BGC and UKGC clash over scale of illegal online black market threat

In an article entitled “UK gambling firms accused of exaggerating scale of black market betting”, the Guardian newspaper has today (18 January 2021) reported that “gambling firms have been accused of concocting a “dodgy dossier” to exaggerate the scale of black market betting, in an attempt to influence an upcoming government review expected to result in tougher regulation”.

The article is based upon a letter from Neil McArthur (Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission) to Carolyn Harris MP (Chair of the Gambling-Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, on the nature, scale, and disruption of illegal gambling in the UK, in which he states:

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.

You can download that letter below or on the GRH APPG website here. The data charts to which reference is made in the letter are set out below:

Publication of the letter comes on the same day that the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has posted on YouTube a video highlighting the threat posed by the illegal online black market, that you can access here. Launching the video, the BGC states as follows on its new website:


Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has unveiled an animated video highlighting the regulated industry’s safer gambling record as well as its contribution to the economy and sport.

The campaign also warns against the “unintended consequence” of the Government’s Gambling Review driving customers towards the illegal, online black market.

A report by PWC revealed that over a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019, 200,000 customers in the UK staked around £1.4bn with unregulated operators.

The animation, which is 3 minutes and 40 seconds long, says using the regulated sector is “a safer bet” than unlicensed companies overseas.

It says that the UK is “one of the safest places in the world to place a bet” and that the regulated industry is committed to going even further to protect customers.

Elsewhere, the video emphasises the £8.7bn the regulated industry contributes to the economy, the £3.2bn it pays in tax and the 100,000 jobs it supports, as well as the £350m given to horseracing through sponsorship, media rights and levies, plus millions more for sports including football, darts, snooker and rugby league.

The video has been published on the BGC’s new website – which also launches today (MON) – while shorter versions are being posted on their Twitter feed.

Michael Dugher, the BGC’s chief executive, said:

“As the standards body for the regulated industry, we have strongly welcomed the Gambling Review.

However, it is vital that it does nothing to drive punters towards the illegal, online black market, which has none of the protections in place that the regulated industry does.

This animation powerfully sets out the steps we have taken – and continue to take – on safer gambling, while also highlighting the immense contribution that the regulated industry makes to the economy and the country’s most popular sports.

It clearly demonstrates that the regulated industry is a safer bet.”

This follows on from:

The Guardian quotes a BGC spokesperson as saying that “countries with tougher regulation than the UK had bigger black market problems”, adding: “we have repeatedly called on the government to use the online harms bill to crack down on access to these sites, and we would support financial service providers being obliged to block black market transactions”.

This looks increasingly likely to be a war of words that will be fought out on the battleground of the Government’s Review of the Gambling Act 2005, in relation to which we trust that the Review will more than live up to the Government’s stated ambition to ensure that it achieves “an appropriate balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and wider communities on the other”, as stated in David Clifton’s December 2020 Licensing Expert article for SBC News entitled “10 Forecasts and a Hope for 2021”.