Black market concerns a red herring from the online gambling lobby

During the campaign against FOBTs, bookies argued that a cut in the maximum stake to £2 a spin would lead to a rise in "black market" gambling machine use. Since the £2 a spin limit came into force in April 2019, there has not been any evidence to support the bookies’ claim.

Yet the trade bodies lobbying on behalf of the very same bookies are now issuing the same warnings about a "black market" in online gambling.

That these concerns are only ever raised while arguing against safer gambling regulations, such as stake limits, suggests that all is not as it seems.

Because despite all of the resources at the disposal of online gambling companies, nothing is being done by them to restrict access to illegal gambling sites.

I’m a co-founder of Gamban, software that blocks access to thousands of gambling sites and apps – including millions of subdomains, which the system is able to spot and add to our block list in real-time. More than 50,000 people use this market-leading software for self-exclusion, as those harmed by gambling seek to put up barriers to accessibility.

But Gamban’s technology could also help restrict access to illegal gambling sites. If the software was embedded into licensed gambling apps, it could block access on that specific device to any unregulated sites.

Gamban could also be embedded at the level of internet service providers (ISPs) or mobile networks, blocking all gambling sites except those that are licensed to operate in Britain.

Gamban has offered to work with gambling operators, the trade bodies and the regulator on this, but so far there has been no interest, nor acknowledgement on this issue. This is even in spite of Gamban winning multiple industry awards!

If "black market" gambling was as significant an issue as the gambling lobbyists claim, then tackling it would be a priority. The ready-made solution of Gamban would not be ignored, it would be implemented with the support of operators and the regulator.

Until this happens, the black market theory is just a pretence, designed to evade any prospective regulatory clampdown. British standards cannot be held down - or driven further down - on the basis of a gambling lobby red-herring.