Brexit and Matched Betting – A tale of annoying legislation

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As we enter yet another extension of the Brexit deadline, it is about time we (as matched bettors) reflect on how this seismic shift in Europe’s landscape is going to affect those of us sitting at home trying to find good odds matches for our free bets.

Matched bettors rely on free bets and bonuses from the bookmakers, and for a very long time there never looked to be an end in sight to this relationship – until now? This is the big question sweeping the matched betting community – will Brexit affect matched betting and if so how badly (no one assumes any change will be positive for us)? What is not up for debate is that the gambling landscape will change as a result of Brexit. UK gambling companies make more money than any other country in the world. Therefore, it stands to reason that many people are worried about the way Brexit could influence bettors at home and abroad.

The reality is, unlike many EU industries, gambling is not centrally regulated; instead each country has its own laws and licensing arrangements. Consequently, in large part, UK bettors will not notice much difference the day the nation breaks from the EU. However, if you gamble with a non-UK company it is possible that they could pull out of the market due to the UK employment and tax laws that will now impact said companies. Now, for individual punters, this will not be a big issue. However, as matched bettors, this will undoubtedly reduce the number of offers you will have access to as a UK bettor – thus reducing your overall profit from the welcome offers.

So, we stand to lose a few bookmaker offers from the bottom of our Welcome offer lists – surely this is not a big deal? True, this ultimately will not ruin matched betting. What might be slightly more impactful is if the ‘big’ bookmakers start reducing the value of their offers as a result of greater financial/tax restrictions. Brexit will affect the way companies do business and the various associated costs, particularly for those seeking refuge in places like Gibraltar. The quickest and easiest way for bookmakers to cut costs is to reduce the value of their offers, to both new and existing customers. This will be the knee-jerk reaction to appease investors, while the big logistical changes are implemented. This, will hurt matched betting.

How much it will hurt matched betting is very much down to the UK government at the moment. Why? Well, there are rumblings of the UK government looking to tax bookmaker bonuses and free bets. Nothing will convince the bookmaker to drop their offers more than the idea of being taxed for offering them.

There is some hope in all of this doom and gloom though. The UK is already the most regulated gambling market in Europe, so a bit more legislation is unlikely to see bookmakers abandon ship. The reason for this is that the UK is the golden goose of the gambling industry. In 2017, the gross gambling yield reached £12.6 billion according to the UK Gambling Commission. The income from remote betting, which includes online casinos, poker, etc, went from just over £800 million in 2009 to more than £4 billion by 2017. In other words, gambling is one of the most important industries to the UK economy. So, whilst additional taxation and/or legislation may force bookmakers to tighten their belts and be a bit wary when it comes to their offers, they are not going to leave the UK market altogether (which quite a few matched bettors fear they will). There is just too much money on the table.

So, is Brexit really a big deal for matched betting? Well, baring a very bad no deal scenario, few operators will actually decide to pull out of the UK or the EU, even if additional tariffs apply, simply because the industry is so profitable. A more realistic scenario is that these additional costs will be passed on to the customers, resulting in less bonuses and promotions.

Luckily, capitalism and the pursuit of unsustainable growth may come to our aid. These gambling companies are being boxed in. First, the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (in their shops) were completely (and rightly) neutered and now more legislation looms around the corner. The problem is, these companies must grow but they cannot pass their costs onto their customers too much because these days, everyone has an app and next to none have a USP (unique selling point) – if the offers get worse, punters will go elsewhere. It is the bookmakers dread of this scenario that may mean the value of matched betting remains stable despite the turmoil of Brexit………fingers crossed!