The UK gaming market is well-known internationally, bringing in billions of pounds each year. This also means lots of lawyers advising on the often complex, multi-disciplinary aspects of the deals taking place in this industry. This is the first point to note – gaming law is not always viewed as an independent practice area by some firms (mostly dependent on size – see firms list below), and instead might be seen as a market which a firm will pull together expertise from numerous practice areas to serve. Here are some examples:
Gaming law is sometimes also referred to as gambling law, since a large amount of its deals tend to involve betting companies, and thus moves into areas of complex financial regulation. Clients could include major betting brands as a result. There are non-gambling areas to this sector too, however – for example an acquisition of one games studio by another.
Let’s take a look at some relevant legislation in this area to demonstrate the kind of law you might be interacting with.
The UK is, as of 2023, the world’s largest regulated online gambling market – worth a staggering $12.5 billion. There’s a great deal of regulation that comes with all the profits, however. The Gambling Act 2005 is probably the most significant piece of legislation in the gaming and gambling law space (replacing the Gaming Act 1710). The Act aims to ensure gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, protecting vulnerable people from potential harm. It also set up the Gambling Commission, which is very active to this day. A 2014 update introduced a 15% tax on gross profits for gambling companies operating offshore. The Act is currently undergoing a major review by the government – who seek to improve in areas such as tackling illegal gambling and setting stricter stake limits.
The manner in which people play is changing. The growth of gambling via mobile phones is an obvious example, but operating within the metaverse is likely to pose its own challenges now too. The blurred lines between gaming and gambling are also an issue in this space.
Top gaming law firms are not limited to working in the UK. New opportunities are opening up abroad constantly – for example a recent increase in regulation in Latin America. It’s not just a legal matter, either – there are also different cultural aspects to address in other jurisdictions when it comes to an area which can be viewed as ethically ambiguous at times.
The UK economy’s relatively weak current position has led market activity to slow somewhat, although gaming companies still place a lot of trust in the UK market as a well-established place to do business. It’s often said that M&A comes in peaks and troughs, and gaming law seems likely to experience movement soon.
There are a mix of firms offering services within the gaming law arena. While it often comes down to matters of financial regulation (attracting heavyweights from the Magic Circle and elite US firms), this is also a relatively specialised area of the law in other respects, thus also attracting smaller boutique firms with tailored offerings in this space. The Legal 500 page for Gaming Law is regularly updated with the top firms and lawyers in this area. Let’s take a look at a handful of firms well-known for their gaming law practices – encompassing many different types of firms in the process.
Mischon de Reya are a large law firm often considered part of the ‘Silver Circle’. Their gaming law practice has become increasingly strong (ranked Tier 1 by Legal 500), and featuring industry stars such as Susan Breen, who recently advised on the M&A deal between gambling titans Gamesys Group and Jackpotjoy.
Bird & Bird are a law-firm often placed around the ‘international mid-tier’ category, and have become known for some interesting and somewhat niche practice areas – from intellectual property to sports law – and even space law. They also maintain a strong presence in the gaming law space. Leading lawyers include Andy Danson, whose client list includes names such as Paddy Power, Betfair, SkyBet and William Hill.
Note: The Lawyer Portal runs an exciting campus ambassador program in collaboration with Bird & Bird each year.
This is the definition of a boutique law firm – they are currently the only specialist gaming and gambling law firm in the City of London, and as such have become extremely well-respected for their work in this space. Co-founder John Hagan is a veteran of the industry and has advised on a huge array of deals in the gaming law space. Chambers have described them as ‘absolutely the number one betting and gaming firm’. If you’re looking for an unrivalled deep dive into the gaming law space within a focused department, this is likely one of your best bets.
At the total opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got elite US firms like Latham & Watkins getting involved in this space. They’re not entirely focused on the gambling side of things, either – practice head Mike Turner has advised on deals such as Ubisoft’s investment in upcoming studio Vela Games. This is likely a symptom of the fact that larger firms rarely have an isolated ‘gaming law’ practice, and thus puts together teams of lawyers drawn from related areas such as ‘TMT’ (technology, media and telecommunications).
Another huge firm – this time Magic Circle rather than elite US – Allen & Overy are similar to Latham & Watkins in the sense that they don’t maintain a singular ‘gaming law’ team, and rather draw from different practice areas. The head of the firm’s well-respected video game sector globally is Alexandre Rudoni – a Paris-based partner specialising in IP, mostly within the tech and media space.
In short, this article has sought to provide a useful starting point for understanding gaming law for aspiring lawyers. Incorporating both elements of gambling and betting companies, and the broader gaming sphere, gaming lawyer advise clients in a massively profitable area of business which contributes massively to the economy as a whole. Regulation is often incredibly complex and throws up a variety of fascinating ethical issues. This sector’s legal counsel is also rarely thought of as a single practice area, and instead draws upon the expertise of lawyers in various fields, ranging from M&A and Antitrust to Employment and Tax.
A range of different firms are active in this space, and choosing whether you would like to pursue a career in the gaming law space at a huge international firm or a more specialised boutique firm will ultimately depend on your own personal career goals and tradeoffs. What is certain is that this area of the law seems heavily tied to technology, and thus maintains an incredibly dynamic position within a constantly evolving landscape.
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