UKGC: No Noticeable increase in complaints about illegal gambling
The latest statistics released from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission have shown that there has been no noticeable increase in complaints about illegal gambling sites in the UK. There were twelve complaints about nine different sites in March, and 11 complaints over the month in April.
One of the effects of Covid-19 has been a big move online. Although sports betting sites are reporting losses, casino sites have generally experienced a slight increase. With the country in lockdown, many non-essential workers are worried about being made redundant because of a move online or have been made unemployed already. On top of this, in periods of economic and social uncertainty, crime tends to go up, so it was a legitimate worry that there may have been an increase in illegal schemes such as setting up fake gambling sites online in order to trick naïve punters. However, this has not been the case, and the figures from the last twelve months prove it, with the number of complaints stable, and somewhat expected.
There was a peak in the first month of 2020, with thirty one complaints about thirty five sites, which is almost double the amount of complaints for any other of the last twelve months. This has been attributed to Curucao based enterprising trying to entice all United Kingdom consumers that were self-excluded. The Commission have declared that they are “addressing using their powers”. Judging by the decrease in the figures from the following months of February, March and April even with the impact of the Coronavirus, it would be fair to assume that this issue has been addressed properly and seriously.
Having a closer look at a market that is worth over fourteen billion pounds legally is necessary, as the figures from the illegal market are not reported. This means that an undetermined amount of money is being made through this black market despite the Gambling Commission’s best efforts, however reports like these are good news, because they prove that the black market is being dealt with efficiently and thoroughly. The Gambling Commission Executive Director, Richard Watson, had this to say about the current situation: “”It is an area we monitor carefully and where we find problems we use our broad range of investigatory powers, alongside stakeholders such as software providers, payment businesses and hosting companies. Tackling illegal websites and unlicensed operators is challenging and it is also resource intensive, but we are committed to continuing our work in this area to protect consumers here in Britain.”
It is very clear from this message that the Gambling Commission is working hard during the global pandemic that we are experiencing, in order to protect the average UK citizen from being a victim of digital theft. This stance has been effective thus far, as the figures are so low. Only eleven complaints for the whole month of April is a pleasingly low number. We must consider also that though underground betting that physically takes place might get reported less often for fear of repercussion for example. However, with online sites, there is no reason for the victims to not report the site that they have been ripped off by. This feeling of injustice is likely to coax them into action and they are very probable to report this crime to the relevant organisations, in this case either the police or the UK Gambling Commission.
The Gambling Commission operates through a team of specialists that analyse online sites in order to block the illegal ones from offering their services to UK citizens. These figures are then released to local authorities, political figures, journalists, charities and more in order to be transparent about the results. This allows for a multilateral approach to combat this type of fraud.
The report is positive. Although there has not been a decrease in reports, the reports have not increased, which is a good sign in the difficult times that the UK is currently experiencing. The Gambling Commission is working hard to legitimise the online gambling sphere, especially in a time when people are restrained to their houses and exploring more and more of the online realm. May’s figures should be out very soon.