Black Market Sports Betting Increases Three-Fold During World Cup


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Carl Hughes Betting Expert

Updated:January 26, 2023

According to a new research commissioned by the United Kingdom Betting and Gaming Council, which is the country’s singular industry body and represents regulated sports betting and gaming providers, the use of black market websites increased thrice during the period of the Football World Cup.

Sports betting websites are considered to be part of the black market if they do not comply with the UK rules and regulations and are not properly registered and licensed. Most often, such websites do not adhere to the various regulations and standard which ensure the safety and security of their customers and that the website is not used for money laundering or the funding of criminal activity and/or terrorism. While attracting and catering for UK customers, most black market sports betting sites are based in other countries in order to avoid being subject to United Kingdom laws and regulations.

Industry experts have raised concerns in relation to the boom of black market websites, suggesting that bettors have been using them in order to avoid the safety checks and rules that licenced, regulated bookmakers ask their customers to undergo in order to ensure responsible gambling and minimise any potential harm from gambling. Further to this, all sports betting and online gaming operators in the United Kingdom subscribe to a service called GamStop, which allows those at risk of gambling harm, or who identify an issue with their own gambling, to self-exclude from online sports betting and iGaming platforms.

According to the numbers provided in the UK Betting and Gaming Council report, about 250,000 bettors visited unregulated sports betting providers during the tournament, which took place in November and December 2022. For comparison, the same period in 2021 saw only 80,000 people using the services of black market sports betting websites. Furthermore, about the 64,500 bettors at risk of gambling harm searched for ways to circumvent GamStop during the World Cup, and for black market sports betting sites that do not subscribe to it.

The research identified that peaks in the use of black market websites are strongly related to popular sporting events. In addition to the World Cup, black market sports betting saw an increase in March 2022 during the Cheltenham horse-racing festival, and also during the Royal Ascot week of horse racing in June 2022. The UK Betting and Gaming Council has established that black market websites offering sports betting and online gaming allow bettors to register and deposit money in less than 30 seconds, after which they are ready to start betting. On the other hand, a regulated, licenced, and responsible sports betting website would require various identity and age checks and will ask questions to ensure safe and responsible gambling, and prevent fraud and money laundering. As a result, the registration process will take about 12 minutes on average.

Black market sports betting sites are very dangerous and do not take steps to ensure the safety and security of customers. For safe and responsible gambling, bettors could subscribe to one of the many regulated, responsible sports betting operators in the UK who not only take steps to minimise gambling harm and other issues associated with problem gambling, but also have various initiatives and good causes to improve the betting and gaming industry, invest in sports and good causes, contribute to the economy, and employment opportunities in the local communities where they are based. For more information, please visit our full list of UK betting sites.

Speaking about the findings of the research, UK Betting and Gaming Council Chief Executive Michael Dugher said:

“This research exposes the dire threat the growing unsafe, unregulated black market poses to punters. While the regulated industry was going to great lengths to protect young people during the World Cup and adhering to strict regulations and promoting safer gambling, black market operators were preying on the vulnerable. These unlicensed sites offer none of the safer gambling tools promoted by our members, they pay no tax and employ no one, they do not contribute a penny to sport or services tackling gambling harm, and they do nothing to protect vulnerable players.”

Dugher went on to say that the World Cup period was clearly shown as being responsible for “a range of worrying gambling trends in the UK” which benefited those involved in providing black market gambling and were exploited by them. According to Dugher, while some people were concerned that the regulated sports betting and gaming sector may present a risk of harm to vulnerable bettors, all statistics and evidence show that regulated and licenced bookmakers went the extra mile to ensure the safety and responsible enjoyment of their customers, while black market sites and providers took advantage of those at risk of harm and monetised their vulnerabilities.

Dugher points out that the threats associated with the black market has so far been viewed with complacency by those who can do something about them. He added that the regulator and the Government need to be careful when making changes to the industry and introducing new rules and regulations, as these could result in even more bettors using the services of dangerous black market sites.

About the author

Carl Hughes


Carl Hughes


Carl Hughes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".