Gambling Commission data shows no rise in illegal gambling complaints amid pandemic

There is no evidence that there has been a spike in complaints about illegal gambling sites during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data published by the UK Gambling Commission, there is no evidence of a spike in complaints regarding illegal online gambling in the UK since the country entered lockdown.

Commission data

The Commission’s data shows that since 23 March, there has been no spike in reports to the UK regulator regarding illegal gambling sites.

According to the figures, the regulatory body received 12 complaints about nine sties in March and 11 complaints regarding 11 sites during April.

The complaints issued in April were relatively level compared to April 2019 when a total of nine complaints were raised against 20 different gambling websites.

The UK regulatory body said that the level of complaints remained level over the past 12 months from April 2019 to April 2020.

The Commission did, however, note an anomaly in January 2020 when 31 complaints were made against 35 sites. The regulator attributed this to Curacao-based companies that were attempting to entice British gamblers who were self-excluded.

The nature of the complaints over the past 12 months varies but the main reason for concern was that an illegal site allowed people from the UK to gamble. A total of 85 complaints were raised against unlicensed sites accepting UK players.

The Commission noted that 24 complaints were in relation to a player being unable to withdraw funds, 19 complaints were focused on marketing and advertising, and 12 complaints were raised against sites fraudulently claiming to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

Complaints were also raised due to sites refusing to pay out funds, charging for tipster services, cloned sites, allowing underage access and self-exclusion breaches.

Richard Watson, Gambling Commission Executive Director, said: “Our data does not indicate there has been an increase in any illegal gambling in Britain during the Covid-19 crisis.

“It is an area we monitor carefully and where we find problems, we use our broad range of investigatory powers, alongside stakeholders such as software providers, payment businesses and hosting companies.

“Tackling illegal websites and unlicensed operators is challenging and it is also resource intensive, but we are committed to continuing our work in this area to protect consumers here in Britain.”

Fewer people gambling during lockdown

Last week, the Commission issued new guidance for operators during the lockdown. According to the Commission, tighter controls were needed after new research data found that some players’ gambling habits had changed during the lockdown.

The Commission issued a YouGov study which found that 1.8% of respondents said they had stopped gambling entirely over the last four weeks. An additional 3.3% said they reduced their spending on gambling, while 4.8% said they cut the amount of time they spend gambling.

Although the number of people gambling dropped, the study found that a number of players have sought to find entertainment elsewhere. One of YouGov’s statistics revealed that 64% of ‘engaged gamblers’ have “increased either the amount of time or money they have spent on one or more types of gambling, including National Lottery products”.

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