The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has warned about the size of the UK’s unregulated gambling market, with a significant number of online gambling searches for illegal operators.

Financial consulting firm PwC recently revealed that 27 million website visits every year are for black market websites, with almost 1 in 10 online searches specifically for these.

The report also revealed that billions of pounds were wagered on these websites by players across the country between 2018 and 2019.

What did PwC’s report find?

According to the firm’s findings, 9% of online gambling searches were for unlicensed betting sites. During the same 12-month period mentioned above, 200,000 people wagered with an unregulated operator.

In total, all of these players’ bets amounted to around £1.4 billion. Approximately 2.5% of all website visits were to operators without a UK licence.

BGC warns that the unregulated market puts fair-playing operators at risk

Reacting to PwC’s findings, BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher had the following to say:

“As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review, which we think is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling. However, these figures demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal, online black market – which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.

“The regulated betting and gaming industry employs 100,000 men and women and pays £3.2bn a year in tax to the Treasury, so the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk. Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery, or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment, rather than the unscrupulous black market.”

Dugher also pointed out that unregulated operators put players in significant danger. Many do not have ID and age verification, nor do they stop players from betting excessive amounts or spending too much time online.

Because there are no age verification features on these websites, they are particularly dangerous for users under the age of 18.

Player safety under the spotlight as the Gambling Act review begins

In early December, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) began its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

At the time, the governing body said:

“The Review of the Act is an opportunity to step back and take a wider look across the issues, but improvements can and will continue to be made separately to the Review as well.

“The Gambling Commission is currently consulting on tighter requirements for operators to protect customers, including on interventions and affordability checks, and DCMS is already considering proposals from the Gambling Commission for a fee uplift to reflect the increasingly complex nature of the industry it regulates.”