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The Dark Side of Gambling Regulation

It’s reached that point where I have to ask; are gambling regulation leaders BLIND or CORRUPT?

I don’t use these words lightly. So please, humour me and spend a couple of minutes reading this article. I’ll waste no time and get straight to the point…

A Gigantic Problem For UK Consumers:

Technology has advanced significantly over the last 20 years. Not only has it provided betting companies with easier access to consumers, but it has enabled them to collect massive data around customer behaviour. The bets you make, the time you spend on a web page, your age, sex, location and thousands of other data points are collected by computer algorithms and scrutinised every minute of the day.

Much like Amazon knows what you’ll be buying for Christmas in 7 weeks time, Bet365 knows what you are most likely to bet on.

  • It’s the same reason that they are the most successful betting company in the world, having started in a car park 21 years ago.
  • It’s the same reason Denise Coates is the biggest UK taxpayer with a net worth of £8BN.
  • It’s the same reason winning bettors are identified and stake restricted in less than a day.

To avoid paying out winners, betting companies routinely use ‘affordability’ and ‘money laundering’ checks against consumers who are processing withdrawals. Companies engineer the process so that it is often drawn out over weeks, asking for multiple forms of identification, sensitive financial information and proof of wealth. They will find anything they can to avoid paying out.

This is wrong, it’s a grotesque abuse of regulation that has been going on for over 10 years now.

Current Activity:

Gambling legislation is being reviewed by the UK government. Quite rightly, they want to prevent gambling harm.

Betting companies have routinely failed to identify problem gambling cases that have tragically led to suicide in some cases because they have been using these affordability checks on the wrong section of customers – people who wish to withdraw money.

Reminder: these same companies send the biggest losers extra free bets and hospitality invites. Often identified as “VIP” customers.

Identification or Integrity?

Betting companies insist that this is an identification problem. They claim that the affordability process should be enforced at a lower level and they need to see sensitive personal data such as consumers bank statements, passports, P60’s, photo’s of bank cards, source of wealth and sometimes more.

So I guess you can’t experience gambling harm unless you can’t afford it?

Furthermore, the UK Gambling Commission and UK Gambling Minister have recently proposed a “single customer view” as the solution.

For anyone unsure, that means they are planning to share all of the aforementioned information with every licensed betting provider if you should submit it to one company. The logic is that; if betting company A identify you as a risk to yourself, then companies B, C, D and so on will also be aware.

In reality, this means something else;

  • Companies will know who the rich problem cases and high-value customers are
  • Addicts will be targetted heavily, right up until they have no money left
  • Companies will know who the winners and low-value customers are
  • Savvy bettors will be restricted across all betting sites when identified by one

This has already happened before, examples being when Betfred purchased The Tote or when Paddy Power merged with Betfair.

Furthermore, as per previous experiences, companies will repeatedly ask for more documentation and proof if a customer is withdrawing a significant amount of winnings. In most cases, consumers will give up as it’s not worth the hassle of 6 weeks and endless email tennis about identification and where you got the money from to have a bet.

This is not an identification problem, it’s an integrity problem and has been for the last 10 years.

So who is behind this? What have they said? Are they being honest? Let’s take a look…

Andrew Rhodes Says… (CEO UK Gambling Commission)

Recently the UKGC’s CEO posted an article where he compared betting companies to pub landlords.

“This is not some Big Brother style ‘gamblers register’. It’s about helping operators solve their own problem. Look at Pubs. There is a point where a Pub landlord will stop serving you, often as much for your own good as it is for their business. And other Pubs won’t serve that same customer either. “

In the Racing Post a similar article was published where he was asked about bookmakers using SCV to prohibit winners, he said:

“Single customer view is about triggers of harm behaviour, not triggers of successful gambling,” he insists. “If the industry tried to build that you would see intervention from the regulator because that would be going well beyond what we are trying to do.”

Both of these comments are ludicrous, the second comment in particular. Thousands of consumers have been complaining about this behaviour for years, submissions to the UKGC have been made about it, newspapers have written about it and he claims that the regulator would intervene if bookmakers were to behave in this way.

They’re already doing it, and he’s doing nothing about it.

The first comment is equally frustrating. I would accept the comparison between Betting Company and Publican if;

  • Publicans banned customers arriving for happy hour
  • Publicans sent free beers to alcoholics (see Skybet this week)
  • Publicans restricted low-value customers
  • Publicans wanted 3 months bank statements, passport, P60 & source of wealth to buy a pint

Betting companies are nothing like pub landlords and never will be.

