March 1, 2024 3 min read


UK Gambling Commission Investigates Illegal Bookmakers

The chief executive of the Gambling Commission in the UK, Andrew Rhodes, confirmed in a recent interview that the regulator is "actively investigating" illegal gambling

The debate on the proposed affordability checks in the UK intensified amid the planned reform of the gambling industry in the country. Earlier this week, MPs engaged in a heated discussion on the proposed spending checks and that discussion followed a petition effort led by Jockey Club’s CEO, Nevin Truesdale. The petition gathered more than 100,000 signatures in less than a month, requesting MPs to debate affordability checks.

Besides the proposed spending checks, illegal gambling was another topic that captured the attention of the UK gambling regulator, the Gambling Commission. Andrew Rhodes, the Commission’s chief executive, who was recently interviewed by the Racing Post, spoke about the illegal bookmakers in the country, pointing out that the regulator is “actively investigating” such cases.

Speaking about the black market, the chief executive highlighted the challenges that arise with such investigations. Rhodes revealed that the Commission’s biggest challenge in such probes is the small number of people and evidence that is often “word of mouth.” During the latest meeting with the MPs, he spoke about a multi-agency operation that resulted in the seizure of gold, cash as well as the arrest of several individuals allegedly involved. Still, Rhodes explained that illegal betting rings, often run via WhatsApp, involve a small number of people and none of those people would report the activity unless somebody messes up or loses money.

The Regulator Will Continue to Investigate despite Challenges

He explained that this covert activity creates difficulty for the Commission to uncover such illegal operations. However, Rhodes urged anyone aware of illegal gambling, especially bookmakers for horseracing, to report such activities to the regulator. “We can’t act on the things we simply don’t know about,” he added.

WhatsApp betting rings, where it relies on a small number of individuals, are much harder because until somebody gets ripped off or somebody tells us, it’s harder for us to find. Which is why everybody who is concerned about illegal gambling, particularly around horseracing, when they become aware of these things they ought to be telling us.

Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission

According to Rhodes, the Commission has “covert surveillance and investigation powers” that can help it bring down illegal gambling operations it is currently investigating. He did not go into further details about those operations.

The interview with Rhodes comes in the context of the planned changes to the gambling sector which include stake limits and affordability checks, among other changes. While the government seeks to implement frictionless spending checks and limits that are expected to help prevent excessive gambling and protect from gambling harm, the industry fears the potential negative side of such changes. Many industry stakeholders raised their concerns that intrusive changes to the sector may drive gamblers to the black market.


Jerome is a welcome new addition to the Gambling News team, bringing years of journalistic experience within the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry begun after he graduated from college where he played in regular local poker tournaments which eventually lead to exposure towards the growing popularity of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now puts all the knowledge he's accrued to fuel his passion for journalism, providing our team with the latest scoops online.

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