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The UK Betting and Gaming Council has warned about the danger posed by the illegal online black market as it emerged British punters visited the unregulated sites 27 million times in a year.

A report by PWC revealed that 200,000 customers used an unlicensed gambling operator over a 12 month period between 2018 and 2019, staking around £1.4 billion. Overall, unregulated operators accounted for 2.5% of all visits to betting websites.

The findings came as the Government continues its Gambling Review, and led to renewed warnings that it could lead to customers being forced into the arms of unscrupulous black market operators, who have none of the safeguards put in place by the regulated sector.

These include strict ID and age verification checks plus a wide range of safer gambling tools such as deposit limits, time outs and interventions where punters are spending more time or money than normal betting.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the Gambling Review, which we think is a great opportunity to drive further change on safer gambling.

“However, these figures demonstrate the danger of unintentionally driving punters into the arms of the illegal, online black market – which offers none of the protections of the regulated sector.

“The regulated betting and gaming industry employs 100,000 men and women and pays £3.2bn a year in tax to the Treasury, so the Government needs to be wary of doing anything that puts that at risk.

“Millions of people in the UK enjoy an occasional flutter, whether that is on sports, at the bingo, on the Lottery or online, and it is vitally important that they are able to do so in a safe environment, rather than the unscrupulous black market.”