Posted on: November 23, 2022, 08:06h. 

Last updated on: November 23, 2022, 10:04h.

Previous studies have hinted at the negative effects too much regulation can have on the gaming industry. New research supports those earlier findings, indicating that “nanny state” control will only lead to a rise in black market gambling.

Michael Dugher
Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher stands in front of a poster celebrating Safer Gambling Week. The gaming industry group published the results of a new survey that shows black market gaming could rise amid overly restrictive regulations. (Image: Betting and Gaming Council)

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) turned to YouGov to investigate what would happen if authorities placed too many restrictions on regulated gaming. It’s a follow-up to previous studies on the subject and shows an increase in willingness to use unregulated sites.

This past May, YouGov determined through a survey that 56% of gamblers didn’t want the government to make the industry too restrictive, and 65% expected any increase to force consumers to the black market. Six months later, the figures are on the rise.

Time For A Re-think

Some 67% of those who took the survey indicated that compulsory wagering limits could lead more people to the unregulated gambling black market. In addition, 64% of respondents fear that increased gambling on illegal sites will lead to an increase in problem gambling.

Almost 70% of those who place bets said that they wouldn’t allow regulated gaming companies to conduct mandatory affordability checks to verify they can afford to bet. This is a demand made by anti-gambling campaigners in an effort to combat problem gambling. It’s also part of the UK Gambling Commission’s “Single View” ideology.

Any changes introduced by the Government must be carefully targeted so that we protect the vulnerable and intervene on those showing signs of harm, whilst not driving the vast majority of millions of punters who bet safely towards the growing unsafe black market online, where there are none of the safer gambling protections used by BGC members,” said Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher.

In the UK, the number of people who gamble on black market sites has increased by 220,000 to 460,000 over the past few years, according to the BGC. The stakes they give to these sites are in the billions.

Illegal gambling and betting sites number in the thousands and don’t follow the regulations of the licensed industry. They offer little consumer protection or transparency.

In addition, they also target problem gamblers, and don’t perform ID or age verification checks. The regulated industry, on the other hand, offers responsible gambling platforms through self-developed and government-led regulations.

The Proof Is Out There

Around 100 years ago, the US conducted an experiment. In an attempt to reduce domestic violence and “improve family life,” it banned alcohol.

Numerous studies have shown that consumption didn’t stop, as highlighted by a Boston University article from 2020. Initially, there was a drop-off. But access to illegal, sometimes harmful booze became prevalent. Within a year after the start of the federal government’s version of Prohibition, the level of drinkers returned to two-thirds of the pre-Prohibition level.

Prohibition found one of its goals, helping cut down on domestic violence. But there’s no indication that it improved family life. Within a few short years, the government stopped its experiment, which has since been dubbed a “failure” by the Cato Institute and others.

By the 1960s, Americans were drinking as much alcohol as they did pre-Prohibition. Today, despite being the number-one type of addiction, alcohol is an accepted part of society in many parts of the world.

The anti-gambling pundits would welcome a complete ban, which would irrefutably lead to unsafe gambling, just like Prohibition. The BGC added in its report on the YouGov survey that it welcomes regulations that “protect the vulnerable,” but that these cannot force the “overwhelming majority who bet safely and responsibly towards the unsafe unregulated black market online.”