Sarah Garnder: UKGC consultation conclusions due this summer

Sarah Gardner: UKGC ‘cannot accept’ black market argument against regulation

A recurrent argument against perceived overly-strict regulations in the UK over the past two years has been the threat of black market risks. Whilst acknowledging the existence of such sites, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has some issues with this line of thought. 

Sarah Gardner, the Commission’s Deputy Chief Executive, addressed industry stakeholders at the Danish Gambling Authority’s (DGA) recent industry event, making comparisons between the betting markets in the UK and Denmark. 

She observed that there is an argument made by some stakeholders that there is a danger that customers will ‘jump from regulated gambling into unregulated gambling’ if stricter player protection measures are introduced. 

This viewpoint has often been raised by groups such as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) for example, over the past two years, targeting blanket affordability checks. 

“I cannot accept this argument,” she asserted. “Indeed, I believe that no regulator should knowingly allow bad practices of the type we are talking about here, practices which can cause harm, to carry on in the regulated market. 

“And whilst we – like you – have a level of concern about illegal online gambling and it will always be an important focus for us, we have no time for those risks being overstated, without credible evidence, either.”

In Gardner’s view, the argument that the regulator should ‘scale back or stop some of the interventions’ necessary in the regulated market to mitigate this perceived threat is inaccurate.

Continuing to address the extent of unregulated betting and gaming activity in the UK, the Commission’s Deputy Chief Executive noted that ‘innovation’ is often driven by grey and black market sectors. 

Maintaining a long-held stance by the UKGC, Gardner pointed to ‘emerging products’ such as NFTs, cryptocurrencies and synthetic shares, marking these as areas that ‘gambling regulators need to be keeping watch on’.

“They are becoming increasingly widespread and through them, what products can be defined and regulated as gambling is becoming increasingly blurred depending on each jurisdiction’s rules,” she continued.

“For our part we are watching and whilst they are often beyond our remit, we will have questions of any operator who is taking risks in this space.

“A competitive sector that is always pushing the boundaries and innovating requires us as regulators to also constantly look to update, improve and innovate how we hold the sector to account and keep gambling fair, safe and crime-free.”

Addressing these concerns is one of the main objectives of the UK’s Gambling Act review, she informed the Danish audience, with the White Paper publication apparently due soon. 

Adding that the review will have a ‘big impact on our work going forward this year’, Gardner detailed the other areas the UKGC has been focusing on. 

This includes a continued drive to maintain compliance standards, pointing to the £45m in regulatory penalties paid by 17 operators over the past year due to failures in this area, whilst an additional two have faced licence suspensions.

Lastly, Gardner also laid out that the Commission will continue to cooperate with other national regulators to ‘deepen international collaboration’. 

She added: “We see greater collaboration amongst all gambling regulators across the world, as the essential next step in tackling the challenges that the global gambling market pose for us all.”

As ‘around 50%’ of licenced operators in Denmark are also active in the UK, Gardner concluded that there are parallels to draw between the two countries as markets and regulations continue to change heading into 2023.

SBC News Sarah Gardner: UKGC ‘cannot accept’ black market argument against regulation

Check Also

Sarah Garnder: UKGC consultation conclusions due this summer

Quarterly returns set UKGC on right track to ‘evidence-led’ direction

The UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) recent switch to quarterly regulatory reporting for the gambling sector …

uk gambling commission (UKGC)

UKGC reveals punters dismayed by affordability checks under FOI request

A public survey on affordability checks has been forced out of the hands of the …

SBC News George Harborne: "Inevitable" that gambling brands will move to kit sleeves

George Harborne: “Inevitable” that gambling brands will move to kit sleeves

The link between gambling companies and football clubs has been vital for financial support and …