BGC pledges to maintain safer gambling momentum. Michael Dugher.

BGC supports recovery plan but urges White Paper consideration

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has stated that the “well-meaning but naive changes to regulation” suggested as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act could put the industry and its economic contribution at risk. 

Releasing a statement this morning, the industry standards and trade body updated that it would support the government’s plan for recovery as the UK continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In particular, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher was keen to reiterate the betting and gaming sector’s role in the UK economy, generating £4.5 billion in tax and indirectly and directly supporting 119,000 jobs in 2019. 

More recently, the BGC’s members pledged to create 5,000 apprenticeships between now and 2025 through their support for the Government’s Plan For Jobs, whilst also signing up to the Kick Start scheme to provide job opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds currently receiving universal credit.

According to Dugher, the BGC and its member companies are willing and able to support the UK government’s post-COVID economic recovery plans, as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak examines how the Treasury can alleviate pressures on the cost of living.

Dugher said: “Our members are ready, willing and able to assist in the Chancellor’s post-COVID economic recovery plan. They already support thousands of world-leading tech jobs across the UK, helping to generate billions of pounds in revenue for the Treasury. 

“And with ambitious plans for further investment in the years to come to generate more quality and high skilled jobs in regions outside London, we are contributing to the levelling up agenda.

“But it is vital the industry’s contribution to sports, local communities, jobs and tax revenues is not put at risk in the Gambling White paper and with well-meaning but naive changes to regulation.”

However, Dugher also took the time ahead of Sunak’s Spring Statement to comment on the upcoming White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act review, reiterating that the regulatory overhaul should be evidence-led and not put the industry’s aforementioned economic contributions at risk.

In particular, the BGC has continually focused on the sporting contribution made by Britain’s betting and gaming space, notably driving £350 million to horseracing, £40 million to the English Football League (EFL) and £12.5 million to snooker, darts and rugby league. 

According to reports circulated this morning, Chancellor Sunak is considering the interests of the horse racing industry heavily prior to the publication of the Spring Statement as well as the Gambling Act White Paper. 

The Chancellor is MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, and so represents a number of constituents who are horse racing industry stakeholders, such as John Sanderson, Managing Director of Catterick Racecourse.

In addition to raising the topic of the betting sector’s fiscal contributions to the UK economy, Dugher also took time to once again highlight the prevalence of black market operators in British online gambling.

The BGC has repeatedly cited studies demonstrating the extent of the UK’s unregulated gambling market, such as one by PwC which showed that the number of British visitors to such sites had risen to 460,000 with billions of pounds staked. 

Additionally, the standards body recently focused on the results of pan-European research into black market gambling, showing that countries such as Norway and Italy – where stricter regulations are in place – have seen an increase in illegal online wagering. 

In Norway, where a state monopoly is maintained alongside restrictions on stakes, strict affordability checks and curbs on advertising, 66% of all money staked is on the black market. Meanwhile, the black market accounts for 23% of all wagers in Italy, where advertising and betting and gambling is completely banned. 

The BGC has often noted that such illicit sites do not offer the same gambling tools used by regulated, licenced operators, whilst pointing to how the UK’s problem gambling rate has declined over the past 18 months from 0.6% to 0.3%.

“The growth of the unsafe, unregulated black market in online gambling is part of a global trend and it’s foolish to think that there’s an enforcement solution to this,” Dugher remarked.

The DCMS simply throwing more money and a few extra powers at the Gambling Commission won’t fix this for the government. 

“You have to protect the competitiveness of consumer products and avoid the kinds of intrusive restrictions that drive players to the black market. Anti-gambling campaigners may want to see a smaller regulated industry, but that would be bad news for the economy and the Exchequer.”

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