Ulrik Bengtsson, CEO of the William Hill Group, suggested that the government review into the 2005 Gambling Act might be good for the industry, but warned legislators that the black market should not be taken lightly.
Bengtsson warned through an interview with SBC News about the dangers of turning customers to unlicensed operators due to over-regulation, citing the current problems that the Swedish market has in ensuring players remain on-shore. Bengtsson mentioned that an evidenced-based and sensible review can be very good for the industry. He also added that he and the industry as a whole have a huge obligation to make sure that customers play within their means.
Bengtsson also agreed that the industry should do a reasonable amount of affordability checks, but it can’t be to the extent where it is so intrusive that it forces these people out. He stressed that it is all about finding the right balance to keep the customers in the UK ecosystem; to keep them safe, to secure the tax base and to secure the industry.
To further add to this, the PwC Review of Unlicensed Online Gaming in the UK report published a report last week. Its report detailed that there was a sizable increase in both the number of players using black market sites (210,000 to 460,000) and the amounts wagered (£1.4bn to £2.8bn) within two years.
Bengtsson also made a statement to the gambling market pointing out markers of the growing influence of unlicensed activity in the UK. He mentioned that there is a need to realise that unlicensed gambling activities are real daily occurrences. He further went on to explain that the figures appear to have increased because of the tighter regulations introduced over the last couple of years.
Bengtsson pointed out that the UK has one of the most successful gambling systems in Europe and that the existence of the black market has been very limited. In light of this, he added that despite this success in limiting black market operations, it is still a potential threat to the UK casino and betting market. He also emphasised that lawmakers need to be applauded for their push for the gambling review, but also warned that they need to be very careful when they re-do the legislation so that they wouldn’t end up where most of the other regulators have ended – with up to 20 per cent of the market being controlled by offshore companies.
Bengtsson left off saying that this would be a bad outcome for the review and that legislators, the Treasury and even anti-gambling lobbyists would not want that to happen as no one would win aside from black market operators.