UKGC CEO “Not Convinced” by BGC Black-Market Claims

The CEO of the UK Gambling Commission believes the Betting and Gaming Council’s claims that consumers will use unlicensed operators if regulations are tightened are exaggerated. Neil McArthur states he is “not convinced” by BGC’s argument.

Neil McArthur has downplayed concerns that further regulation of the UK gambling industry would lead to consumers switching to offshore unregulated gambling companies. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) CEO has written to the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to dispute a report commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). The report claims the UK’s unlicenced gambling market attracts 200,000 gamblers per year and is worth £1.4bn.

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UKGC Refutes BGC Black-Market Claims © Pixabay.

McArthur claims the report, which was authored by PricewaterhouseCoopers and released in November, was “not consistent” with the regulator’s data.

To back up his claim, McArthur revealed that the Gambling Commission had received 26,212 enquiries at its contact centre in 2020, with just 182 relating to illegal online gambling. This number works out at less than 1% of queries (0.69%).

Reason for contacting UKGC and number of queries:

  • Allowing GB custom – 92 queries
  • M&A – 28 queries
  • Refusal to payout – 20 queries
  • SE issue – 10 queries
  • GAMSTOP – 9 queries
  • Unable to withdraw – 8 queries
  • Social media bingo – 3 queries
  • Fraudulent UKGC licence – 3 queries
  • Gambling linked to gaming – 2 queries
  • Unlicensed software supplier – 1 query
  • Unlicensed iOS app – 1 query
  • Not relevant – 1 query
  • HMRC enquiry – 1 query
  • Enquiry concerning licence – 1 query
  • Clone website – 1 query
  • Charge for tipster services – 1 query

Directly referencing the PwC report, the Commission stated that while they welcome independent research, it should be “treated cautiously” and reaffirmed their stance that any evidence of an increase in illegal online gambling in the UK is being overstated.

McArthur wrote: “Their methodology makes clear they had to use data from August 2018 which indicates traffic to websites but does not differentiate whether that was by consumers or reflective of the vast amount of automated transactions that bots and other system tools conduct,”

“While we are concerned about the issues described above and take action to protect consumers, we need to point out that our data indicates that scale of illegal market is stable.

“We know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests that the impact may be being exaggerated.

“In any event, we are not convinced by the argument that suggests that raising standards in the licensed market will prompt consumers to gamble with illegal operators,” he added.

BGC’s Michael Dugher suggested that any increased action taken against licenced operators would have consequences in a press release on their website. One of these consequences would be to drive the growth of the unlicensed market.

McArthur replied to this statement, saying: “While this data shows that there are threats from illegal gambling for GB consumers, the scale of the threat needs to be kept in proportion, despite recent media reports and reports from consultants paid for by the industry, and should not distract from the need to continue to drive up standards and make gambling safer in the regulated market,” McArthur explained.

Campaign group Gambling With Lives agreed with the Gambling Commission and accused the BGC of “scaremongering”.

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