‘Justice for Punters’ is really pleased the programme was aired. It’s very important that other specialist media cover the topics also, but not in a way that lacks depth or simply restates industry PR, without scrutiny, as has often been the case.
It was confirmed, not in as many words in the programme, that the modern marketplace means that all sports punters will be restricted (effectively closed down) if they don’t bet in a way that is acceptable to bookmakers. If punters do as stated they are very, very likely to become losing punters, thus adding to the 97-98% that already lose.
The present image the bookmaking industry markets, therefore is a ‘sham’ and breaks the Consumer Act (2015). Under the Act trading must be fair based on the contract offered and signed. In order to do that bookmakers will have to be forced to ask new customers to tick a statement that clearly outlines that nobody is allowed to win using skill or by trading in certain other ways. Details of the latter would have to be clearly explained. This is one way of not breaching the Consumer Act (2015) in the future.
Secondly, all customers with accounts still open, even if that is only for gambling in an online casino should be sent an email fully explaining the same things. This will not re-open the restricted accounts, but will explain to those people why they have been discriminated against. It will also warn losing customers that if they attempt to change the way they bet from being haphazard to any sort of logical approach they will also be restricted (effectively closed down).
The only other ways to address this breach of the Consumer Act (2015) is:
- For bookmakers to voluntarily introduce a minimum bet rule.
- For government to pass new primary legislation which provides the right to bet for citizens based on certain criteria, e.g. like some Australian state governments have done.
- For a group of restricted punters to take out a class action against a bookmaker and bring about change through the courts based on breaches of the said Act.
Point 3 would surely not be welcomed by anyone? Point 2 has already been discussed in a meeting between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and ‘Justice for Punters’ and it’s likely this is now going to lead to a series of meetings. Point 1 would be the ideal solution and if the bookmakers would stop and think for a moment it is probably the best option for them as points 2&3 will eventually lead to a worse deal for the industry. Simon Clare seemed very keen on punters being more creative in their betting to avoid restrictions; perhaps the industry could be more creative in their thinking, so that they trade fairly under the Consumer Act (2015)?
We know from experience in Australia that the bookmaking industry is unlikely to opt for point 1 without a prolonged fight. However, not one bookmaker has given their licence back since the implementation of a minimum bet rule in two states with more states to follow, so why would an industry spend a fortune defending the indefensible, i.e. that a gambling licence allows a company to only trade with those who lose, when it would not be difficult to discuss a new approach that suits all sides and no longer breaches any Acts.
There is a long way to go on both sides of this argument, but in the UK there is no question that it is likely the consumer will eventually obtain their rights, because of all the adverse publicity surrounding so many aspects of how primarily large corporate bookmakers have been trading over the last 11 years since the liberalisation of gambling.
Update: It’s been pointed out that Coral shops do have guarantees and we do believe it is fair that we should point this out despite the main observations being about signing contracts, which only occurs online. These guarantees are available to those who live within a sensible distance to travel, but it cannot be guaranteed that the odds a person saw will still be available when they get to a shop. It is still a fact, irrespective of this, that many, many people will be restricted and not allowed to place bets of even £5 if they bet in certain ways.