The Gambling Commission deputy CEO Sarah Gardner warned that the regulator would have little patience for black market risks being “overstated” without evidence.
black market

In a speech to Danish regulator Spillemyndigheden, Gardner shared the Gambling Commission’s view of the state of the gambling sector 17 years on from the 2005 Gambling Act.

Gardner addressed the issue of the illegal sector, arguing that it will continue to evolve and be difficult to eliminate – and therefore called for efforts to disrupt these sites to be “further upstream”.

The Commission has in the past repeated this same argument that the unlawful sector does not represent a major danger to the UK. In a December 2021 speech, GC chief executive Andrew Rhodes said that the black market was “nowhere near” enough of a threat to deter the regulator from taking strong action when needed.

Gardner noted her familiarity with arguments that the black market was likely to increase in size if certain measures were introduced in the regulated market.

“There is an argument, sometimes made in Great Britain, that just because there are illegal sites and unregulated gambling – with no protections and bad outcomes for consumers – we should scale back or stop some of the interventions we think we need to make in the regulated market to mitigate against the risk of consumers jumping from regulated gambling into unregulated gambling,” she said.

“I cannot accept this argument. Indeed, I believe that no regulator should knowingly allow bad practices of the type we are talking about here, practices which can cause harm, to carry on in the regulated market.”

Novel products

A major theme of Gardner’s speech was that innovation in industry meant that regulators were required to keep up in order to maintain effective regulation. This was of particular relevance in new categories of products that were difficult to classify.  

“Innovation is… leading to experimentation, promotion and use of emerging products such as non-fungible tokens – or NFTs – ‘synthetic shares’ and crypto currency,” she said.

While Gardner did not recommend any specific action, she stated that regulatory bodies need to be on high alert.

“These are products that we think gambling regulators need to be keeping watch on,” she said. “They are becoming increasingly widespread and through them, what products can be defined and regulated as gambling is becoming increasingly blurred depending on each jurisdiction’s rules.”

Gardner said that the Commission was watching and whilst these products were often beyond its remit – it would have “questions” for any operator taking risks in this space.

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