The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has pointed to the ‘shocking scale’ of betting black market across European countries following the introduction of strict regulatory measures.

Ahead of the government’s White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act that’s coming up this spring, the BGC has once again voiced concerns over the implementation of strict bettor requirements such as more thorough affordability checks. According to the Council, this could make customers turn to unregulated operators which lack the safeguards in place needed to ensure responsible gambling.

Data from a BGC-commissioned PwC report shows that the British users of unlicensed gaming platforms have increased twofold from 220,000 to 460,000 just in the last couple of years, with losses allegedly amounting to ‘billions of pounds’.

Moreover, the UK’s betting industry body referred to the betting markets in Norway and France, noting that black market operators in the two countries now account for 66% and 57% respectively of all staked money due to the introduction of state monopolies.

Because of the probability of the 2005 Gambling Act review bringing more stringent restrictions on advertising, the BGC also went on to point at Italy and Spain, giving the countries as an example for the potential drawbacks for gaming if such measures are also introduced in the UK. Their black markets account for 23% and 20% respectively due to the heavy restrictions on betting marketing, according to the Council.

The PwC report continued: “This analysis suggests that the UK has a more ‘open’ online gambling market and currently has a smaller unlicensed market share than our European benchmarks.

“Whilst it is not possible to isolate the impact of individual regulatory characteristics, the above assessment suggests that jurisdictions with a higher unlicensed market share tend to exhibit one or more restrictive regulatory or licensing characteristics.”

Michael Dugher, BGC Chief Executive, reflected on the report, saying that ministers should ‘learn lessons’ from other European states before deciding what course to take with the Gambling Act overhaul.

“We support the Gambling Review but there is a real danger that it leads to the regulated industry being smaller and the illegal black market growing substantially,” Dugher said.

“This research is stark about the dangers of the black market. We have to learn lessons from abroad, and make the right choice at this dangerous crossroads. BGC members alone employ nearly 120,000 people and pay £4.5 billion in tax in the UK. The black market, of course, pays no tax and employs no one in our country.”

He concluded: “Any shift to the unsafe black market would also jeopardise the £350m a year which our members currently give to horse racing in sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy – financial support which has proved crucial during the pandemic.”

The PwC report is the second such report cited by the BGC this year as it seeks to represent the betting industry ahead of the overhaul of the UK’s regulatory framework, following on from a YouGov poll in which 58% of responding bettors rejected affordability checks.