We’ve all seen the scenes of famous movies where illegal gambling of some sort is taking place, with often luxurious and lucrative surroundings. While there are such things as high-stakes celebrity poker rings, as Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Alex Rodriguez and a whole host of other A-listers can attest to, it’s more often the case that illegal gambling at street level is much more downgraded. In this article, we analyse exactly what illegal betting is, why people do it and how big an industry it is.
What is Illegal Gambling?
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of why, we’re first going to explain what we mean by illegal gambling. Firstly, it comes in all shapes and forms and frequently depends on the laws of a specific nation or region within a country.
Gambling on such activities as cock fighting, dog fighting or many other forms of animal violence is almost always illegal due to cruelty. However, areas such as sports betting, slot machines and card games are only deemed illegal if the proper licenses haven’t been awarded.
Online gambling is another polarising area. In some cases, such as the UK, it is hugely popular and has spawned hundreds of legal betting sites in which people access a whole range of content using their computers or mobile devices. In the US, however, it’s legality depends solely on each state’s jurisdiction – with many continuing to outlaw it.
Why Do People Gamble Illegally?
There are many reasons why people gamble illegally. First of all, it can be a lot easier to illegally gamble if you live far away from any land-based casino and/or online betting is inaccessible. Nipping down to the local pub or bar which has a few unlicensed slot machines in the back is a lot more attractive, for example.
Illegal online gambling is also commonplace in regions where it’s banned, as it can be much more convenient for players to access. Take Greece, whose illegal online betting was valued at $1.29bn by Havocscope – a website dedicated to gathering information on black markets. Recently, Greek authorities have accepted online gambling as a legal activity, so this figure is expected to drop hugely in the coming months and years. However, it is a prime example of an illegal gambling market thriving on a country’s laws.
In other, more distasteful circumstances, players look to illegal gambling as a way of money laundering. This is the process of “cleaning” any money, often cash, that has been gained using other sinister methods. It is estimated that German money laundering using illegal gambling alone has totalled $155million in the past.
Finally, gambling can be especially lucrative if a certain result is guaranteed. Match-fixing has long been a plague of sports around the world, with European football leagues, a high-profile example being Italy’s Serie A, sometimes caught up in scandals. Havocscope estimates the cost of fixing a football match in Croatia to be just $25,600, so illegal gambling of this nature is prevalent due to the potential benefits.
Just How Large is the Illegal Gambling Black Market?
Despite ongoing investigations into illegal betting, it is still very popular. While the total value of the gambling black market can’t be verified, it is easily into the multi-billions of dollars. The number of illegal casinos in Greece reached up to 1,000 locations, with around 11,000 machines, in 2012, proving its popularity.
Using sports betting to launder money was suggested to be a $140bn market, while the same practice just in Macau casinos was a whopping $202bn – although this is being curbed due to Xi Jinping’s recent policies. Also in 2012, it was thought that over 500,000 illegal gambling halls existed in Russia.
With illegal betting being providing many advantages to both punters and ringleaders, examples around the world are, unfortunately, endless.