The Betting and Gaming Council has warned of a “black market threat as illegal sites are visited 27 million times by British punters“.
Its warning (posted on its website yesterday, 20 December 2020) reads as follows:
Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has warned about the danger posed by the illegal, online black market as it emerged British punters visited the unregulated sites 27 million times in a year.
A report by PWC revealed that 200,000 customers used an unlicensed gambling operator over a 12 month period between 2018 and 2019, staking around £1.4 billion.
Overall, unregulated operators accounted for 2.5 per cent of all visits to betting websites – amounting to 27 million visits in total.
And nearly one in 10 – 9 per cent – of all gambling search results were for black market sites.
The findings came as the Government continues its Gambling Review, and led to renewed warnings that it could lead to customers being forced into the arms of unscrupulous black market operators, who have none of the safeguards put in place by the regulated sector.
These include strict ID and age verification checks plus a wide range of safer gambling tools such as deposit limits, time outs and interventions where punters are spending more time or money than normal betting.
By contrast, black market sites can lure under-18s – who cannot bet with regulated firms – and carry out no checks on customers, regardless of how much time or money they spend gambling.
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said:
“As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review, which we think is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling.
However, these figures demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal, online black market – which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.
The regulated betting and gaming industry employs 100,000 men and women and pays £3.2bn a year in tax to the Treasury, so the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk.
Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment, rather than the unscrupulous black market.”
This is a fear that has not yet resulted in the expression of any major concern on the part of the Gambling Commission, including:
- as mentioned in our 28 June 2020 website posting entitled “The spectre of “offshore, black market, illegal operators” is raised in BGC reaction to Public Accounts Committee report”, arising from a letter sent to the Public Accounts Committee by the Gambling Commission on 15 May 2020 and
- more recently, in its 30 September 2020 HVC consultation response (reported by us here) when it said: “This consultation is concerned with raising the standards of consumer protection offered by Gambling Commission licence holders. Consumer protection is not helped in our view by suppressing standards in the licensed market because of an unsubstantiated risk that consumers will seek out illegal operators. The response to that risk is to tackle unlicensed operators alongside improving standards in the legal market. Where unlicensed licensees are identified and found to be targeting British consumers, we will act to ensure they cease these activities”.
That is notwithstanding, for example, a 28 April 2020 report commissioned by the Swedish Trade Association For Online Gambling entitled “The degree of channelisation on the Swedish online gambling market” demonstrating the rate at which Swedish licensed operators have been exposed to significant competition from unlicensed operators.