The UK bookmaking industry has slammed the existing restrictions on black market betting sites, amid ongoing debate about the future of the UK sector.
The betting firms complain that the restrictions designed to outlaw and inhibit illegal gambling sites are inadequate and that legal betting firms are losing out financially as a result.
The complaints come at a time when the industry is under significant pressure, after months of criticism by political figures and increasingly active regulatory enforcement from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The sector is always awaiting the outcome of the UK government review into potential reforms of the 2005 Gambling Act.
A group of gambling companies recently commissioned PwC to carry out research into money that was spent on unlicensed gambling sites. According to the report, the amount of money spent on unregulated gambling sites had doubled over the course of the past year, to £2.8bn.
At the same time, the report found that the number of UK users of unlicensed websites had risen over a two year period from 210,000 to 460,000.
The industry is arguing that the figures show that the unsafe black market market is a growing threat to UK players and to the gambling sector.
The complaints are likely to have only limited impact give the current scenario. Last month, the UKGC Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, said that the evidence in PwC reports did not match the findings that the UKGC had collated from their intellitgence work. In particular, he criticised the report for not making a clear distinction between automated betting systems and regular customers.
The UK betting industry fears that politicians will fail to take account of the difference between the licensed and unlicensed websites as new UK betting legislation is prepared. That review is now under way and the UK industry is arguing that if there are major new curbs on gambling as a whole, that this will drive gambling underground and impact problem gamblers.
Speaking about the issue, the CEO of the industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, outlined the threat posed by black market operators:
“Illicit sites have none of the regulated sector’s consumer protections in place, such as strict ID and age verification, safer gambling messages and the ability to set deposit limits.”