An investigation by Bacta has recorded that Facebook Marketplace and Ebay contain hundreds of advertisements for illegal gambling machines, leading the trade body to call on the Police Chiefs Council, the heads of Facebook UK and eBay UK to do more to address the issue.
Bacta has stepped up the fight against illegal machines sales on Facebook and Ebay. The trade association has written to the chair of the Police Chiefs Council, Martin Hewitt, together with the heads of Facebook UK and eBay UK, calling on them to do more to combat unlicensed machine sales.
“Facebook Marketplace currently contains hundreds of advertisements which relate to the sale or supply of gambling machine(s) without the required licence or permit,” said the letter from Bacta, with the trade body noting that many advertisements use false Gambling Commission licence numbers.
Bacta said it had taken the decision to send the letter in “response to increasing concern from our members in relation to the proliferation of gambling machines …on internet sales platforms”.
Following these reports, the trade association opened its own investigation, gathering data to document the scale of the issue.
“Due to concerns from our members, we have recently been conducting searches on Facebook Marketplace, with the search criterion of either gambling, fruit, or slot Machines. Searches have revealed numerous gambling machines being offered openly for sale across the United Kingdom,” Bacta explained.
“Many of the individual advertisements were for single machines, however, others related to two or more machines and in some cases multiple numbers of gambling machines were being offered for sale.”
The initiative is a timely one; little more than a fortnight ago the Gambling Commission announced that it had participated in a crackdown on illegal lotteries operating on Facebook, in partnership with UK law enforcement agencies.
These lotteries, which offered a variety of cash prizes, children’s toys and clothing, saw two individuals identified for promoting illegal activity and removed from associated Facebook groups after being issued with cease and desist letters by the North East Regional Special Operations and South West Regional Organised Crime Units.
In light of its recent enforcement actions, amusements industry stakeholders have argued that the Commission should take similar steps to clampdown on illegal machine sales, a message Bacta has reinforced during its meetings with the regulator.
Talking to Coinslot, a Bacta spokesperson explained the growing disquiet amongst members who want the illegal machines market addressed. “The open sale of illegal gaming machines on social media platforms has been allowed to operate for years and years and despite our constant protestations, and evidence, there has been no action taken by the social media sites and little success in curbing the practice by the various authorities. We do work closely with the Commission on this issue and we are hoping that the recent success of its joint initiative with Facebook to bring down an illegal lottery operation will open the door for action to be taken against the illegal machine sales on offer on both Ebay and Facebook.”
For its part, the Gambling Commission, whilst not exactly a new sheriff in town, does have the weapons in its holster to act – which could lead to 51 weeks in prison and £5,000 fines for those found guilty.
The regulator told Coinslot: “In instances where we become aware of such activity we will take the most appropriate regulatory action and will liaise with law enforcement (and relevant stakeholder colleagues) as required to ensure consumers are protected from the risks of illegal operators.”
And there was a message to the industry, too, that the Commission is alive to the issue. It added: “Our Intelligence Team can be contacted by anyone who believes they may have specific information regarding the supply of illegal machines at email@example.com or https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/contact-us/page/report-something-in-confidence.”
Whilst there now seems to be an open door to the Commission on this matter, the industry, unfortunately, will require a wrecking ball to break down the doors of Ebay and Facebook. No matter how many times and how much evidence has been provided by the industry, the social media giants are simply not interested in dealing with the problem.
Neither Facebook nor Ebay responded to Bacta’s letter calling for action.
Social responsibility doesn’t seem to register with Facebook or Ebay, and neither does illegal activity undertaken on their platforms.