John Whittingdale, Britain’s former DCMS Minister, is currently overseeing the review of 2005’s Gambling Act. He used the opportunity to warn the Betting and Gaming Council of the growing thread of unlicensed gambling.
Whittingdale Warns that the Black Market is Real
Whittingdale addressed the issue during the annual general meeting on January 20. According to him, by tightening rules on gambling and subsequently harming even those who bet responsibly, the BGC risks alienating bettors. Should that happen, Whittingdale warned, bettors would start playing with unlicensed brands rather than with the regulated alternative.
The ex-DCMS Minister slammed the claims that the black market is something minuscule that shouldn’t be feared and said that it is something very real that has serious potential of harming Britain’s betting industry.
Whittingdale’s concerns echo what BGC’s chief executive officer, Michael Dugher, had said in December. Dugher had argued that implementing spending checks to all players as opposed to having them only apply to problem gamblers will cause mass disgruntlement. Dugher also had concerns that too much regulation will cause people to give up on the legal betting options and turn to the black market.
Some Regulations May Hurt More than The Gambling Industry
Whittingdale continued by mentioning that too many restrictions can hurt not only the gambling ecosystem but the broader industry. Although he recognizes the need to have some governmental input on gambling, he thinks that some recent decisions might be going too far.
For example, Whittingdale pointed to the ban on sponsorship deals between sports teams and gambling operators. Although no such restriction has been officially implemented as of now, it is a regulation that is being widely discussed expected to go live in the future.
In recent times, sponsorship deals and gambling adverts have been a key topic for the opponents of gambling across the globe. Many have argued that gambling ads during sports games are responsible for the huge spikes in gambling harm during sports seasons. As a result, there have been numerous efforts to reduce the advertisement of betting products.
However, Whittingdale emphasized that there is no definitive evidence that it is the ads that cause the harm. He said that gambling researchers are yet to provide proof that the issue herein lies in the ads themselves rather than in sports seasons boosting fan engagement.
Whittingdale reiterated that while it’s uncertain whether betting ads cause harm, it is definitely certain that prohibiting gambling sponsorships will severely hurt the sporting sector.
Currently, Whittingdale’s position as a DCMS is filled by Chris Philp. Despite having different views on gambling, Philp has previously said that some of the regulations, such as the aforementioned spending checks, might be too much. He thinks that the future lies in data tech that will allow the regulators to closely monitor when a user’s spending is justified.