New Data Shows Illegal Gambling Operators in the UK Targeting Vulnerable Players

New data published by Yield Sec revealed that black market gambling operators in the UK are increasingly targeting vulnerable players. The research indicated a rise in players who had self-excluded on GAMSTOP being targeted by illegal operators, with the number of these operators increasing “fourfold” between 2021 and 2022 and then doubling again to 231 during 2023. The data also showed that more than 1,000 affiliates helped to publicize these illegal operators.

According to Yield Sec, illegal gambling now makes up 4% of the UK’s online gambling market share and gross gaming revenue (GGR), resulting in a significant drop in tax revenue and funding for responsible gambling initiatives such as GAMSTOP. The research showed that illegal operators were targeting vulnerable demographics, such as self-excluded players and children, and were disregarding “mainstream customers.”

Furthermore, the data found thousands of Google searches aiming to aid the avoidance of self-exclusion, with millions of “not on GAMSTOP” and similar results detected by January 2024. This allowed vulnerable gamblers to bypass self-exclusion strategies with legal operators. As a result, at-risk players are turning to illegal and potentially dangerous operators, which are not monitored by tools such as Yield Sec and GAMSTOP.

Ismail Vali, founder and chief executive of Yield Sec, commented on the findings, saying, “Our surveillance highlights the disturbing and cynical growth of a certain type of illegal operator present in the UK over the past three years. The evidence of illicit gambling options that seek to cynically work around and enable vulnerable problem gamblers to avoid GAMSTOP self-exclusion is distressing and demands immediate and meaningful intervention.”

Yield Sec’s findings come after the release of the UK’s White Paper in April 2023, which committed to increasing regulatory powers to combat illegal gambling. However, David Brown, a UK industry veteran and former executive trading director, expressed concern that the affordability checks called for in the white paper could be driving vulnerable players to the black market.

The issue of illegal gambling is not unique to the UK, as both Germany and France have also struggled with black market gambling. In Germany, nearly half of all online gambling occurs with unlicensed operators, putting pressure on the German gambling regulator to combat the issue. In France, the regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux estimated the black market to be worth up to €1.5bn, accounting for over 10% of total bets wagered in the country each year. Both countries have revealed action plans to tackle illegal gambling, including increasing collaboration with regulators and boosting public awareness of the potential dangers.

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