The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has issued a warning of the dangers of the illegal and unregulated, online gambling black market.
The BGC’s warning comes after a late December report by PWC revealed that around 200,000 British gamblers visited unregulated websites over a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019 and staked approximately £1.4 billion.
As reported by Politics Home, unregulated operators accounted for 2.5% of all visits British gamblers made to gambling websites, which totals at around 27 million visits over the 12-month period. Finally, reports state that nearly one in 10 (Around 9%) of gambling search results were for black market and unregulated websites.
Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, issued a statement on the news, saying: “As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review, which we think is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling.
“However, these figures from PWC demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal, online black market – which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.
“The regulated betting and gaming industry employs 100,000 men and women and pays £3.2 billion a year in tax to the Treasury, so the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk.”
He added: “Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment, rather than the unscrupulous black market.”
The findings come as the Government continues its review of the Gambling Act 2005 which has sparked several warnings that overly restrictive rules and regulations could push customers from the safety of the British regulated market into the dangerous unregulated gambling market.
The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is leading the review and has already announced that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery will rise from 16 to 18 in October as part of a move to clamp down on gambling exposure to minors.
The review has launched with a call for evidence which is expected to run until March 31, 2021. As we reported in early December, the review will look into all areas of the gambling industry and will consider banning sports sponsorships, implementing a new testing regime on gaming products, and will look into the advertising and marketing of online gambling.
What’s more, the review will analyse casino promotions and bonuses, will analyse the UK Gambling Commission and whether it should be replaced by another ombudsman or given additional powers to carry out its duties and to address the unregulated overseas market.
The decision to conduct a review into the Gambling Act 2005 was praised by the BGC, MPs, those working within the gambling industry, and by customers too. At the time of writing, however, it’s too early to tell just how much and what will change under the review, but you can expect some big changes over the coming months.
More recently, the BGC published a blog post by BGC Chair Brigid Simmonds welcoming the brand new year and highlighting its plans for the next 12 months. Simmonds starts the post by confirming that the BGC will be working hard to push for the reopening of betting shops and casinos across the United Kingdom, most of which have been forced to close under COVID-19 restrictions.
“At the Betting and Gaming Council, we will of course be working hard in the New Year on the reopening of all betting shops, casinos, and bingo halls, hopefully without any of the restraints which have characterised the last six months.
“As the vaccine is rolled out, I hope that the many restrictions placed on our industry and others will be relaxed. In particular, the 10 PM curfew – which had a hugely detrimental impact on our casino members – must end as soon as it is safe to do so.”
In addition to pushing for the reopening of gambling venues, the BGC will be continuing its main mission; promoting responsible gambling and driving up standards of the gambling industry.
Simmonds writes: “The main priority for the BGC in 2021 will be driving further change and promotion safer gambling. The first three months of the New Year will be taken up by the Government’s call for evidence as part of its Gambling Review, something which we have strongly welcomed.
“I firmly believe that this is a great opportunity to build on the excellent progress that our industry has made since the BGC was formed in November 2019. The success of the whistle to whistle ban – which has reduced the number of TV betting commercials seen by children during live sport pre-watershed by 97% – is a perfect example of what we can achieve together.”
Discussing several more of the BGC’s accomplishments such as its new code on VIPs and its 10-pledge Covid action plan, Simmonds then states that while the BGC has achieved much, “there is still more to do in 2021.
“We will continue our trials on affordability, and work more closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office on how we can share data between members without compromising personal privacy or restricting customer choice.”
Simmonds confirms that the BGC will work on improving game design and providing customers with easier to understand information on products while holding discussions with the Government on a Code of Sports Sponsorships. The organisation, as Simmonds confirms, will also look at developing a code of conduct for gambling accounts for people aged between 18 and 25 and aims to improve and support the UK’s self-exclusion gambling schemes.
“We want to be an industry which is respected around the world for its best-in-class approach to delivering high standards and promoting safer gambling,” Simmonds writes.
“We want to encourage more discussion about the risks of gambling, but at the same time the Gambling Review must not risk driving the millions who enjoy a flutter into the arms of the illegal, online black market, which has none of the safeguards which are synonymous with the regulated industry.
“We do not in any way underestimate the task in front of us, but with the right approach and the co-operation of all interested parties – from the industry to the Government, regulator, and third sector – we can look forward to much more positive change in the year ahead.”