Gambling regulator chief says growth has plateaued for booming sector
Growth in the betting sector has plateaued in recent years as a result of cost of living concerns and safety measures, says top gambling regulator.
Speaking at an awards ceremony today in Melbourne, Gambling Commission chief Andrew Rhodes said that the sector is still feeling a pandemic hangover — despite popular belief that betting giants cashed in on lockdown flutters.
“Overall participation in gambling is stable and has not been growing. It is true that online has continued to grow, but the whole market is not,” he said, adding that the commission was “certainly seeing a plateau” for UK licensed gambling.
This has certainly been the case when you look at recent results from big players like Entain and 888, who despite their best efforts, are struggling to lure customers back into bookies’ doors.
Rhodes also underplayed the scale of the unregulated black market, stating that it was “not the overwhelming risk it is sometimes painted to be”: undermining a key argument against draconian reform in the government’s long-awaited white paper.
A spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which represents 90 per cent of operators, pushed back against this claim and told City A.M. that it continues to be a “growing threat”, citing that the fact that the number of people gambling on unlicensed sites has more than doubled in two years from 220,000 to 460,000.
The BGC called for more to be done to address this thriving unregulated market, and stamp it out via the white paper.
However, campaigners have a slightly different view.
“Unless the Betting and Gaming Council want the regulated market to be more like the black market then their fearmongering is illogical,” Matt Zarb-Cousin, Director of campaign group Clean Up Gambling, told City A.M.
Equally, Gambling With Lives’ Will Prochaska took issue with the Gambling Commission’s strategy towards fines.
He said that whilst the Gambling Commission may have fined Entain with a record £17m sum earlier this summer, “it still doesn’t go far enough”.
Prochaska told City A.M. that major players would only take notice if there was a threat of licenses being removed. He said hefty fines just “become costs of doing business”.
The gambling white paper is yet to be published, but is expected before Christmas.