William Hill statement on the rise of the gambling black market

Here at William Hill, we have long been concerned by the black market in gambling and the threat it poses to customers. We want everyone who gambles to be certain that the operator who’s taking their bets plays by the rules. The problem is, that’s not always the case, and that’s a problem for our customers, for us and for the whole betting industry.  We are pleased that the Government has rightly included this issue as an area of focus in the Gambling Act Review consultation.

Last week, Neil McArthur, CEO of the Gambling Commission — Britain’s gambling regulator — wrote to the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group. In that letter he set out his view of the black market and explained that, "Criminals seeking to circumvent the regulated sphere and exploit the vulnerable are demonstrating increasing sophistication, complexity and capability which poses challenges to us to keep pace."

This is also our view of the gambling black market: it is a growing problem that we must confront. The reason is that unlicensed operators do not offer the same protections as licensed companies. They do not have any of the safer gambling protocols in place that we use, there are no age verification checks, no anti-money laundering precautions, or any of the consumer protections that are now standard in the industry. 

It is all the more important now, as evidence suggests that the black market is growing. The Gambling Commission’s own record of success in confronting these illegal operatives supports this conclusion. In 2019-20, the Commission carried out 59 enforcement actions against unlicensed operators. So far in 2020/21, the equivalent number already stands at 74 — a significant increase. 

This is not a new problem — sadly, there have always been illegal bookmakers, in Britain and elsewhere. What makes the current black market threat so pernicious is its ability to exploit technology in order to make itself more available to gamblers. Now, a person on a legal betting site is only a few clicks away from a black market option.

Everyone who gambles in Britain deserves protection from illegal operators. We must do all that we can to make sure that remains the case.  We would encourage all our customers to report information about black market/unlicensed gambling operators to the Gambling Commission via its Confidential Reporting Line 0121 230 6655 so that they can take the necessary action.

Please read today’s PwC report on the black market here.

Ulrik Bengtsson
Chief Executive, William Hill

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04 Feb 2021

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