Mandatory Affordability Checks Could Permanently Cripple the UK Gaming Market, Asserts Poll

Posted on: January 25, 2023, 11:05h. 

Last updated on: January 25, 2023, 11:34h.

A survey addressing proposed changes to gambling oversight in the UK confirms what other studies already show. Should the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) or the government seek mandatory affordability checks, an overwhelming majority of consumers will jump to the black market.

British banners hang in a street
British flag banners hang in a street. Black market gambling in the UK could rise if the country continues to seek increasingly restrictive control of the industry. (Image: Shutterstock)

A previous survey by YouGov determined that 59% of respondents agreed that affordability checks would lead to a rise in black marketing gambling. A new survey the Betting and Gaming Commission (BGC) commissioned with YouGov indicates a higher amount.

Almost 70% of respondents see these compulsory checks as a nail in the coffin for the regulated gaming industry. They acknowledged that they would refuse to participate in them, which invariably means a shift to more participation through unregulated sites.

UK Gambling Oversight Becomes Unstable

The draconian measures the UKGC believes are necessary for the country’s gambling industry have repeatedly come under fire. There is already unsubstantiated evidence that black market gambling is on the rise, even though the regulator hasn’t implemented all of the policies it wants.

The BGC asserts that there are now 460K people using unregulated sites, double the number from only a couple of years ago. The increase, while not scientifically correlated, comes as the UKGC has continued to look for ways to make regulated gambling more restrictive.

The YouGov poll also reveals another unsurprising finding. Should the restrictions continue, 64% of the respondents believe the problem gambling rate in the UK will increase. Currently, that rate is around 0.3%, according to the UKGC’s own studies.

At least one lawmaker believes that the UKGC might have outlived its usefulness. Member of Parliament Philip Davies recently called the regulator “out of control” and is calling for change.

However, it’s not just the UKGC the gaming industry has to be worried about. Despite assertions that it will produce a “common sense” approach to gambling reform, the government could take a heavy-handed approach when it presents its long-awaited white paper on the issue.

There have been reports that the government is considering a daily cap on losses of £1,000 (US$1,235) and a £2,000 (US$2,471) cap in 90 days. If someone loses more than £125 (US$154), he or she could be subject to additional affordability checks.

The government, after several delays, could present the white paper in the next couple of weeks.

The Proof is Out There

The UKGC has publicly stated that it refuses to accept the evidence that black market gambling is the result of a restrictive market. If it doesn’t believe the facts, it – or the government – only has to look at Finland. The country has strict regulations, and currently, a monopoly that has led to increased participation in offshore gaming.

This data shows the World Cup drove a range of worrying gambling trends in the UK – not in the regulated sector as predicted by anti-gambling prohibitionists – but in the unsafe unregulated black market online,” said BGC CEO Michael Dugher.

Another indication is last year’s World Cup. The amount of sports bets on the event exploded, with around 148K users visiting illegal operators’ sites each month.

That’s according to data Yield Sec compiled for the BGC. A separate study supports those findings. PwC previously found that the number of bettors using unlicensed betting platforms doubled between 2019 and 2020.

Gambling opponents believe they’re either going to convince everyone to stop gambling or reduce the problem gambling rate to 0%. They’re wrong on both counts.