2015 Year in Review: Highlights of the UK Online Casino Gaming Market

UK Online Casino review 2015.

Mergers, acquisitions and regulatory changes marked another transitional year for UK online casino gaming. (Image: masonandmasoninteriors.co.uk)

The UK online casino world was turned inside out and back in on itself in 2015.

Thanks to a flurry of mergers, regulatory shifts and new players entering the game, the online casino market in the UK has become a new look entity over the last 12 months.

Mergers, Mergers, Mergers

The one story that dominated the online casino, poker and sports betting world in 2015 was the trio of mergers that took place.

At times complex, convoluted and uncertain, the sales and acquisitions between some of the leading iGaming operators in the UK made for endless pages of content over the last 12 months.

First to combine forces to create an online casino superpower was Gala Coral and Ladbrokes. Two long serving members of the UK’s online casino scene, Gala Coral agreed to take control of Ladbrokes to create a newly unified company for the princely sum of £2.3 billion.

Not wanting to be left behind and fall behind two of its biggest rivals, Betfair and Paddy Power decided to follow suit and merge their assets just a few weeks later.

Being larger online entities a deal was agreed for an impressive £5 billion. Set to rebrand itself as Betfair Paddy Power, the new platform instantly became one of the largest online casino companies in the world following the announcement of the deal.

With something of a trend set, the final two companies to form a partnership were GVC Holdings and bwin.party. Following a protracted battle between GVC Holdings and 888 Holdings, a battle that ultimately ended in the former winning, bwin.party was sold for a £1.1 billion and another superpower was formed.

Genting Sale to Itself

While other platforms were joining forces in 2015, Genting UK was busy selling its online casino assets to Genting Malaysia. One of the more complicated business arrangements, Genting Bhd decided to sell its UK platform to one of the subsidiary companies its part owner of (49.3 percent stake), Genting Malaysia Bhd.

Although essentially the same brand and company, the fact Genting Malaysia Bhd is a subsidiary of Genting Bhd means that the UK platform, wholly-owned by RWI International Investments Ltd, could be sold to the Malaysian entity (which is wholly owned by Nedby Ltd).

Money for the deal was raised through internal funds and the deal gave Genting the ability to streamline its operation at its office in Alderney. From an operational standpoint the deal had no bearing on the way UK casino fans are able to ante-up online.

School Governor Learns a Lesson

Not all news is good news and in 2015 the iGaming industry took a slight knock in the mainstream media thanks to former school governor, David Bradford.

Reported by a number of news outlets, including the Daily Express, the story focused on Bradford’s online gambling habit.

Stating that the former school worker had gambled £500,000 online, the story also highlighted that he stole money from his employer to feed his antics.

Although the figure of £500,000 was the sum of his total wagers (something all casino players will be familiar with), it did create a sense of shock among the general public. Regardless of that fact, it’s estimated that Bradford stole around £50,000 to play online casino games.

DraftKings Goes Transatlantic

Although an adjunct to the online casino world, news that Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operator DraftKings would be coming to the UK also helped to change the face of the iGaming scene in 2015.

Already the leading online DFS operator in the US, the company is now looking to bring its brand of big money gaming to the UK.

As it later transpired, the decision to focus on the British market was somewhat fortuitous as the US has gradually turned against the DFS industry. With various states outlawing the betting medium towards the end of 2015, DraftKings could conceivably keep its business afloat in the UK and Europe while it works to overcome the DFS industry’s legal hurdles in the US.

Fees Become an Issue

The final story of note in a world of change over the last 12 months was the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) biting back at the national government. Wanting to assert its authority as an autonomous body, the UKGC recommended that the British government reduce the levies applied to UK online casino operators.

“The purpose of this discussion document is to explain our approach to recovering costs through licence fees, our current thinking on how the fees structure can be improved, and the implications of the 2014 Act on our costs, income and therefore on the fees needed to recover those costs; and to invite comments to help us prepare our advice on these issues to government,” read a statement from the UKGC.

Following the first year of the country’s Point of Consumption (POC) tax, the UKGC suggested that the reduction of operators serving the UK is indicative of “problems” with the current fee structure. Currently set at a rate of 15% on annual profits from UK customers, the UKGC has suggested this rate should be reduced in order to maintain a buoyant market.

Quite how this suggestion, or the other changes that took place in 2015, will affect the future of UK iGaming in 2016 remains to be seen.

Fortunately for you, we’ll be on hand to chart all the latest developments in the coming months right here OnlineCasino.co.uk.

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