It gets worse though, the regulator he heads has been warned many times about different issues and failed to act. A prime example being the Football Index collapse this year. This very blog published several articles about it BEFORE it happened and I called the UKGC warning them about it twice. You can see an email 11th December 2020 here.

Nearly a full year later, in this UKGC article he had the nerve to say:

“Had the Commission been made aware of the company’s actions, suspension of its licence would have come much sooner.”

This leads me back to the original question – is this man blind or corrupt?

I’ve also made several attempts to contact Mr Rhodes on these issues, something government ministers advise. All are promptly ignored.

Chris Philp MP Says… (UK Gambling Minister)

The UK Gambling Minister appears to be in the same bracket. Please see this gambling conference video where he explains that the SCV solution would mean betting companies sharing data like finance companies.

Much like the Publican comparison, I would accept it if:

  • Finance companies banned consumers who sought the best interest rates
  • Finance companies targetted high debt customers with 59% APR credit cards
  • Finance companies used regulation to add friction and avoid paying out savers
  • Finance companies used personal information and bank statements against them for corporate benefit

Finance companies behave nothing like betting companies.

Now Chris Philp has not been in the job long, and it may be that he does not understand these issues. It’s extremely unlikely, although maybe he doesn’t. Unfortunately, contacting him gets you a civil servant response referring you to the UKGC for ‘feedback’ that is of course, promptly ignored.

However, this is highly concerning. Especially in light of other Tory MP’s taking payment from private companies for their influence recently.

Both Andrew and Chris are supposed to be protecting consumers and representing the general public. Not betting corporations.

Who Represents YOU?

It really does leave me wondering; who are these people working for? because it should be us, the 30,000,000 general public members that have a flutter each month.

Currently, it doesn’t like anyone is, so I’d prompt you to write to your local MP now. Take 10 minutes to find their email here. Ask for an appointment and complain about the abuse of affordability checks by betting companies, tell them that a “single customer view” will be devastating in no more than 3 paragraphs. Make it clear in no uncertain terms, gambling harm is an integrity issue, not an identification issue.

If ever there has to be affordability checks, they must be handled independently.

7 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Gambling Regulation

  1. An important article fairly representing genuine concerns of consumers
    I.may be on the other side of the fence as an operator- but I fundamentally object to the use of affordability checks ( invading someone’s right to privacy ) to weed out unprofitable customers

    Large companies have embraced single customer view and affordability because, in my view, they derive CLEAR COMMERCIAL BENEFIT from the same

    Right now you may not fully understand and the scale of the problem know that your data can be shared worldwide by these companies and they will be able to profile you as never before whilst governments will will achieve a new level of information on people and their finances

    Every consumer should resist this actively right now this is the work of zealots

  2. Speaking as a punter who has lost almost every account to ‘trading decisions’ and who is only at best borderline profitable, affordability checks will be the final straw for me. There is no way I would be prepared to send any bookmaker personal financial data, so if it does become mandatory, at my age I would reluctantly have to call it a day. Its a very good article Caan and I particularly like your analogies re. landlords and finance companies which are spot on.

  3. It’s not regulation, it’s protectionism. Until the GC start acting on behalf of the consumer it will never change. Won’t be anytime soon under this current govt.

  4. So, I currently do not have an account with any gambling company worldwide. This means I have nothing to worry about regarding the introduction of the SCV. Er, no.

    In 2009, I requested Betfair to permanently close the account that I had with them. Due to correspondence that I had with them back then, I believe that they treated my request as a request to be “permanently excluded”. I know that Paddy Power have this “permanent exclusion” held in their electronic records.

    So, into the SCV I go, methinks. Furthermore, I’ll probably be flagged as a “problem gambler” even though I have recorded my profit and loss for over 40 years.

    I can’t think of a more intrusive piece of proposed legislation than the SCV, even HMRC would blush.

  5. Great article.I might as well give up now! My actual income that could be shown is only £12k pa( retired).If other articles I have read are correct,and no investment/capital will be taken into consideration).Then the example I have seen somewhere,would alow me to bet to around £250 per month,a quarter of income.Winnings/Profits are not taken into consideration again!.The last 20 years plus,I have records,that show very reasonable profits.I am bound to be stopped.

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