How the investigation into online gambling could be helpful to matched betting
October 25, 2016
News that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is conducting an investigation into online gambling is welcomed here at Matched Bets and we’re hopeful the outcome will be helpful to match betting as well as millions of punters who like to bet online.
The authorities are concerned that customers of online gambling websites may not be getting a fair deal and are calling for greater transparency regarding terms and promotions. It looks as though something is going to be done about it now that the Gambling Commission and CMA have joined forces to dig deeper into the issues.
There can’t be many with as much experience of the varying standards on online gambling sites than match bettors who have grabbed welcome offers from the majority of websites accepting UK customers.
From personal experience and from providing support for matched betting, I’m all too aware of the problems that can be encountered when using gambling sites. Thankfully, I’ve found the service to be good and better on the majority of sites but there is room for improvement.
UK sportsbooks tend to give clear terms and conditions about their offers and promotions but I do come across some examples that contain ambiguities or lack important information. These are often, although not exclusively, websites that began life as online casinos and have expanded to offering sports betting or originate from parts of the world where consumer rights are not as well protected as here in the UK.
It is online casinos that potentially face a tougher time as the CMA considers enforcement action. Some of the high wagering requirements go beyond protection against bonus abuse and appear designed to make it difficult or near impossible to make withdrawals once the customer accepts a bonus.
From a matched betting point of view, the major gripes come from the manner in which betting sites restrict access to offers and promotions and being made to jump through hoops in order to withdraw winnings.
While I’ve not experienced it myself, I’ve encountered a number of complaints about bookmakers cancelling bets due to incorrect odds and have been able to point customers in the direction of IBAS who can ensure companies adhere to their own terms and conditions.
Some casinos have confiscated money from customers taking advantage, wittingly or unwittingly, of loopholes in certain games and this has been a greater cause for concern.
If you are matched betting and have experienced any of these issues, you are encouraged to assist the investigation by providing the CMA with details. You’ll find more information about the case into online gambling on the government website or you can read on to find out all you need to know about the investigation.
Why the CMA is investigating online gambling
The Gambling Commission, which works with licensing authorities to regulate commercial gambling in the UK, has become increasingly concerned about misleading promotions and unfair terms on gambling websites.
It is felt that some online gambling companies are deliberately setting out to bamboozle customers rather than help them make an informed choice. Believing some operators are potentially in breach of consumer law, the Gambling Commission raised their concerns with the CMA.
What the Gambling Commission and CMA say about online gambling
On revealing the joint program with the Gambling Commission and CMA, the relevant spokespersons had the following to say about the need to tackle fairness and transparency in the gambling industry.
Sarah Harrison, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, said:
“We expect the gambling industry to ensure terms and conditions are not unfair. However, operators are still not doing enough. I continue to have concerns that many of these appear to bamboozle rather than help the customer make informed choices.
Gambling, by its very nature, is always going to involve risk but customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand.
We approached the CMA to work with them to address issues in the gambling sector and we are delighted to have agreed a joint programme of work to ensure terms are fair and transparent.”
Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement, added:
“Gambling inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con. We’re worried players are losing out because gambling sites are making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing, and may not be giving them a fair deal. We are now investigating to see whether firms are breaking the law.”
“Around 5.5 million Britons gamble online and they must be treated fairly. We’ve heard worrying complaints suggesting people may be lured into signing up for promotions with little chance of winning because of unfair and complex conditions. We’re now working closely with the Gambling Commission to examine this more closely.”
How customers could be losing out to unfair online gambling practices
The CMA’s initial review of the gambling sector found examples of potentially unfair treatment which warranted a more comprehensive examination. It led to Friday’s announcement that it has launched a full investigation into online gambling and the first step was to issue Information Notices requiring evidence from companies which they are legally obliged to provide.
There are three main areas of concern:
- Players being locked into complex and strict requirements linked to gaming promotions that are difficult to understand and may be unachievable. These can include terms that require people to play for longer than they had bargained for before they can withdraw money. The CMA is also concerned that players may not be able to withdraw what remains of their deposit, and any winnings, when they want to stop playing.
- Companies having a wide discretion to cancel bets or alter odds after bets have been accepted, because they made a mistake when the odds were first set. The CMA is investigating whether the terms operators rely on in cases such as this are fair.
- Terms restricting players’ ability to challenge a firm’s decision, for example by placing very short time limits on making a complaint or inaccurately suggesting that other means of redress are not available.
How customers can contribute the CMA investigation into online gambling
The CMA has the power to enforce consumer protection legislation through the courts and must establish whether such action is required. Before coming to a decision, the CMA is also asking online gamblers to provide details if they have any experienced any of the above issues.
If you have been affected by any of these issues and would like to tell the CMA about your experience, email [email protected]. It will assist the investigation to include in the subject line whether the information relates to:
Sign up promotions
Restricted ability to claim