On December 8th, the Government launched a full review of their gambling laws, specifically with a view to changing the 2005 Gambling Act to “ensure gambling laws are fit for modern age”. The long-awaited review will mostly be examining how technology has changed the gambling industry in the past 15 years, and will inform any changes to the 2005 Act they see fit. “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age’ said Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden. “This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely” claimed the minister.
Online stake limits, gambling advertising and age limits will all be considered by the review, as well as the Gambling Commission’s role and powers. While some of these changes would be welcomed by those in the industry, one significant factor both legislators and the regulated industry have to accommodate for is the black market, so players can be confident they are gambling safely and responsibly. One way consumers can mitigate risk is ensuring they are gambling at licensed and regulated operators which can be found on a number of affiliate sites, including Casino Genius.
A recent report commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) shows that there has been a significant rise in British consumers using unlicensed gambling sites, growing from an estimated 210,000 in 2018 to 460,000 in 2020. The study also found that black market betting figures doubled from £1.4 billion in 2018 to £2.8 billion in 2020.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “This new report by PWC is an impressive and comprehensive piece of work which demonstrates how the unsafe, unregulated black market is a growing threat to British punters.” He went on to describe how these illicit sites have none of the regulated sector’s consumer protections in place, like strict ID and age verification checks, safer gambling messages and the ability to set deposit limits.
This could mean a rise in under-18s gambling and a lack of checks on customers, no matter how much time or money they spend on gambling. Mr Dugher urged the government to take serious note of this report before making any changes to gambling laws, saying “It is important to stress that the big increase in the black market is not an argument against more changes to the regulated industry, but an argument that we need to get them right”, highlight the risk of the UK sleepwalking into a market that is beneficial only for unregulated sites.
These sentiments were echoed by the Chairman of Flutter Entertainment’s UK and Ireland division, Ian Proctor, who said the report highlights the many challenges operators, Government and other stakeholders within the gambling industry face. “The Gambling Act Review is a moment for regulated and responsible operators to ask ourselves how we can raise our game to drive forward enhanced safer gambling practices.” He did acknowledge that the industry had to improve customer protection standards, but stated that regulation that was too restrictive may lead consumers to black market sites, whilst stating it was imperative to ensure the review delivered genuine improvements in customer protection as opposed to cosmetic change, which may inadvertently lead to a surge in black market gambling.
William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson added that it was the government’s duty to protect consumers from the threat of the growing black market. “We want everyone who gambles to be certain that the operator who’s taking their bets plays by the rules” he said. “The problem is, that’s not always the case, and that’s a problem for our customers, for us and for the whole betting industry. We are pleased that the Government has rightly included this issue as an area of focus in the Gambling Act Review consultation.”
It has been 15 years since the passing of the 2005 Gambling Act, and the industry has changed vastly since then. It is indeed essential that this country’s gambling laws are updated to fit the digital age, but the government must not be too hasty and drive consumers to use unlicensed and dangerous sites.