For one reason or another, offshore gambling is on the rise in the UK. More and more people are turning to offshore gambling sites to bypass regulations, access unique markets, or just for the sake of personal preference. While the UKGC has put in place measures to prevent offshore gambling and ran campaigns to raise awareness of the issues and risks, more will need to be done in order to stop it entirely. 

    But what are the actual numbers behind UK offshore and black-market gambling? Let’s find out. 

    Licensed and regulated gambling site figures 

    Let’s first look at what percentage of bettors in the UK stick to licensed sites. It is interesting in many ways that the UK is considered quite strict with its gambling laws, given that figures from the United States show in previous years, around 97% of all bets on major events like the Super Bowl would be made illegally. 

    In contrast, around 95% of all UK bettors make all of their bets on licensed sites operating domestically and within the law. Around 45% of everyone in the UK gambles every month, in some form or another, accounting to around 24 million people in 2020. Around 22% of bettors placed a bet more than twice a week. 

    These figures are all accounted for domestically. Most betting does, then, take place in licensed, domestic sites, though there is a clear and increasing trend towards the use of offshore sites. Let’s turn to that, now. 

    This is similar to what is seen in Ireland, although the delays to their new “Gambling Regulatory Authority” system has led to an increase in the number of Irish punters betting with offshore online casinos. Platforms like Betfree Online Casino show that there are plenty of properly licensed casinos, yet people are still being enticed by the offshore sites. Typically, they offer larger bonuses, and payment via methods such as cryptocurrency and unfortunately, gambling addicts are being targeted by these unlicensed sites through illegal SMS marketing and their targeting of search terms relating to self-exclusion. In the long run, we would imagine the Irish government will follow their UK counterpart’s lead and go after payment processors working with the illegal offshore gambling sites.

    Offshore gambling

    One of the first and most perplexing, but nonetheless noteworthy, things to mention is that, among those who do use offshore betting sites, the vast majority report some degree of negative experience with using the site. Yet, this does not discourage them from continuing to use the site. So, this goes to show that offshore bettors are more than willing to sacrifice functionality in favor of whatever advantage they get from the offshore sites. 

    Around 5%, then, of all gambling in the UK, is done through offshore and black-market sites. It’s naturally hard to say with any certainty what the precise figure is because not all who use such sites would admit to doing so. Though it isn’t strictly illegal, it’s still not something people will readily admit to. 

    Many studies have shown that the use of offshore gambling sites is associated with increased intensity in gambling, as well as many issues of problem gambling. However, it’s also currently not clear that regulations actually have an impact on the prevalence of problem gambling. Thus, it is not necessarily clear-cut that problem gambling habits lead people to bet offshore. 

    Interestingly, around 38% of those who bet online in the UK regularly switch between sites, indicating loyalty to a particular operator is not a big factor in choosing a site, either. This, too, could contribute to the use of offshore sites, as people have a tendency to switch and try new sites. 

    Furthermore, the vast majority of gamblers tend not to have particularly intimate knowledge of the local gambling regulations in their area—as high as 80% of gamblers. So, again, it’s difficult to say that local regulations are what drive people to offshore gambling. However, at the same time, one of the primary incentives of offshore sites is their lack of regulation. 


    Offshore gambling is plainly prevalent in the UK, then, even though it makes up ultimately a very small proportion of total gambling numbers. Regulations in the UK are quite strict in a number of ways compared with other countries, and naturally with rogue operators that aren’t licensed by any nation. This seems to be one of the leading causes of turning to offshore gambling. 

    It is difficult to say, at this time, whether the trend toward offshore gambling sites will continue. Regulation of the UK betting market is undergoing constant change, and this change is, for some, a serious inconvenience. But plainly, regulation is required in order to have a fair and properly functioning gambling industry. 

    Thus, only time will really tell how offshore betting continues in the UK, without any direct legal intervention to prevent or at least curtail the practice. 

    Richard is an experienced tech journalist and blogger who is passionate about new and emerging technologies. He provides insightful and engaging content for Connection Cafe and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments.