Too tough rules on the betting and gambling sector may push individuals towards underground operators, according to the boss behind Coral and Ladbrokes.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Entain CEO Jette Nygaard-Anderson said she feared future regulations could see gamblers encouraged to seek out a “black market” of unlicensed websites.
Ministers should strike a “healthy balance” with new rules, in order to avoid driving gambling underground, the CEO said.
“It is somewhat unfair, the reputation that our industry has,” she added. “It is utterly important for me that our customers understand that we have their safety at heart, and that they see us as a trusted entertainment provider.”
The government is expected to publish a white paper on reforms of gambling laws this spring, following delays. Policymakers are looking to reduce minimum wagers and introduce affordability checks for users.
Nygaard-Anderson’s warning follows research from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) revealing an increase in customers using unlicensed betting websites over the pandemic.
Research published last year found the number of customers using an unlicensed betting website soared from 210,000 in 2019, to 460,000.
Writing in the Telegraph last week, BGC chief Michael Dugher, said the majority of the betting sector “strongly supports the gambling review as a once in a generation opportunity to deliver real change and much-needed regulatory certainty.”
However, he said, the right balance was needed “between protecting the vulnerable, and not spoiling the enjoyment of the overwhelming majority of people who enjoy a flutter safely and responsibly.”
The government’s postponement of the publication of the white paper last year were heavily criticised by campaigners.
“Every day at least one person takes their life because of gambling,” Liz Ritchie, co-founder of charity Gambling With Lives, told the Guardian newspaper last year.
Ritchie’s son Jack took his own life after becoming addicted to gambling when he was a young teenager.
“Every delay means more families shattered,” the campaigner added. “When will the government act?”