Number of people using black market online casinos has more than doubled during pandemic

  • Updated
  • By Giorgia Rose
People using black market doubles during pandemic
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The number of Brits using black market casino websites has more than doubled this year, according to new figures released by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

The research was conducted by the PwC which used data collected between November and December 2020, and shows the amount of money staked with unlicensed operators increased from £1.4bn to £2.8bn compared to a similar study conducted in 2019, before the pandemic first made waves in the UK.

The research also found that the number of customers using an unlicensed betting website has increased from 210,000 to 460,000.

The study will help to serve the ongoing Government review of the 2005 Gambling Act, an attempt to modernise the current liberal legislation and provide safer, fairer conditions for players. 

Culture minister Nigel Huddleston has pledged to include the black market in the Gambling Act review. 

Changes that have already been enforced include the ban of the autoplay feature and the slowing down of spin speeds on slot games, and the raising of the national lottery minimum age to 18.

Betting providers and industry heads have expressed fears that if this review process causes more and more strict restrictions to be enforced on British gambling, such as imposing stake limits and affordability checks, rather than protecting people, the inevitable consequence is more customers turning to illegal websites to get their fix.

There is as yet no evidence to show what caused the market to grow by such a stretch this year. 

BGC chief executive weighed in on the study, stating “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.

“It is important to stress that the big increase in the black market is not an argument against more changes to the regulated industry, but an argument that we need to get them right.”

However, Neil McArthur, chief executive of the British Gambling Commission disputes the evidence provided by PwC’s research, stating “We know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests the impact may be being exaggerated”, having not distinguished between black market sites or automated systems or bots. 

The report also shows that the online black market is larger in countries with tougher regulations, citing Spain, France, Italy and Norway as examples where the black market share is bigger than in the UK.