Betting and Gaming Council Call for Crackdown on Black Market
The Betting and Gaming Council (“BGC”), the single industry group which represents British-licensed gambling operators, has called for the Government to take action against unlicensed gambling operators endangering children.
Analysis conducted for the BGC shows that:
- 4 in 10 search results for key gambling terms on major search engines are unlicensed black-market operators;
- Children are able to access illegal gambling websites, which have no strict ID and age verification measures, unlike British-licensed operators;
- There have been 27 million visits from UK IP addresses to black market gambling websites; and
- An estimated 200,000 people in the UK have used illegal gambling sites in the past 12 months.
The BGC has called on the Government to ensure that the Online Harms Bill, which is soon to be introduced to Parliament, to crack down on platforms profiting from unregulated operators.
The BGC is particularly concerned to ensure that children and young people are adequately protected from gambling harms by preventing their ability to access illegal websites, which do not employ the same strict age verification measures now required by British-licensed operators.
The scale of the problem facing the government is vast, with the size of the gambling black market in the UK estimated to be worth around £1.4 billion in stakes. Whilst unlicensed websites can block access to their sites by UK IP addresses, such measures are often easily circumvented through the use of a Virtual Private Network (“VPN”).
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC, stated:
Search platforms are promoting black market gambling operators for profit – putting British consumers, including children, at risk. None of the UK’s strict licence safeguards are in place on these illegal sites.
Regulated bookies and online operators have a strict zero tolerance approach to underage gambling, yet unlicensed operators are free to prey on vulnerable consumers.
We welcome the government’s Online Harms Bill. But it also provides the government with a chance to clamp down on the black market and help protect punters who want a flutter in a safe environment.”
The campaign for action to be taken to prevent children and young people being able to access illegal gambling sites is not new; in 2018, the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling warned in its paper Children, young people and gambling: A case for action that internet service providers, app stores, search engine companies and other relevant providers should be vigilant to the possibility of third party use of their products to provide illegal gambling to children and young people and proactive in preventing it.
In its response to the paper, the Gambling Commission acknowledged that it “…cannot tackle the risks to children and young people by acting alone…action is needed from Government”. It is hoped by BGC and industry groups that this action will take the form of a crackdown on illegal gambling operators within the remit of the Online Harms Bill.