on VIP practices, advertising technology and game design. We will publish our assessment and next steps for online stakes and further protections later this year.”