Social gaming regulation in UK “odds-on”, Hill’s chief says

William Hill CEO Ralph Topping continued to agitate for social gaming regulation in the UK this morning, saying the Gambling Commission was “odds-on” to act in the next two years.

In response to a question at the company second-quarter earnings call as to whether or not the company was “scared” of all of the talk of potential competition from social gaming companies converting into real-money, Topping said:

“No, I’m not scared by it. I am scared by what is happening at the moment in social gaming in some places. I am not scared by the prospect of social gaming in the long run.

“I think it’s an odds-on certainty that the government Gambling Commission will take a look at social gaming in this country. I can’t even imagine the Gambling Commission, as they sit in Birmingham, are not aware of that. I would be very surprised if they were unaware of it, not shocked, but very surprised.”

The chief of the UK’s largest bookmaker concluded: “I think you will see developments on regulation in social gaming as the next two years unfurl, so I’m not worried by it at all. I don’t like some of the practices that I see, because it’s gambling by any other means.”

Topping’s comments follow similar statements on his personal blog earlier this month that the company had adopted a “watching brief” on this “potentially lucrative business opportunity” of gambling-style games on social platforms such as Facebook, as Topping believed it should be subject to the same controls as real-money gambling.

The William Hill CEO argued this morning that such regulation of social gaming would be “a positive” because it would create “a level playing field”, presumably not just between his company and the likes of Zynga, which yesterday announced a move into real-money play in 2013, but also real-money rivals who have begun making inroads into the social space.

US land-based casino operator Caesars’ interactive division recently parted with around US$200m to acquire Slotomania developer Playtika, while supplier IGT is spending US$500m on DoubleDown Casino. PartyPoker, PartyCasino and bwin owner, scared off by the huge valuations placed on social gaming companies, recently unveiled a strategy to spend US$50m on developing its own standalone social gaming division. Jackpotjoy owner Gamesys has built a thriving social slots business on Facebook.

Hill’s online joint venture partner Playtech, which owns 29% of William Hill Online, also recently entered into a deal to license social gaming B2B assets from companies owned by founder and major shareholder Teddy Sagi.

Casino Choice journalist

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