Amaya Gaming, the company owns PokerStars and Full Tilt, has received approval for a continuation license in the UK.
Although subjected to a lot of criticism, UK’s new remote gambling law has come into force on November 1, after the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association’s (GBGA) attempt to overturn it failed last month. Some companies have rebelled against the regulations and withdrew from the UK market, but not everyone can afford to lose their British customers.
Take well-established online poker sites in the UK, such as PokerStars and Full Tilt, who make a large part of their profits in this country. Their owner, Amaya Gaming Group, has decided it was better to just comply with the new regulations and obtain a continuation license.
This is good news for British players, who will continue to have access to two of the world’s best virtual poker sites; and it’s good news for the UK Gambling Commission, too, as the regulator will be cashing in more money on license fees.
Major changes to UK gambling laws
The following operators have either closed part of their UK operations or withdrawn entirely:
• Pinnacle Sports
• Mansion Group
• GoWild Casino
PokerStars and Full Tilt – both top poker online sites – are already licensed by the Isle of Man gaming authority. With this license, the company operates websites across the world. But the UK Government decided to stop allowing foreign-based companies to profit off local players.
Under the new British gambling laws, remote operators have to obtain another license from the UK Gambling Commission. This means paying an additional license fee to the British authorities, which will be followed by a Gambling Tax Reform scheduled to be introduced in December this year.
The news stirred controversy in the remote gambling industry, and the GBGA – who represents major names like William Hill, Betfair, Bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes or Victor Chandler – challenged the decision in court. The association said the new regulations were “unlawful” because they were “is in breach of European law”, and threatened the safety of UK consumers by encouraging illegal operators.
“The Government announced that this law was introduced with the express intention of addressing concerns it said it had about the protection of consumers. The measures introduced through this Act are neither reasonable nor proportionate to achieving that goal and are likely to have adverse consequences for consumers,” it wrote in a statement.
Tax reform coming later this year
In addition to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, the Government has announced changes to its rules for General Betting Duty (GBD), Pool Betting Duty (PBD), and Remote Gaming Duty (RGD), affecting both remote gambling companies operating from outside the UK, as well as land based betting firms, including high street betting shops.
A detailed guide on the UK Government’s website says: “Gambling activities are currently taxed on a ‘place of supply’ basis. This means that if you’re supplying gambling from the UK, you pay tax on all your gross gambling profits. Operators supplying UK customers from outside the UK pay no UK gambling taxes.”
From December 1, these activities will be taxed by on a “place of consumption” basis, which means certain gambling operators catering to UK players will become liable to one or more of the aforementioned duties.
“This applies no matter where in the world you’re based,” the website specifies. “If you supply remote gambling to UK customers from outside the UK you’ll become liable to a UK gambling tax for the first time and GBD, PBD or RGD will become payable. UK based operators who supply remote gambling to customers who do not usually live in the UK will no longer be liable to GBD, PBD or RGD on those transactions.”
Amaya is staying
While the added taxes and fees have scared a few gambling operators, it looks like the big ones will be sticking around after realizing that, despite the additional costs, they simply can’t afford to lose their UK customer base.
Amaya is one of the companies willing to pay the price, just to be able to operate in the UK. In addition to online and mobile casino games, the company runs a successful B2B business providing UK-facing online operators with content and technology, which has also received its new license.
The new PokerStars and Full Tilt UK software has become available this Monday. The platform will be downloaded and activated automatically; all players have to do is wait for the update to be completed, then login as usually. The change will not affect login details, account balance or player history.
PokerStars and Full Tilt now have a portfolio of 13 locally licensed jurisdictions, including important European locations such as France, Italy and Spain. But with additional taxes to pay, the two poker sites may also increase their own fees.
Re-buys and add-ons will most likely end up costing UK players more in the near future, but no such changes have been introduced for now. And that’s obviously better than having no legal options to play poker online at all.