UK gambling companies struggling with complaints deadline and ads crackdown

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UK Watchdog is progressing in clearing up the gambling industry from misleading offers and unfair restrictions on withdrawals


It is going to be a 'hot autumn' for UK betting firms that are facing a crackdown on some advertising rules breaches over the summer. The regulator is keen to ensure fairer treatment for gamblers, and from October the Gambling Commission will have the power to inflict unlimited fines to those brands that have done advertising campaign that have appeal to children or that have positioned gambling in a glamorous way.

Another point where the watchdog is focused on complains: gambling operators will have an eight-week deadline to address and resolve complaints from customers. The UK Gambling Commission is going to have the necessary power to take action a lot quicker over breaches like misleading promotions and offers that have unreasonable terms. Some brands still have some despicable rules in the attempt to delay and limit withdrawals of winnings, and this is entirely unacceptable.

'It was about time that the Gambling Commission was given more power to intervene', said John Pentin CEO of 'We do review hundreds of casino operators every month, and we can see that despite the vast majority are being transparent with customers, there is a minority that is still trying to use old-school tactics.  Some are misleading or cause problems for those customers that want to withdraw their winnings: this is completely unacceptable in a highly regulated gambling market like the UK'.

The UK gambling online market is continuing to grow, and in the last year, Britons gambled £13.9bn. The industry currently employs more than 100,000 people, and there are 8,532 betting shops around the countries. It was, however, during the World Cup that the exposure to gambling advertising reached the peak: British viewers had to stomach almost 90 minutes of betting adverts, including children.

Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission, said he was convinced that these changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions. Customers will be allowed to withdraw their money a lot more easily, and complaints will be dealt a lot more swiftly.

The changes are the result of open consultation and are done with the aim of protecting gamblers and vulnerable people. Operators need to take those new rules very seriously and will also face penalties for misleading advertising that is done by third-party affiliates like marketing agencies that are sending spam emails or texts to customers.

Brian Chappell of Justice for Punters said that although the changes are very welcomed, we would need to wait to see if these new powers are going to be used appropriately to protect gambling consumers.

The Competition and Market Authority (CMA) has also been involved in the last couple of years. They launched an investigation together with the Gambling Commission back in 2016 to establish whether online gambling companies were treating their customers fairly. The outcome of this investigation led the CMA to launch in June 2017 enforcement action against some gambling operators that were found breaking consumer law concerning their advertising. The response has been rather fast from the likes of Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment that have changed, as a result, their bonus promotions to customers playing online. BGO Entertainment also followed shortly after.

Lots of senior gambling industry figures have also admitted that there are concerns especially in regards to children being exposed to far too many betting and casino adverts on TV.  The feeling most people had during the World Cup was that the situation in regards to gambling ads is mostly 'out of control'.

Philip Bowcock, the chief executive of William Hill, said in a recent interview with The Guardian that some changes are needed, but the government has to take the lead. He also added that he would be sympathetic to a review around the level of advertising.

On similar positions, it is also Paddy Power Betfair who said to be supportive of further regulation especially around TV advertising so to protect the children.

Currently, gambling adverts are allowed before 9 pm in the UK as long as they are linked with live sport events like the Premier League and the World Cup.

In Australia, by stark contrast, gambling advertising was banned if accompanying live sports with the government idea to break the growing link between sport and gambling.

Peter Jackson, the chief executive of Paddy Power Betfair, said that limits should be reduced but in reality, it is difficult to expect that the industry will self-regulate on this matter. Without clear rules, there will always be less responsible operators that will raise the bar and trying to take advantage in a very competitive market like the UK.

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