The primary objective of our latest meeting at the Gambling Commission (GC) was to find out what may happen after the imminent departure of Sarah Harrison their CEO. We had major worries; we were meeting with Sarah and other senior staff.
We’re pleased to report that it’s unlikely that much is going to change; in fact we got the distinct impression that the GC has finally recognised that a larger consumer input into their work is needed, alongside more regular severe penalties for errant gambling company practices. It’s only six days since we met and it has become clear that we weren’t wrong on the latter observation due to the announcement of:
- An advertising clampdown by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
- A 350K fine for Electraworks Limited on the same theme
- Tighter regulation of customer VIP status
J4P can’t comment on Electraworks, because we don’t have enough detail, but the other two things are needed.
The ASA announcement will probably have the biggest implication for a ‘fair and open’ gambling market. This was likely proven by industry officials immediately taking to media and bleating about how difficult everything will be in the future due to a lack of clarity in the new guidelines. This is a bit like blaming referees when the team you manage loses. Usually when teams lose they should be looking at themselves not blaming others. J4P will be keeping a close eye on things. We will be campaigning for explicit terms and conditions on general adverts that state customers are not allowed to win using study and skill, as well all the ‘rogue’ T&Cs used for promotional offers.
Tighter regulation for VIP status is primarily a focus on problem gambling and could lead to more fines for those companies who don’t take note. Just about every company needs to ask themselves why the same ‘Know Your Customer’ checks are not completed when people are offered VIP status as is sometimes the case for those who try to withdraw £200. As an example, winners have their accounts blocked until masses of documentation is provided, whereas those offered VIP status, some of which, have gambling problems frequently only get asked the same questions verbally and their accounts are not blocked. All the companies concerned know this differing treatment of customers dependent on their profile is completely unacceptable and purely based on potential profits (greed if you wish).
The most important thing we discussed in our meeting was:
The GC consultation into ‘Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP)’ (http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/Have-your-say-on-proposals-to-make-gambling-more-fair-and-open.aspx). The GC is extremely keen to hear from consumers, so don’t miss your chance. If you want the GC to have more powers to enforce fair play of any sort, including the ‘right to bet’, in other words to introduce a minimum bet/liability rule for sports betting you need to contribute to the Consultation. It’s not difficult to make your point sensibly, e.g. it’s simply immoral that a UK gambling licence allows companies to refuse to trade with anyone who shows ability when sports betting. Everyone knows that large bets cannot be accepted forever from customers who win regularly, but a gambling licence should stipulate that single bets with a minimum liability of £500 cannot be refused. If a company does not want to lay smaller bets than this they should have their licence taken off them. According to our government there are plenty other more traditional jobs available for those not interested in being bookmakers.
The other major topic discussed was the continuing Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into unfair T&Cs used online. We’re pleased to report that there is no sign of this investigation stopping, with the well known next priority being companies not paying out by utilising unfair T&Cs. We did ask the question, “Will the investigation continue until the contract gambling customers sign up to online is fair?” We didn’t receive an answer that was completely clear, but there certainly is a commitment to making things much better than they are presently. Like advertising, we will not stop campaigning until the contracts are fair and every customer knows clearly the service there’re being offered, e.g. If you’re not allowed to win using study and skill this should be made totally clear on advertising and on registration. Registration should not be possible without ticking a specific box that means a new customer has understood and agreed to there being no chance of winning in the medium term (maybe even short term), except through pure luck. The customer can then decide to take their business elsewhere if they deem gambling without aspiration is a waste of time.
We don’t have a date yet, but we are hoping to meet again before the end of the LCCP consultation period, e.g. before 5.00pm on 22 April 2018. We’ve been promised that this meeting will be to discuss options for a minimum bet/liability rule.
Overall a very positive meeting, but it will have been a waste of our time and our own money if punters don’t contribute to the LCCP consultation and again to the CMA investigation.