PUNTERS FEAR RESTRICTIONS ON BETTING WILL FUEL BLACK MARKET GAMBLING, NEW STUDY SHOWS
Almost 80 per cent of punters fear restrictions on betting would likely drive customers to unsafe, unregulated black market gambling sites, a new poll shows.
According to a new survey by YouGov for the Betting and Gaming Council, 79 per cent of punters said it was likely increased restrictions “would result in people moving to unregulated websites” where there are no limits.
Meanwhile 70 per cent of Brits said they would consider a different bookmaker if they were asked to provide “private financial documents” in order to place a bet.
The study comes as punters gear up for Cheltenham Festival – the biggest week in horseracing, attended by thousands and watched by millions more.
Around 280,000 people will attend Cheltenham, generating an estimated £274m for the local economy, while an estimated £1bn will be staked across four days of racing.
Punters can enjoy an expected 20 hours of live TV coverage across the week, with around one million viewers per day, with a peak expected during the Gold Cup on Friday after 1.6 million tuned in last year.
It also comes as Government nears publication of a Gambling White Paper setting out new reforms to betting and gaming.
But punters and racing leaders have expressed concern that blanket so-called ‘affordability’ checks, set at a low level, which compel punters to prove they have the means to bet, could drive people away from licenced bookmakers to the gambling black market.
And there is concern punters would reject any affordability check which is enforced by operators requesting financial paperwork.
BGC CEO Michael Dugher, said: “This research is the latest in a series outlining the genuine concerns of millions of ordinary punters who feel that the people making decisions about the future of betting are out of touch and have never had a bet in their lives.
“We want to see genuinely non-intrusive checks, which use technology to carefully target and protect the tiny minority of vulnerable punters, but intrusive, blanket, low level so-called ‘affordability’ checks will be universally rejected by punters.
“Any intrusive and blanket approach risks having the opposite effect by pushing them into the unsafe, unregulated black market which offers no safer gambling tools like time outs and deposit limits, doesn’t support the economy or sport and doesn’t pay a penny in tax.
“Ministers should listen to the millions of punters enjoying Cheltenham rather than pander to a naive and snobbish minority of anti-gambling prohibitionists”.
Betting is a hugely popular British hobby. Around 22.5 million adults in the UK have a bet each month - whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, having a game of bingo, visiting a casino, playing online or having a wager on football, horseracing and other sports.
Meanwhile problem gambling rates in the UK are low by international standards, according to the independent regulator. The latest figures from the Gambling Commission show 0.2 per cent of the adult population are problem gamblers, down from 0.3 per cent the previous year.
Unlike the black market, regulated betting and gaming supports around 110,000 jobs in the UK, generates £7.1bn for the economy and contributes £4.2bn in tax for vital frontline services.
However, one recent study found the numbers using black market sites has doubled in recent years from 210,000 to 460,000, and the money staked is in the billions.
Another study found the number of UK punters visiting unregulated online black market gambling sites tripled during last year’s World Cup.
In December alone 250,000 people visited unregulated, black market sites compared to around 80,000 during the same month the previous year, with a similar jump in November.
Meanwhile a recent survey of RacingTV members showed 15 per cent of 3,500 respondents said that they bet, or they know someone who bets, with an unregulated online bookmaker.
In addition, nearly 80 per cent of the respondents said they would not want to see mandatory limits imposed by bookmakers on how much punters can spend.
RacingTV has now launched a letter writing campaign allowing punters to contact their MPs, to outline concerns about potential changes to betting regulation.
You can email your MP by clicking on this link, entering your postcode to find your MP, and putting your name to the letter – a process which is straightforward and will take less than a minute to complete.