Shares in British gambling firms hit by plan to overhaul online casinos

MILAN (Reuters) - Shares in British gambling companies tumbled on Monday after a cross-party group of lawmakers called for a raft of measures to overhaul online casinos and protect vulnerable people.

FILE PHOTO: A fixed odds betting terminals is seen in a betting shop in London, Britain October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

The lawmakers called for limiting maximum stakes in online betting, similar to rules for high-speed slot machines where bets are restricted to 2 pounds, and banning the use of credit cards to gamble online.

In addition, the report called for a more responsible approach to advertising and restrictions on VIP accounts, which can involve offering more frequent gamblers bigger rewards.

The recommendations included calling for treatment of gambling addiction to be offered under the state-run National Health Service (NHS).

The Guardian newspaper said here Prime Minister Boris Johnson was thought to be sympathetic to calls for stricter regulation.

Shares in GVC GVC.L, William Hill WMH.L, 888 Holdings 888.L were trading between 4.7% and 8.7% lower by 1211 GMT.

“For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator,” Conservative lawmaker Iain Duncan Smith said, urging the Gambling Commission to look into the issue in greater depth.

British betting companies are still reeling from the government’s clamp down on high-speed slot machines, which critics have called the “crack cocaine” of gambling. The new rules cut the maximum stake allowed to 2 pounds from 100 pounds.

Bookmaker William Hill plans to close 700 British betting shops and GVC expects to shut about 900 outlets due to stricter rules that have forced firms to shift their focus to U.S. sports betting and online gaming.

The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group, which posted the report, said it would publish a full report after final hearings.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Tanishaa Nadkar; Editing by Louise Heavens and Edmund Blair