The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned the government about the ‘dangers of complacency’ in underestimating the growth of black-market threats on UK gambling.
The trade body referred to a PWC report published this morning which reveals that the number of British punters using black market websites to place bets has more than doubled.
Tracking players over the period from November to December 2020, PWC’s ‘Review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK’ has found that customers using an unlicensed betting websites has grown from 210,000 two years ago to 460,000.
The ‘Big-4’ auditor’s report highlighted further concerns over the volume of money wagered with unlicensed operators, which is said to have doubled from £1.4 billion in 2019 to £2.8 billion.
“A sizeable 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),” the report highlighted. “Those that gamble with unlicensed operators still almost always gamble with licensed operators as well.”
The BGC has branded PWC’s report as the most comprehensive analysis of illegal online gambling threats facing the UK market. The report will be submitted to DCMS as part of its call for evidence on its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
“This new report by the PWC is an impressive and comprehensive piece of work which demonstrates how the unsafe, unregulated black market is a growing threat to British punters,” said BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher.
“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.
“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 BGC noted direct concerns related to the Gambling Commission’s ongoing consultation on further affordability checks, such as the introduction of a ‘safety threshold’ of a maximum £100 loss for customers prior to providing evidence that they can afford to wager.
The trade body has warned against such measures which would lead ‘ordinary punters towards the black market if checks on their income are too intrusive and onerous’.
Furthermore, the government has been urged to acknowledge PWC’s report which states that the size of the online black market is larger in countries where the regulated betting and gaming sector is less competitive.
It points to countries including France, Norway, Italy and Spain – which have tougher restrictions on licensed operators – as examples of nations where the black market share is bigger than in the UK.
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.”