Ulrik Bengtsson: Government has a duty to protect gambling from black market threats 

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson has stood by today’s publication of the PWC report on black-market threats impacting the UK gambling sector. 

Commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) with the support of William Hill and Entain Plc – PWC’s industry report will be presented to DCMS as evidence in the department’s ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Key findings detailed that customers using unlicensed betting websites had grown from 210,000 to 460,000 in a period of two years, with black-market wagering volumes doubling from £1.4 billion to £2.8 billion in 2020.

William Hill and Entain supported the findings, underlining that they were a critical response against the complacency and scepticism from anti-gambling campaigns to acknowledge black threats.

Issuing a statement, Bengtsson remarked that he shared the same view expressed by Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur in his letter to the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group.

“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,” he said. “This is also our view on the black market.”

Bengtsson reiterated the BGC’s statement that the gambling review should be ‘led by the evidence’, which overwhelmingly points to the black market becoming a prominent threat should the government employ further restrictive customer affordability check measures.

He added: “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.”

Should the government proceed with enforcing tougher compliance measures, Bengtsson concludes that it would simply ‘undermine the Gambling Commission’s own record in confronting illegal operatives’.

PWC report noted a high percentage of player indifference towards playing on unlicensed websites, in which respondents stated that they preferred the ease of use with regards to pay-outs and customer registration.

“This is not a new problem — sadly, there have always been illegal bookmakers, in Britain and elsewhere,” Bengtsson concluded. “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.

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