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BGC warns black market play has doubled ahead of white paper

| By Marese O'Hagan
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on the UK government to protect vulnerable gamblers in its Gambling white paper, as the body said that the number of players on unlicensed websites has more than doubled in two years.

The findings come from industry research and a PwC report commissioned by the BGC, which has not yet been released.

It will be released in response to the Gambling white paper, which forms part of the UK government’s Gambling Act Review.

The Gambling Act Review is led by the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It will assess the 2005 Gambling Act.

The report, from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reveals that the number of users on unlicensed websites has grown from 220,000 to 460,000, while the total amount wagered is said to be in the billions.

Market research comparisons provided in the report show that black market activity is present across Europe. In Norway, with a monopoly structure, unlicensed gaming accounts for 66% of all money staked, while in France, with strict product limitations, it makes up 57% of all money wagered. In Italy, where all advertising of betting and gaming is banned, 23% of money staked comes from the black market.

The report argues that these rules are a key reason for high levels of black market play.

“This analysis suggests that the UK has a more ‘open’ online gambling market and currently has a smaller unlicensed market share than our European benchmarks,” the report reads.

“While it is not possible to isolate the impact of individual regulatory characteristics, the above assessment suggests that jurisdictions with a higher unlicensed market share tend to exhibit one or more restrictive regulatory or licensing characteristics.”

In December 2021 the BGC appealed to the government to place focus on child protection as part of the Gambling white paper.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, warned that the black market could benefit if the regulations become too restrictive.

“We support the Gambling Review but there is a real danger that it leads to the regulated industry being smaller and the illegal black market growing substantially,” said Dugher. “This research is stark about the dangers of the black market; we have to learn lessons from abroad and make the right choice at this dangerous crossroads.

“Any shift to the unsafe black market would also jeopardise the £350m a year which our members currently give to horseracing in sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy – financial support which has proved crucial during the pandemic.”

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