UKGC: No Rise in COVID-19 Illegal Gambling Complaints

  • Data shows that the number of illegal gambling complaints is consistent with pre-pandemic levels
  • There were 12 total reports in March and 11 different ones made in April
  • The most common issue over the past year concerned offshore sites accepting UK players
  • Withdrawal of funds, advertising practices, fraudulent licensing claims were other common complaints
File folder labelled "Complaints"
The UKGC has said that there has been no rise in illegal gambling complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

No uptick in issues

According to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), there has been no noticeable increase in the number of complaints involving illegal gambling operations in the region during the pandemic. 

In April, there were 11 complaints relating to 11 different websites.

The UKGC released data on the topic, showcasing a dozen different complaints relating to nine platforms during March. In April, there were 11 complaints relating to 11 different websites. To put these figures in perspective, April 2019 saw nine complaints relating to 20 separate websites. 

These figures have been fairly consistent for the past 12 months according to the UKGC. The only outlier was January 2020, during which 31 different complaints were levied against a total of 35 platforms. The reason given for the spike was that sites based in Curacao were trying to attract consumers in Britain who had self-excluded from online gambling. 

Most common complaints

The issue cited in the most complaints (85) for the past 12 months was related to offshore gambling sites accepting customers from the UK. Coming in a distant second with 24 complaints was the inability to withdraw funds from an internet gaming site.

There were 19 advertising and marketing complaints while a dozen more were about platforms that fraudulently claimed they had a license issued by the UKGC. Some of the other reasons for reports include issues regarding self-exclusion, charging for betting tips, allowing underage customers, and cloned websites.

Tracking down rules violators

Speaking upon the release of this data, UKGC executive director Richard Watson said: “Tackling illegal websites and unlicensed operators is challenging and it is also resource intensive, but we are committed to continuing our work in this area to protect consumers here in Britain.”

Watson also spoke about how the commission has been closely monitoring the industry and is using its wide range of investigatory powers and relationships with industry stakeholders to crack down on errant operators. 

actively combats any unlicensed sites that are trying to target players in Britain

The UKGC has a specialist team to monitor complaints about illegal gambling. This team actively combats any unlicensed sites that are trying to target players in Britain. Another key role of the UKGC is to work closely with the National Cyber Security Centre to educate the public and the industry about these illegal activities. 

Gambling during the pandemic

While there have been concerns that levels of online gambling would explode during the COVID-19 crisis, the UKGC said last week that more people in the region stopped gambling rather than increase their play or start gambling during this period.

A recent YouGov survey report, however, does estimate that there are a lot more problem gamblers in the UK than the UKGC previously estimated. The new survey, commissioned by the GambleAware charity, claims that 2.7% of adults in the UK are problem gamblers. This contrasts with the 0.7% figure that the UKGC previously cited. While the UKGC says that these estimates are overblown, it did admit that more needs to be done in the support and treatment of problem gamblers.