UKGC Accuses Alarmist Major Betting Firms of Exaggerating Black-Market Threat

UKGC Accuses Alarmist Major Betting Firms of Exaggerating Black-Market Threat

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced that the scale of the black market is “stable” despite “recent media reports and reports from consultants paid for by the industry”. It reminded people that the discussion surrounding the illegal black market needs to be kept “in proportion” and not to alarm people unnecessarily.

The UK’s gambling regulator has said that a report commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council and some of the UK’s leading gambling companies should be treated with caution as it “is not consistent with the intelligence picture”. The report is often being used by the Betting and Gaming Council as a reference for its arguments against stricter regulations, even if there is no evidence shown in the report that shows a growth in illicit betting.

The report in question estimates that around 200,000 people spend about £1.4 billion a year on black market gambling sites, with warnings that stricter regulations could play into the hands of these sites and push people into the arms of exploitative operators.

Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission Neil McArthur was asked by the APPG to give its own analysis of the gaming black market and how it is being tackled. McArthur said that the UKGC enforced actions against 59 cases of remote unlicensed operators in 2019/20 and 74 (so far) in 2020/21. Ongoing investigations are also showing that unscrupulous operators are putting “concerning emphasis on targeting vulnerable consumers”, growing smarter in building such sites, and having more links to organised crime.

In McArthur’s own words, “Our concerns about unlicensed gambling are obviously heightened by the fact that any consumer who is gambling with an illegal operator will find themselves in the hands of someone who is not likely to protect them from harm, protect their personal data or treat them fairly.”

However, while acknowledging these concerns, McArthur called attention to the fact that “our data indicates that [the] scale of [the] illegal market is stable”. He explained saying “we know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests that the impact may be being exaggerated. In any event, we are not convinced by the argument that suggests that raising standards in the licensed market will prompt consumers to gamble with illegal operators.”

Read about responsible gambling

UK Gambling Commission favoured by the government measures

The UK government is considering introducing new stricter measures as part of its review of the 2005 Gambling Act, with the UKGC coming out in favour of the measures. Its reasons are that the scope of the black market will decrease as the regulatory framework will be effective and competition will be fair for the legal market offerings. These measures could include forcing online casinos to carry out thorough affordability checks if a customer regularly deposits a certain amount, and placing a limit on stakes on online virtual slot machines.

Addressing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, McArthur stated that it is of the utmost importance to keep reviewing the checks and balances in place to make sure that they are effective when tackling illegal gambling.

Read about 2020’s impact on the gambling industry in the UK

Confident of the UKGC’s work, he concluded that “Throughout 2020 we conducted a full review of our work regarding illegal online gambling. We also continued to engage with other regulators around the world. As a result we will be able to advise government as part of the Gambling Act Review. When that advice is published we will of course forward a copy to you.”

Read more about the UKGC

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