I-gaming industry professionals attending the European I Gaming exhibition in Barcelona November 11th, welcomed a speech by Peter Dean, chairman of the UK Gaming Board, that indicated that the UK government intends to extensively liberalise and update their gambling laws.

Mr. Dean outlined the government’s approach, saying that the UK’s  Slot Gampang Menang licensing system would include thorough checks into companies financial status and company directors. He added that there would be a three million pound fund contributed by the industry on a voluntary basis that would go to helping people with gambling addictions. So far the industry has already raised two million pounds even before the regulations are implemented.

Although there are no figures on the taxes that would be imposed as yet, an interim report is due in April 2004, with the new legislation expected to be implemented by 2005.

IGT Eyes UK Market

International Game Technology, one of the largest slot makers in the world, is set to expand into the UK market.

“We are very well prepared for the new legislation,” Robert Lamb, vice president and managing director of IGT U.K. Ltd., said. “Our business strategy is in place in the market when it opens.”

IGT created the U.K. division about a year ago to spearhead expansion plans in the region.

Under anticipated deregulation laws, Britain would be allowed to build more casinos, including suburban gambling halls, while casinos could offer Las Vegas-style slot machines with larger cash jackpots and linked progressives.

The company has speculated that Britain — now offering a few hundred traditional slot machines in casinos — could support from 40,000 to 45,000 slots.

UKbetting Diversifies

UKbetting, an Internet gambling and sports content company has launched a broadband Internet service aimed at football, rugby and racing punters.

The price of the monthly service is £27.99, £2 cheaper than BT’s premium broadband service. UKbetting claims to have more sports content than anyone except for the BBC. Subscribers will get high speed Internet access, with customised sports content on UKbetting’s sites, such as SportingLife.com, Teamtalk.com and Sportal.com, which includes American sports.

Content includes sports video clips, horseracing previews and a free tipping service, while for subscribers playing poker and roulette on the company’s Totalbet.com site, free bets and promotional wagers are included.

UK Gambling Environment Liberalises

Shares in Britain’s betting shop chains rallied this afternoon after they reached an agreement with casino operators and the British government allowing them to keep so-called fixed-odds betting machines in their shops.

Shares in William Hill and Stanley rose by more than 3.5% in London.

The British government said it had ratified a code of practice agreed by the Gaming Board of Great Britain and the Association of British Bookmakers to allow betting shops to continue operating fixed-odds machines, while limiting their number, maximum prize and range of games.

The Gaming Board had threatened to take bookmakers to court over the machines, which enable punters to bet on games such as virtual horse racing. It argued that they were a form of gaming that fell outside the remit of bookmakers and were not subject to the same regulations as casinos and so could be abused by gambling addicts.

The Gaming Board and ABB agreed each betting shop would be restricted to a maximum of four machines, whether conventional slot machines or fixed-odds terminals.

Earlier, the British government launched a widely anticipated draft bill to deregulate gambling laws, which could benefit betting shops and casinos alike.