Online Poker Sites Prepare for UK Regulation
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Three online poker rooms on the iPoker network have announced changes to their UK-facing operations. Mansion has announced its withdrawal from the market, while Winner and Titan have launched new dot-co-uk sites under new subsidiaries to continue operating in the market.
New overarching online gambling regulations in the UK go into effect this year. Not only does it change how all online poker rooms operate in the country, but the changes will impact players both in their choice of places available—and likely the cost to play.
On October 1, the new Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act comes into force. All online gambling operators—including poker rooms, sportsbooks and online casinos—that wish to continue taking bets from customers in the UK need to have a UK license. The deadline for applying for a license is less than two weeks away.
On December 1, a second change comes into effect—a new “point of consumption” tax will require operators to pay a 15% tax on gross profits on all revenue generated from players in the UK.
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All major operators are expected to act—either by applying for a license and staying in the lucrative UK market, or explicitly withdrawing. While major operators like Rational brands PokerStars and Full Tilt, partypoker, 888, Unibet and more are expected to formally remain in the market, other smaller operators will likely bow out.
Mansion is one of the first to announce its withdrawal. It informed its UK customers this week, “due to changing regulations regarding online gaming in the United Kingdom, we must inform you that Mansion Poker is required to close its doors to UK players on September 15th, 2014”—the day before the application deadline.
Two other online poker rooms on the iPoker network—Titan and Winner—plan to stick around. Both under the company PT Entertainment Services, a subsidiary owned by network operator Playtech, the pair have launched new UK sites (titanbet.co.uk and winner.co.uk) and all their UK customers are being transferred this week.
The new sites currently operate under Antigua license. This is a temporary measure which will allow for a smooth transition—Antigua is one of a handful jurisdictions that the UK Gambling Commission deem “whitelisted”; Operators under such licenses will receive continuation licenses while their UK applications are being processed.