Tuesday, 19 January 2021

UKGC Criticises ‘Exaggerated’ Concerns Of Illegal Black Market


The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued a statement criticising the “exaggerated” concerns over the illegal online gambling black market in the UK.

Earlier this month, data and analytics firm PwC reported that almost 10% of all gambling-related online searches were for illegal black market gambling websites and that unregulated sites accounted for 2% of all visits to betting websites. PwC’s report also claimed that around 200,000 gamblers staked a combined total of around £1.4 billion at unlicensed operators over a 12-month period between 2018 and 2019.

Companies like the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) have utilised PwC’s report as evidence of the risk of over-regulation in the UK, suggesting that too much regulation could push British gamblers towards the illegal black market where there are no protections or regulations.

In a letter to a cross-party committee of MPs examining gambling-related harm, UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Chief Executive Neil McArthur criticised the report and claimed that it is “not consistent with the intelligence picture” and had failed to distinguish between real consumers using illegal black market sites and bots.

As reported by the Guardian, McArthur welcomed the research but warned that the report should be treated cautiously and that concerns regarding the illegal black market should be kept in proportion. He then rebutted the BGC’s claims that over-regulation could lead to a surge in people playing at illegal black market websites.

He said:  “We know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests that the impact may be being exaggerated. In any event, we are not convinced by the argument that suggests that raising standards in the licensed market will prompt consumers to gamble with illegal operators.”

McArthur then reinforced the need for regulation within the UK, saying: “We do need to ensure our powers and resources are kept under review to ensure we remain effective in tackling illegal gambling. Criminals seeking to circumvent the regulated sphere and exploit the vulnerable are demonstrating increasing sophistication, complexity, and capability, which poses challenges to us to keep pace.

“Throughout 2020, we conducted a full review of our work regarding illegal online gambling. We also continued to engage with other regulators around the world. As a result, we will be able to advise the Government as part of the Gambling Act Review. When that advice is published, we will of course forward a copy to you.”

He ended the letter by saying: “Ultimately if it is decided that further action is required to stop illegal gambling from proliferating, we will need to further resource this work. We have already been working with DCMS on proposals to uplift our fees and hope to see progress in this area going forward.”

The row over the impact of the illegal online gambling black market comes amidst the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005 which launched last month with a call to evidence that will run through to the end of March. Under the review, the Government will look at imposing stake limits, tighter verification procedures, potentially ending sports sponsorships, and more.

BGC Launches New ‘A Safer Bet’ Animation

The UK Gambling Commission’s comments come just as the Betting and Gaming Council has launched a new animation titled ‘A Safer Bet’ that highlights the regulated industry’s safer gambling record and its contribution to the economy and sport.

The three-minute-long video describes the UK’s regulated market as one of the safest places to bet due to its commitment to protecting consumers. It also highlights how the regulated market contributes more than £8 billion to the economy, pays more than £3 billion in tax, employs 100,000 people, and funds horseracing and other sports through sponsorships, levies, and more.

In a statement unveiling the animation, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher reemphasised the risks of over-regulation under the Government’s gambling review and how it may drive British gamers to illegal online black market websites. He said: “As the standards body for the regulated industry, we have strongly welcomed the Gambling Review. However, it is vital that it does nothing to drive punters towards the illegal, online black market, which has none of the protections in place that the regulated market does.

“This animation powerfully sets out the steps we have taken – and continue to take – on safer gambling, while also highlighting the immense contribution that the regulated industry makes to the economy and the country’s most popular sports. It clearly demonstrates that the regulated industry is a safer bet.”

The launch of the animation comes after the BGC last week claimed that there was too much “fiction” surrounding the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005.

Synot Games Acquires UKGC License

In the midst of the illegal black market gambling row, game developer Synot Games has announced that the UKGC has granted it a license, allowing the studio to offer its games to online casino and betting websites in the United Kingdom.

The Czech Republic-based games studio already operates in Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, and acquired licenses for Portugal, Denmark, and Sweden back in 2019. Its latest license for the UK comes as part of the studio’s move to form new partnerships within the UK and expand its reach worldwide.

Synot Games Chief Executive Ivan Kodaj said in a statement to FocusGN: “This is a huge step for us as a company. The UKGC is known to have strict regulations to comply with, so having the license granted to us represents a significant step, which we took one day before Christmas. We are now able to integrate our slot offer with online casino operators in the UK and make them available to their players for the very first time.”

Synot Chief Commerical Officer Martina Hrabinská added: “Our sales team will not be focusing on branching out to UK-based customers. Gaining as much exposure as possible to reach as many players as possible across the country will be their main goal for now.”