Betting Firms Must Abandon ‘Unfair Promotions’ That ‘Trap Money’

PT Entertainment, William Hill and Ladbrokes have all confirmed that they will change their bonus promotions in order to stop the practice of ‘trapping players’s money’, they confirmed today. The news comes in the wake of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority, known as the CMA, who have been working together with the Gambling Commission to try to help improve the playing conditions of punters who predominantly work with online bookmakers.

The changes will be adapted across the industry, with any companies refusing to do so facing regulatory action from the Gambling Commission. It’s largely because of a CMA investigation to find out whether any consumer protection laws were being broken, which they felt was happening. The promotions that most obviously caused problems as far as the CMA was concerned were ones that attracted customers to online casinos and similar gaming websites by promising bonus funds in exchange for a deposit of cash.

What Is Going To Change?

The decision by the CMA and Gambling Authority to introduce changes to the way promotions work will ensure that players will be able to withdraw their own money without the need to play multiple times before being able to do so. If you’ve ever taken advantage of a promotion then you’ll know the sort of thing that this means, such as when you’re informed you need to ‘rollover’ your own cash several times before you’ll be allowed to withdraw your own cash.

Online gambling companies will also need to ensure that they make restrictions on the various types of gameplay perfectly clear to punters before they take up the promotion, rather than burying things deep in terms and conditions. They’ll also have to stop telling players that they need to take part in publicity events in order to collect any winnings.

The investigation into the matter was launched in October of 2016, aimed at dealing with the lack of transparency and fairness in a part of the industry that is worth £4.7 billion. Part of the worry was that players were being lulled into playing games because of cleverly worded bonus offers, before they were then forced to play for longer than they’d intended to in order to withdraw money that was their own in the first place.

Why The CMA Has Made This Decision

The Competition and Markets Authority opened their investigation after concerns were raised with the way some operators were working. They spoke to more than a thousand customers with online accounts, leading them to speak to some of the companies that ran the online enterprises and also examining both adverts and terms and conditions for offers.

In June of 2017 the investigation produced its first results, with the CMA opening cases against several online gambling operators that it believed had treated consumers unfairly. Now it is taking things one step further, attacking the very promotions that are common across the industry when it comes to online deals.

George Lusty, the Project Director, confirmed that they understood that gambling carries an inherent risk but that players shouldn’t be stopped from reclaiming their own money. He said, “Firms mustn’t stack the odds against players, by putting unfair obstacles in their way, or making it difficult for them to stop gambling when they want to”.

In one instance, a company launched an offer that said that they would match a customer’s deposit, but in the small print it made clear that said deposit would need to be wagered fifty times before they’d be able to not only withdraw any winnings but even take back the cash that they had deposited in the first place. Little wonder that the founder of the campaign group Justice4Punters, Brian Chappell, said that since the CMA launched its investigation, ‘millions have been lost and many people have been conned by the T&Cs in these promotions.

Will Bookmakers Object?

Though William Hill, Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment, which is the company behind sites such as TitanBet and Winner, have already confirmed that they’ll adopt the changes, the rest of the industry will look to work together with the Gambling Commission to ensure it’s entirely clear what’s expected of them. The Director of Business for the Remote Gambling Association, Brian Wright, said, “There are clearly lessons to be learned for some companies and we will work with the Gambling Commission and others to raise standards wherever necessary. We have already held productive discussions with the CMA and the Commission to consider how best to achieve that”.

Ladbrokes Coral, the parent company of Ladbrokes since the two firms merged, released a statement confirming that they are ‘committed to ensuring that we meet the standards set’. William Hill said something not too dissimilar in their own statement when they confirmed that they ‘welcome the standards and principles that the CMA have outlined’.

Given that the CMA confirmed that companies not adopting similar changes across the sector will face action from the Gambling Commission, it’s unlikely that gambling firms will have anywhere to go if they wish to object. The Executive Director of the Gambling Commission, Sarah Gardner, confirmed as much when she said, “Gambling firms must treat their customers fairly and not attach unreasonable terms and conditions to their promotions and offers”.