BGC warns about “dangers of complacency” as more British customers are using black market sites

The BGC has said that new evidence suggests the UK is “sleepwalking” into a black market disaster.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has issued a warning to the government about the “dangers of complacency” in underestimating the growth of the unregulated gambling market and the threats posed to the UK.

The BGC’s warning

The BGC cited new research from a PWC report that was published this morning which revealed that the number of British bettors placing bets via black market sites has more than doubled.

In its warning to the government, the BGC said that PWC’s report was the most comprehensive analysis of online gambling threats that are facing the UK market. PWC’s report will also be submitted to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of the call for evidence on the review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

PWC’s “Review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK”, which tracked players between November and December 2020, found that customers using unlicensed betting sites grew from 210,000 two years ago to 460,000.

The report stated: “A sizable and growing share of stakes is placed with unlicensed sites, growing over the last 1-2 years broadly in line with usage (i.e. doubling). Those that gamble with unlicensed operators still almost always gamble with licensed operators as well.”

PWC’s report highlighted concerns over the amount of money wagered with unlicensed gambling operators. According to the report, the amount of money wagered with unregulated operators rose from £1.4bn in 2019 to £2.8bn in 2020.

The report also covered “worrying” global trends that show the size of the black market in other countries.

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher said: “This new report by PwC is an impressive and comprehensive piece of work which demonstrates how the unsafe, unregulated black market is a growing threat to British punters.

“These illicit sites have none of the regulated sector’s consumer protections in place, such as strict ID and age verification checks, safer gambling messages and the ability to set deposit limits.”

Dugher added: “I know this evidence is inconvenient to those who seek to dismiss and play down the threat of the black market, but there is a real danger of complacency.

“The UK risks sleepwalking into changes where the main beneficiary is the unlicensed black market. We all have an interest in getting future changes right, so must take heed of this latest evidence and look at what is happening elsewhere around the world.”

The BGC also warned against measures that could drive “ordinary punters towards the black market if checks on their income are too intrusive and onerous.” The trade body specifically named the Gambling Commission’s ongoing consultation on additional affordability checks, such as the implementation of a “safety threshold” of a maximum £100 loss for customers prior to providing evidence if they can afford to gamble.

Another warning from the BGC

The BGC’s latest warning to the government comes after it warned that the review of the 2005 Gambling Act could have “unintended consequences.”

Last month, the BGC launched a new campaign warning that the Gambling Act review could drive customers to the unregulated online gambling market.

The BGC’s campaign came in the form of an animated video which highlights the “industry’s safer gambling record as well as its contribution to the economy and sport,” and warned that there may be unintended consequences such as pushing customers towards illegal markets.

The video also referenced figures from PWC, which show that approximately 200,000 UK customers wagered £1.4bn with unlicensed operators between 2018 and 2019. These figures were originally published last month and revealed that the UK sees about 27m visits to unregulated gambling sites in a year.

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