UK Gambling Stakeholders Comment on PwC Black Market Report

A new PwC report analyzing the offshore gambling market in the United Kingdom has seen fewer operators but higher participation from online consumers.

More People Visit Fewer Illegal Gambling Websites

British sports books and gaming firms have cited a reported conducted by PwC which described the increasing impact the offshore and black markets have on the United Kingdom. According to the report, the number of online consumers in the UK participating in a form of unregulated gambling has increased from 210,000 or 2.2% in 2018/19 to 460,000 or 4.5% in 2020.

Spending has also increased and some £2.8 billion has been spent with offshore operators in November 2020, compared to some £1.4 billion throughout 2018/19. The report made a notice that awareness for offshore operators was high among consumers, but many still chose

On the flipside regulators have done a good job of keeping searches clean of mentions for offshore operators, with the number of illegal operators dropping to 5% of all searches in 2020, compared to 12% in 2018/19.

According to PwC, there were only 98 offshore gambling sites in the first 10 pages of Google, but only 14 accepted customers from the United Kingdom, signalling that regulatory strength at home transpires abroad, and scares unlicensed operators from stepping on the market without an official go-ahead.

In conclusion, the report stated that overall spending and usage of unlicensed gambling websites in the United Kingdom has increased, and that has occurred despite growing awareness for the dangers of the domain.

Where’s the Root of the Problem?

Interestingly enough, consumers in the UK have very little reason to actually pursue offshore opportunities. The Gambling Revenue is promising to introduce some significant changes that could lead to slowdown in business for many operators.

Then again, operators fear that lack of competitiveness at home will send many consumers scurrying offshore for a chance to access the type of products that have become unavailable back home due to overregulation.

Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher commented on the study, lauding PwC for its comprehensive work and reminding stakeholders and regulators that “illicit sites have none of the regulated sector’s consumer protections.” Dugher said that the government should consider the report in the upcoming review.

He further added that the UK risked “sleepwalking into changes where the main beneficiary is the unlicensed black market.” The evidence, he added, may be inconvenient to those trying to sully the regulated industry.

Industry Stakeholders React to Report

According to William Hill, there were tripwires for consumers online. The betting firm argued that the report may not reflect fully the seriousness of the issues, as the company cited the 59 enforcement actions the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has carried out against illegal operators in 2019/20.

Commenting on the issue, William HILL CEO Ulrik Bengtsson simply noted that while in the past control was simpler, due to the poorer technological preparedness of offshore operators, that was no longer the case.

Today, consumers are a few clicks away from an illegal gambling site and off the regulated ones, Bengtsson cautioned. Yet, for UKGC CEO Neil McArthur the fears brought up by the industry were exaggerated, and the black market did not pose the threat operators claimed it to be.

His comments are stern and come at a time when criticism has been levied against the UKGC as a regulatory body. Bengtsson is not the only person to comment on the issue, though. Flutter Entertainment chairman of Ireland and the UK, Ian Proctor, pitched in to comment on the report.

Proctor argued that whatever changes come moving forward they must adequately reflect the available data and lead to better consumer protection. The report suggests heightened offshore activity the stricter regulation at home becomes.

“We want everyone who gambles to be certain that the operator who’s taking their bets plays by the rules,” Bengtsson added, as the UK moves forward its most significant gambling re-regulation.

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