A Limited Sky - No Casino Games via Interactive TV

10 July 2003

Citing the nebulous legality of offering non fixed-odds games through the medium of digital interactive television, Sky Digital recently announced that from July 21 on it will not allow casino games to be offered on its platform.

Robert Fraser, a spokesman for Sky, said the company has drawn up a new policy with the help of the British Gaming Board. The policy, which was distributed to third-party gaming operators on Sky recently, states that under current U.K. gaming law, casino games may only be offered in a licensed casino.

"Sky wishes to remain within the law."
- Robert Fraser
Sky Digital

The policy could change when U.K. gaming law is updated and liberalized. Industry executives fear these changes to the law could be postponed due to Parliament not having time to address the sizable gambling bill. England's Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association recently told IGN that a select Parliamentary committee will announce how soon the bill will be addressed in March 2004.

"We've drawn up this policy after extensive consultation with the gaming board. We believe that the policy reflects the law as it stands today, however, we will continue to review the policy," Fraser said.

The games that will not be allowed under the new policy include the so-called "bankers games," which include roulette, craps and dice. Fraser said fixed-odds games include certain numbers games that are becoming increasingly popular on the digital service. Sky's Sky Bet Vegas offers fixed-odds games, he said.

"Sky operates Skybet Vegas, which offers a range of fun, easy-to-play games which superficially may resemble slots, but they are in fact fixed-odds betting," he said.

Fraser said the new policy will apply to Skay's betting products as well as third-party betting products.

"Sky wishes to remain within the law; if there was an illegal gaming service available on Sky Digital, Sky could be permitting a criminal offense of the Gaming Act," he said. "We're also keen on providing the betting industry with greater clarity as to what is and what is not permissible under the existing legislation."

Ed Andrews, the commercial director for Blue Square, said the Fancy a Flutter service on Sky Digital will not be affected because it contains purely fixed-odds games. Fancy a Flutter is a joint venture between the Rank Group and Blue Square.

The Sky Digital platform contains a number of different betting and wagering services, including Skybet, Skybet Vegas, Play Monte Carlo, Ladbrokes, Blue Square, TotoPools and Littlewoods GameOn. It also offers games from Avago, which some U.K. media are reporting could be one of the main operators affected by the new rule. IGN's phone message with Avago was not returned.

Fraser said it is now the operators' duty to scrutinize their games to make sure they are in line with the new rules.

"It remains to be seen which, if any, will be affected," he said.

Fraser said he could not give IGN a copy of the new policy.

Anne Lindner can be reached at anne@rivercitygroup.com.