GC: No spike in illegal gambling complaints amid Covid-19

19 May 2020

There has been no evidence of a spike in complaints regarding illegal online gambling in Great Britain since the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) hit, according to the country's Gambling Commission.

Data released by the regulator shows that a total of 12 complaints in relation to nine sites were filed in March, with a further 11 complaints raised against 11 websites in April.

The April figure was relatively level year-on-year, with last year seeing a total of nine complaints raised against 20 different websites.

The Commission said the level of complaints also remained level over the past 12 months – from April 2019 to April this year. The only anomaly came in January 2020 when 31 complaints were filed against 35 sites, which the regulator put down to Curacao-based enterprises attempting to entice British consumers who were self-excluded.

Looking at the content of consumer complaints over the past 12 months, the main reason for concern was that a website allowed players from Britain to gamble, with 85 complaints raised.

A total of 24 complaints were in relation to a player being unable to withdraw funds, while 19 were focused on marketing and advertising, and 12 regarding sites fraudulently claiming to be licensed by the Gambling Commission.

Other areas of concern included refusal to pay out funds, self-exclusion issues, charging for tipster services, cloned websites and underage access.

“Our data does not indicate there has been an increase in any illegal gambling in Britain during the Covid-19 crisis,” the Commission’s executive director Richard Watson said. ”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.”

The Commission has a team of specialists to monitor reports of illegal gambling, using a number of tools to combat illegal sites and ensure they are not offering services to British consumers. The regulator also works with the National Cyber Security Centre to educate both the industry and public about the risks of illegal activities.

Publication of the new data comes after the Commission last week also revealed that more people in the UK had stopped gambling under lockdown than started or increased play.

A YouGov study, commissioned by the regulator, found that 1.8% of respondents said they had stopped gambling entirely in the past four weeks, while a further 3.3% said reduced gambling spend. Some 4.8% also cut the time they spent playing.