Bookmakers warned after Cheltenham Festival free bet failings
January 12, 2017
The Gambling Commission has published a statement which warns bookmakers must ensure their bonus offers are fair and transparent following the fiasco with four betting websites during the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
Matched betting enthusiasts will remember with some discomfort, the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the Cheltenham promotions on FUN88, TLCBet, 12Bet and 138.com last March. The websites are owned by TGP Europe and Fesuge Limited who withheld customer funds after being deluged with punters opening new accounts on the promise of free bets for betting on Cheltenham Festival races.
The promotions were so popular that the websites involved struggled to cope with the volume of new customers and alarm bells starting ringing when customers were informed that their accounts had been suspended pending investigations into bonus abuse. Matched betting forums exploded with genuine customers wanting to know what to do to get money they were entitled to.
In total over 5000 players had their accounts suspended and disgruntled customers flooded the Gambling Commission and Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) with complaints. The Gambling Commission state over 1000 cases were referred to IBAS from over 800 separate customers.
At the same time, TGP and Fesuge notified the Gambling Commission of their concerns about bonus abuse. Following close co-operation with the Commission, the majority of customer claims were settled prior to cases going to IBAS adjudication with the website operators releasing funds to affected customers on a case-by-case basis.
The Commission found that the anti-fraud tools used by TGP and Fesuge had failed to identify people opening multiple accounts at the point of registration and they had used poor judgement when using the data to identify bonus abuse. Their terms did not make it clear that existing customers could not sign up and take advantage of the Cheltenham free bets and the Commission concluded that the operators had breached license conditions under ‘fair and open’ provisions and Social Responsibility.
In accepting the Gambling Commission findings, TGP and Fesuge have implemented a wide package of measures to improve compliance and contributed £7000 towards the Commission’s costs to investigate the matter. They have stated they did not benefit financially from their failures and the resultant review of their business has cost them a substantial amount of money.
In conclusion, Gambling Commission said the case provides valuable learning for betting operators offering bonus promotions as a normal course of business. You can read the Gambling Commission statement here.