The size of the illegal betting market has become “a nightmare”, the president of the National Betting Authority Ioanna Fiakkou said on Monday, stressing the need for a revised regulatory framework currently under development.

Speaking at the 6th Safe Gambling Conference, marking the commencement of Safe Gambling Week, Fiakkou highlighted the gravity of the situation.

“If there is a serious threat at this moment, it is the illegal market,” she said.

Fiakkou reiterated the importance of discussing openly and honestly the necessity for a fully regulated market.

She emphasised that this could only be achieved through a balanced regulatory framework, the application of appropriate legislation and investment in the proper training of industry personnel.

Stressing the need to focus on the bigger picture rather than getting entangled in politics, Fiakkou added that the authority is working on a new bill aiming to ensure the provision of licensed services is conducted fairly and transparently and to remove any connection between gambling and criminality or the black market.

The bill also seeks to prevent any links to criminal elements or support for illegality, while ensuring the adequate protection of players, especially minors and vulnerable groups.

The proposed legislation includes recommendations such as introducing new products to make the market economically sustainable, the introduction of ad hoc B2B gambling licences, the commitment to guaranteeing safe gambling practices and implementing financial blocking in collaboration with banks to exclude customers engaged in illegal betting activities.

Fiakkou said the authority “is ready to support the government in implementing the revised regulatory framework, providing the necessary expertise and assistance”.

“The success of the new bill is crucial to addressing the ever-growing issue of the illegal betting market, which has become a nightmare,” she said.

Safe Gambling Week aims to promote responsible gambling and raise awareness of the risks associated with excessive betting and gaming, aligning with the authority’s “long-standing commitment to player protection and societal well-being”.

As part of the initiative, the National Betting Authority also organised an event called “Graffiti Street Art and Safe Gaming”.

According to a statement released by the Larnaca municipality, “six artists in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, and the Famagusta district will convey the messages of Safe Gambling Week through five distinct and visually striking murals.”