Understanding the lure of black-market gambling in the UK
March 8th, 2022, Oliver Rowe

Understanding the lure of black-market gambling in the UK

The British government is set to overhaul the 2005 Gambling Act, which could likely include, among other rule changes, “affordability checks.” Industry leaders have voiced concern about the implementation of such rules, arguing they could drive consumers to use unregulated betting sites.

A recent YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the Betting and Gaming Council found that 58% of bettors reject affordability checks, and 59% asserted that government-imposed investigations into customer finances in order to place a bet would lead to ‘a large or substantial risk’ of customers shifting to unlicensed and unregulated betting sites. The results were characterized by the organization's CEO as a “wake-up call.”

“We strongly support the Gambling Review as a once in a generation opportunity to raise standards and promote safer gambling,” said BGC CEO Michael Dugher. “Ministers have said it will be an evidence-led process, and these findings are a wake- up call showing the potential dangers of introducing blanket affordability checks on anyone who likes a flutter.”

Following the release of those results from early in 2022, YouGov conducted its own further fieldwork to determine the likelihood that consumers would be pushed to unlicensed or unregulated betting companies and the results do lend some credence to the industry's concerns.

A new survey conducted in late February found 17% of Brits who have bet on sports in the last 12 months would be somewhat or much more likely to use unlicensed and unregulated sites if there was an advantage to using them, whether that be better odds or fewer account restrictions, for example. The questionnaire did not specifically ask about income tests or trying to avoid them and instead captures openness to using unlicensed and unregulated sites should they provide an advantage to gamblers.

Brits who have gambled online in the last 12 months represent about 14% of the adult population.

Looking across different age groups, we see bettors between the ages of 30 and 50 are most likely to be swayed by such advantages (20%) compared with those over 50 (12%) and those 18 to 19 (17%).

Further, we see male punters are more likely than female punters to indicate they’d use an unregulated or unlicensed site if they felt it had advantages.

A plurality, 38%, say such advantages would have no impact on the likelihood of using unregulated sites. A third (33%) would be somewhat or much less likely to use them.

The polling data also reveals how important it is for bettors that the websites they use are regulated. Indeed, the vast majority of respondents, 78%, say it is very important, while 14% say it is somewhat important. A very slim margin of respondents, 3%, say it’s not very or not at all important. This is even more important for women (86%) compared with men (74%).

As it stands now, the vast majority of, indeed nearly all, respondents say they currently use regulated sites (94%), while a sliver of respondents use unregulated and unlicensed sites (2%) or are not sure (3%).

Affordability checks might force punters to provide pay slips which would be used to cap losses. Such a measure remains a proposal along with other steps that would create a tougher regulatory environment.

“We believe that technology should be used to identify those showing signs of problem gambling so that swift interventions can take place,” Dugher was quoted as saying.

It’s clear the potential changes to the industry brought on by mooted government intervention could have a significant impact. Both the government and the industry have a common goal of deterring consumers from entering the unregulated black market. YouGov will be following closely as the industry steps into a new era of betting.