The head of the UK’s Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dughe, has said that the gambling industry will support the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s post-Covid economic recovery plan, provided the long-awaited Government White Paper – due to be published in May – does not result in “well-meaning but naive changes”.
Prior to the pandemic, the BGC, whose membership includes Entain and Paddy Power, supported 119,000 jobs, generated £4.5bn in tax and contributed £7.7bn to the economy, and Mr. Dughe warned the Government against penalising a sector that is ready to assist with the recovery of public finances.
Whilst clearly endorsing the wider objective of reducing problem gambling and black-market operations, Mr. Dughe urged Rishi Sunak to avoid excessively stringent measures against an industry is crucial to his government’s levelling-up programme.
“The growth of the unsafe, unregulated black market in online gambling is part of a global trend and it is foolish to think that there is an enforcement solution to this,” he explained, adding that the Gambling Review needs to avoid “intrusive restrictions that drive players to the black market.”
Evidence from other European countries very clearly shows that stricter regulations lead to increased black-market use, with Norway and Italy both being prominent examples of this unintended outcome. The regulated gambling industry in the UK is already a strong exponent of safer gambling tools, with problem rates in the country reported to have fallen significantly over the past 18 months.
Mr. Dughe went on to state that “Anti-gambling campaigners may want to see a smaller regulated industry, but that would be bad news for the economy and the Exchequer,” adding that “any new regulations must be evidence-led and not risk the huge economic contribution (BGC) members make.