CMA Demand Fairer Practices From Gambling Operators

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The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) have taken action against online gambling operators using unfair promotions that trap players money and the outcome is expected to be good news for matched betting.

Players have been complaining for a long time about promotions offering free bets and bonuses which lock in their cash, stopping them from withdrawing winnings until excessive wagering requirements have been met. Confusing or hidden terms make it difficult or impossible to know when players can get access to their money.

The CMA point out in their blog that millions of people throughout the UK gamble online every week. Despite the risks associated with betting, gambling operators are held to the same standards as other UK businesses and must provide their customers with fair and transparent terms and conditions.

Positive action began when the Gambling Commision approached the CMA in autumn 2016, expressing concerns about potentially unfair terms and practices in the burgeoning online gambling sector. The CMA reacted by opening a consumer law investigation and received feedback from over 1,000 players.

Three gambling operators commit to change betting offer terms and conditions

After considering player complaints, the CMA investigated the terms and conditions of free bets and bonus offers, using its powers to quiz operators about why they use those terms.

The evidence led the focus of the investigation to common promotions which attract players by offering bonus cash when they deposit their own money. These promotions typically combine the deposit and bonus cash, requiring players to gamble the balance several times before being allowed to withdraw winnings from the deposit.

Wagering requirements can vary between 20 times and 40 times the deposit and bonus. For example, a player depositing £20 and receiving a £20 bonus will find they have to stake a total of £800 at 20x wagering or £1600 at 40x wagering, before being allowed to make a withdrawal.

This was deemed to be unfair and as a result of the CMA investigations, three leading gambling operators – Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment (operators of Titanbet) have committed to changing the way they offer bonus promotions.

The firms have agreed to help players understand what they are signing up to by being more open about the terms and conditions of these promotions. Importantly, changes in terms will allow players to choose when to stop playing and to withdraw their own money when they want to.

The changes include:

  • Providing significant terms and conditions in advertising;
  • Ensuring any restrictions on gameplay are made clear;
  • Not relying on vague terms which can lead to a person’s money being withheld or forfeited;
  • No longer requiring that people wager their funds multiple times over before they can withdraw their own money; and
  • Not obliging players to take part in publicity.

The CMA and Gambling Commission consider this to be the standard for all gambling operators in the UK. Operators are required to adopt the same changes to the same timescales as Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment, or risk facing regulatory action.

What does this mean for matched betting?

The CMA has laid out a timescale for all operators to meet the standards with the majority of changes to come into effect by 28 February. They have until 31 July to inform players when they are playing with restricted funds and explain the consequences when not meeting wagering requirements.

The benefits for matched betting will be clearer terms so players understand how the wagering works, making it easier to calculate the value of a promotion.

The ability to withdraw deposits and winnings from deposits while having a pending bonus should give matched bettors more opportunities to win from online casino promotions. It’s impossible to predict how operators will mitigate against it but we’re hoping many more will follow the example set by Sun Bets.

Sun Bets have acted before the deadline and offer 25 free spins for new players depositing £10 in casino. The free spins are credited separately to the deposit which can be withdrawn before spending any real money plus winnings from the free spins are transferred to players’ cash accounts with no need for further wagering.

Similar promotions are likely to have wagering requirements attached to bonus winnings, however the ability to withdraw deposits without spending real money will effectively make such offers risk free.

What is matched betting?

Matched betting is is a technique that allows bettors to make a profit from betting offers by placing a bet and betting against it on a betting exchange. Matched betting involves using tools to identify the best bets to place and work out how much to lay on the exchange, this technique is used to secure a free bet at little or no cost and to lock in a profit when using the free bet.

Matched bettors also use casino promotions to make a profit. They use risk free offers and often play other offers which have a positive Estimated Value.

What other changes are in store for online gamblers?

The CMA have said they will continue to work closely with the Gambling Commission to improve conditions for online gamblers. They have already identified a few areas of concern which, once remedied, will prove very helpful to matched betting.

Many experienced matched bettors will have come across bookmakers or casino operators who make it difficult to withdraw by having to jump through hoops to verify their account. Gambling operators have a regulatory requirement to know their customers but the CMA and Gambling Commission recognise that some firms are going too far, sometimes at the expense of players.

Three issues coming under investigation are:

  • Daily, weekly or monthly limits on withdrawing funds that appear unreasonably low;
  • Potentially arbitrary short deadlines on the time customers have to verify their identity as a condition of withdrawing funds, often providing for forfeiture of consumer’s funds if missed; and
  • ‘Dormancy’ terms that allow firms to confiscate funds if they haven’t been played with for a few months.




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