The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned gamblers of the risks associated with unlicensed, black market betting sites after recent data showed that British punters had visited unregulated sites 27 million times in a year.
Data from PWC has revealed that 200,000 customers used an unlicensed gambling operator over a 12 month period between 2018 and 2019, with approximately £1.4 billion wagered during that time.
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC, said: “As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review, which we think is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling.
“However, these figures from PWC demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal, online black market – which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.
“The regulated betting and gaming industry employs 100,000 men and women and pays £3.2bn a year in tax to the Treasury, so the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk.
“Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment, rather than the unscrupulous black market.”
With unlicensed sites accounting for approximately 2.5% of all visits to betting websites, PWC data highlighted that 9% of all gambling searches were for black market sites.
The betting sector is currently under the government’s spotlight as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is leading its review into the 2005 Gambling Act – with player protection forming a central component of the review.
These include strict ID and age verification checks plus a wide range of safer gambling tools such as deposit limits, time outs and interventions where customers are spending more time or money than they normally do betting.
However, the BGC warned that unlicensed sites could lead bettors to wager on sites which have very few player protection measures in place. Black market sites often fail to carry out checks on customers’ identities, which the BGC said is ‘regardless of how much time or money they spend gambling’.