Oh, the world is coming to an end…..or is it? Imogen Goodman takes a global trip around the political hypocrisies and wonders how the betting and gambling world will deal with the new, disruptive order.
On March 29, as the British government triggered the EUexit process known as Article 50, Theresa May addressed a packed-out parliament. “At a time when the growth of global trade is slowing and there are signs that protectionist instincts are on the rise in many parts of the world,” she said, “Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade in the interests of all our citizens.”
The statement was met with guffaws of disbelief from all sides of the House. It did seem a bit rich for Britain – the country that’s pulling up the drawbridge on immigration, pulling out of the single market and turning its back on Europe’s international institutions – to be doling out lessons on Europe’s responsibilities “to stand up for free trade”.
Nevertheless, desperate times occasionally call for hypocritical measures – and if May’s right about one thing, it’s that “protectionist instincts” and protectionism are spreading like wildfire across the Western world. Is this something that the gambling industry should care about, as international – and often ‘offshore’ – businesses?
As far as Trump-style economics go, many in Latin America think so. At this year’s Juegos Miami, stakeholders in the Mexican gaming industry will be speaking (with some urgency) about the likely impact of a 20 percent import tax between the US and Mexico and the effective ending of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Aside from the obvious impact for businesses who rely on Mexican manufacturers for their gaming machines and other goods, experts are particularly concerned about the shock waves caused by the hit to the Mexican economy – which exports around 70 percent of its goods to the US.
“Any developments in the United States are always most deeply felt by its closest neighbour and the impact of protectionism on an economy which exports 70 percent of its goods to the United States would be devastating, reducing dramatically the average disposable income for a large proportion of the population,” said Layla Ali, who helped formulate the learning agenda for Juegos.
Meanwhile, in Europe, some of the biggest operators have seen first-hand how a protectionism agenda can block them for entering new – and potentially lucrative – markets.
With the news last month that Germany’s sixteen states have passed the latest version of their Interstate Treaty on Gambling, we’re reminded one more of the 2014 saga that saw firms like bet365 and Betclic Everest astoundingly rejected for one of the country’s twenty licences.
The European Commission has been battling German regulators for the past few years, trying to strong-arm the government into offering some level of transparency in the way sports-betting licences are granted.
So far, all they have managed to achieve is a raising of the cap to forty, rather than twenty, licences. This may appease some operators who can now enter the market, but is it a sustainable way for a jurisdiction to function?
Theresa May is right about “protectionist instincts” being on the rise, but, to be fair, Europe is already fighting that fight. It remains to see how the UK will tackle the scourge on its own doorstep.