BGC-Commissioned Study Warns Against Accountability Checks for UK Gamblers

  • The Betting and Gaming Council commissioned a study from Ernst & Young
  • As many as 70% of bettors would be unwilling to check in with auditors
  • Countries with strict gaming controls are facing rising illegal gambling rates
  • Prime minister Rishi Sunak has shown interest in accountability checks before
Roulette wheel
A BGC study found that the UK gambling market could be negatively impacted by accountability checks. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

BGC sends a warning

A report commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) in the UK has revealed that mandatory accountability checks could limit the local gambling market. 

could turn off as many as 70% of bettors

The report was compiled by Ernst & Young Global Limited, a multinational professional services firm. It found that more rigorous check-ins have already affected sportsbooks’ bottom line and could turn off as many as 70% of bettors.

The UK has been debating a variety of gambling reforms for a while, dating back to when Boris Johnson was in office and awaiting a scheduled white paper on gambling reform. Constant political change over the past half-year has altered the timeline, but the country is still seriously considering a variety of new regulations, including mandatory check-ins.

Impact of accountability checks in the UK

Before analyzing the debate, it is important to understand the context.

Accountability checks are essentially inquiries and audits from regulators to make sure that gamblers can afford the amounts they are playing. According to the study, nearly 70% of respondents who had recently placed bets said that they would be unwilling to prove their financial standing to regulatory firms during obligatory check-ins.

The study warned that the implementation of regular checks could also push gamblers to illegal betting sites, which is a problem European regulators are increasingly dealing with. 

rapid growth in unlicensed gambling operators’ market control

Ernst & Young detailed the rising problems in countries with stricter oversight, including accountability checks, which include rapid growth in unlicensed gambling operators’ market control. In Norway, over 66% of all wagers were placed with illegal agencies; in France, that number was 57%; in Italy, 23% of betting money was sent to unlicensed companies.

The report noted that BGC members’ annual contributions to the UK economy reached £7.1bn, including £4.2bn from betting and gaming receipts. Overall revenues were also up on 2019 totals, the last full year of pre-pandemic service.

“As ministers consider the regulatory framework for this industry, they should stop and think, and ensure the decisions they make support a sustainable future,” said BGC CEO Michael Dugher. “We urge the Government to find an evidence-led, balanced White Paper that protects the vulnerable, allows the vast majority who bet safely to continue to do so, and crucially allows business to thrive.”

Gambling reform and political turmoil

A white paper on gambling reform has allegedly been coming since spring, and although the government continues to say it is on the immediate horizon, there is no clear timetable.

Recently-appointed prime minister Rishi Sunak is thought to be a supporter of stricter control of the gambling market. Earlier this year, while serving as chancellor of the exchequer under the Boris Johnson regime, he penned a letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport discussing the idea of introducing accountability checks. 

In 2021, Sunak also wrote to ex-culture secretary Oliver Dowden after a Gambling Commission seminar on accountability checks.

regular check-ins would provide nothing more than an annoyance to the majority of the bettors

Dugher believes that regular check-ins would provide nothing more than an annoyance to the majority of the bettors, which is why he believes that only at-risk crowds should face accountability checks.

“This industry is serious about safer gambling, and it’s encouraging that the rates of problem gambling among UK adults remains low by international standards at 0.3%,” said Dugher. “We want to see technology used to ensure checks on spending are carefully targeted towards the vulnerable, not the vast majority who show no signs of harm.”

Accountability checks are just one area of the ongoing gambling debate that has made headlines. Last month, several EFL and non-league soccer teams banded together to protest gambling companies sponsoring teams.