UKGC Believes Gambling Operators Are Exaggerating Black Market Concerns

  • UKGC chief executive Neil McArthur wrote a letter about a controversial PwC report
  • McArthur believes the report fails to present evidence about a rise in black market gambling
  • The report stated that in a 12-month period, £1.4bn went to black market sites from UK residents
  • Labour MP Carolyn Harris believes the industry is exaggerating to avoid more regulation
  • The BGC released a new video that comments on the increasing risk of black market platforms
gambling accessories on a laptop keyboard
The UKGC has refuted claims that more regulation is driving people to use black market gambling sites. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Refuting industry claims

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has come out against claims that stricter regulation will lead to more people moving towards black market gambling sites. UKGC chief executive Neil McArthur sent a letter to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm about a report from consultancy group PwC that makes these claims.

does not present any real evidence of an increase in black market gambling

He wants people to be cautious when it comes to the conclusions of the report, stating that it does not present any real evidence of an increase in black market gambling and that it exaggerates the issue. 

McArthur noted that there was no distinction in the report between the real people who are using black market platforms and automated systems like bots. The chief did acknowledge the concern that licensed operators have about the illegal market. 

McArthur, however, does not believe that any change in approach is necessary despite “reports from consultants paid for by the industry.” He also does not want gambling operators to stray from increasing their own standards and help create an overall safer environment for gamblers.

The report in question

The PwC report states that in a 12-month period spanning 2018 and 2019, 200,000 UK residents spent about £1.4bn ($1.9bn) on illegal gambling sites. It also says that 2% of visits in the UK to gambling sites in this period were to unregulated platforms, accounting for about 27 million hits.

As a result, the report speculates that tougher regulations on the licensed gambling sector in the UK would lead to more people moving toward illegal operators. 

GVC Holdings (now Entain), The Stars Group (now part of Flutter Entertainment), and William Hill were the gambling operators who originally commissioned this report. Industry organizations like the UK Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and operators in the sector have been citing the report recently as evidence of overregulation.

Over-inflating the issue

The chairperson of the APPG on gambling-related harm, Labour MP Carolyn Harris, was a bit more forthright with her views than was the UKGC chief. Speaking about the PwC report, she said that the online gambling sector is trying to build up the threat of illegal gambling in an effort to resist increasing regulation. 

manufacturing dodgy dossiers of information to further their own ends”

Harris believes that the gambling companies are “trying to hijack the debate by manufacturing dodgy dossiers of information to further their own ends is an incredibly transparent tactic and will not be any kind of excuse to hold down standards.”

The UK government is in the process of reviewing the Gambling Act of 2005. The resulting changes will bring the region’s legislation into the modern age of online gambling. Some of the new proposals that are under consideration include reducing the maximum stake for online slots and having more extensive customer verification checks.

New BGC video

The BGC has been warning that the UK government’s review of gambling legislation could drive users to illegal sites. On January 18, the industry body released a new animated video that outlines its record of promoting safer gambling in the sector and also touched on black market concerns:

The video pushes the idea that the UK is currently one of the safest countries for gambling. It states that operators are willing to introduce further measures to keep protecting gamblers.

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher took time to comment about the release of this new video. He highlighted how the video showcases the industry’s commitment to encouraging safe gambling while still contributing significantly to society in other ways.