UK Online Gambling Regulation

According to a recent report, the use of black market gambling websites has increased during the last couple of years. Analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in the UK that tracked online players between November and December last year revealed that the number of people in the UK using unlicensed betting websites has more than doubled in just two years, increasing from 210,000 to 460,000.

To help put these figures in perspective in money terms, there’s a correlation regarding money spent through black market online gambling operators, with the approximate doubling of usage translating to a doubling of the amount wagered – this has grown from £1.4 billion in 2019 to £2.8 billion.

It’s significant that those who gamble with unlicensed operators almost always gamble with licensed operators, too. Here at YourPokerDream we endeavour to inform our players as much as possible about online poker, and a great deal of work goes into making sure that a certain level of criteria is met when considering with which online providers we might enter into a partnership.

For UK poker fans, for instance, we have a number of excellent options, not least the increasingly popular powerhouse that is GGPoker, which welcomes players – particularly recreational players – into a user-friendly, regulated environment, free from the risks that people leave themselves vulnerable to when joining those operators who lack official status and certain regulatory safeguards.

This is what the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Chief Executive, Michael Dugher had to say on the matter: “This new report by PWC is an impressive and comprehensive piece of work which demonstrates how the unsafe, unregulated black market is a growing threat to British punters… These illicit sites have none of the regulated sector’s consumer protections in place, such as strict ID and age verification checks, safer gambling messages and the ability to set deposit limits. I know this evidence is inconvenient to those who seek to dismiss and play down the threat of the black market, but there is a real danger of complacency.”

An important question that this latest news brings is would the introduction of a ‘safety threshold’ of a maximum £100 loss for customers prior to providing evidence that they can afford to wager push potential customers to prefer unlicensed sites. The BGC notes direct concerns related to the Gambling Commission’s ongoing consultation on further affordability checks, opining that such measures would lead ‘ordinary punters towards the black market if checks on their income are too intrusive and onerous’.

Furthermore, the government has been urged to acknowledge PWC’s report which states that the size of the online black market is larger in countries where the regulated betting and gaming sector is less competitive.

It points to countries including France, Norway, Italy and Spain – which have tougher restrictions on licensed operators – as examples of nations where the black market share is bigger than in the UK.

Dugher added: “I know this evidence is inconvenient to those who seek to dismiss and play down the threat of the black market, but there is a real danger of complacency.

“The UK risks sleepwalking into changes where the main beneficiary is the unlicensed black market. We all have an interest in getting future changes right, so must take heed of this latest evidence and look at what is happening elsewhere around the world.”


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AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 21.02.2021 · last updated 21.02.2021

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