British regulator could ban gambling firms' VIP programmes, shares fall

(Reuters) - Shares of British gambling companies fell on Friday after an industry regulator proposed curbs on programmes and incentives targeting habitual gamblers.

The British Gambling Commission said in a report that it could ban VIP accounts, which typically offer bigger rewards for frequent gamblers, and limit deposits, while encouraging the industry to adopt a code of conduct.

“We have been taking action to address poor practice around the treatment of VIP customers for some time,” a spokesperson for the commission said.

Betting companies rely on VIP customers for the bulk of their deposits, although they form a small percentage of their total customer base, the regulator said.

A spokeswoman for gambling firm GVC said the company “does not encourage customers to become premium customers with gifts or freebies.”

She also said GVC was working with the commission on an industry code of conduct, which will set out standards and requirements recommended for premium customer programmes in the next few months.

The Gambling Commission report comes two months after a cross-party group of lawmakers called for a raft of measures to overhaul online casinos and protect vulnerable people.

Shares in GVC GVC.L, William Hill WMH.L and gambling software maker Playtech PTEC.L fell between 2% and 4%.

William Hill did not respond to a Reuters request for comment, while Playtech declined to comment.

Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva