The United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) has recently accused UK gambling operators of exaggerating the scale of grey market betting operations in a report written by PwC consultancy to avoid the enactment of stricter laws that may arise from the Government’s upcoming gambling law review.
Neil McArthur, UKGC’s chief executive, wrote a letter to a cross-party group of MPs examining gambling harm. In his letter, he stressed that the report was not consistent with the commission’s intelligence picture nor did it distinguish between real consumers using black and grey market sites and automated systems such as bots. He further stressed that the report should be viewed with caution, noting that no evidence indicates a surge in illegal betting.
The Guardian also reported on the matter revealing that the report from PwC claims that 200,000 people in the UK spend £1.4bn) on black market sites every year. The PwC report warns that the implementation of tougher laws in the sector could turn more people towards black and grey market gambling operators.
McArthur further added that the commission knows that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but the commission’s own evidence suggests that the impact may have been exaggerated. He further went to say that black market concerns should be kept in proportion despite the report from consultants as these are paid for by the industry, and should not distract from the need to continue to drive up standards and make gambling safer in the UK’s regulated market.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which has repeatedly referred to the report to support its arguments against stricter regulations, will take a blow from such direct criticism from the regulator.
The government is considering several measures that could include limiting stakes on virtual online slot machines or forcing web-based casinos to perform thorough affordability checks if customers meet a deposit threshold per month.
In light of this, McArthur dismissed the BGC’s suggestion that such stringent measures might turn customers towards black market operators. He detailed this by saying that the commission is not convinced that raising standards will prompt consumers to turn towards illegal operators.
Labor MP Carolyn Harris, who heads the group of MPs who received the letter, has commented on the matter by saying that the online gambling industry, in an attempt to resist regulation and protect its profits, talks about the threat of the black market. She further added that the players in the industry are trying to hijack the debate by producing dodgy dossiers of information to further their own ends and will not stand as an excuse to hold down the rise of standards.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former advisor to Jeremy Corbyn who runs the Clean Up Gaming campaign, also chimed in. He went on to highlight that the gambling industry has cited this report as it seeks to drive a regulatory race to the bottom. He also went to add that after having seen the report’s contents, it is now apparent why the gambling industry was reluctant to make the report available for public scrutiny.