Recently the Gambling Commission CEO dismissed my question as ‘made up nonsense’ and accused me of being ‘silly’ and ‘abusive’.
He then proceeded to censor my response by deleting my comments.
I’ve had enough, It’s time to speak up publicly, back my arguments with evidence and share what I believe is truly going on with the Gambling Act Review.
Legal Disclaimer: I believe this article is 100% factually correct. However, I am aware that multiple parties within the gambling debate frequently engage in threats of litigation. If you believe anything needs correcting within this article, please contact me immediately. Be advised that any legal communications may be published in this article in their entirety.
This article is likely to be extremely long. I will speak of things that I have not previously mentioned in public. I apologise for the length although context is important.
Starting With Context: The Catalyst
The DCMS parliamentary select committee hearing occurred last week. Those familiar with the gambling industry witnessed several uncomfortable instances. The session was rife with contradictions, inaccuracies, and ill-informed questions. There are many different views and interests in this debate although I think we can all agree on one thing:
The Gambling Commission (UKGC) and current Government have and are totally failing the public within this review.
Many of us have contacted our MPs, the UKGC, and journalists regarding various issues over the last few years. The responses (if any) have been less than satisfactory.
I wrote to the Gambling Commission warning them about Football Index in December 2020. A friend, Paul Spry, followed with an open complaint and question about the potential Ponzi scheme. Greg Wood of the Guardian, equally concerned, wrote an article about how I was abused for raising concerns in the public domain.
The Gambling Commission did nothing.
Then, in March 2021 it collapsed with £124M in consumer funds. The anti-gambling ambulance chasers jumped into action, journalists penned articles about how there would be suicides and the industry was condemned as irresponsible.
I have also contacted the commission via telephone on multiple occasions about companies using checks to withhold withdrawals.
So, somewhat frustrated at the select committee hearing I re-posted some of the most ridiculous moments on Twitter/X (bear this in mind for later in the article).
A day or so after Twitter users pointed out that the CEO of the Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, was responding to questions on Linked In. I thought it would probably be a waste of time, much like my previous interactions with the UKGC. However, seeing that he was answering others it had to be worth a go…
This shocking interaction will be shared in full shortly.
Why Write Such A Scathing Article?
Affordability checks, now desperately being rebranded as “risk and vulnerability checks” have directly affected me, countless sports bettors, and the users of this website. Thousands, including me, have been exploited commercially, masked as ‘regulation’, ‘safety’, and ‘security’.
When figures like the newly appointed gambling minister, Stuart Andrew, or executives from the Gambling Commission, claim otherwise, it feels like a slap in the face.
I’ve depended on gambling industry income for over a decade. While I understand professional gamblers might not be the central concern, I run a taxpaying business that others rely on.
The debate often highlights the 100,000 betting industry jobs but overlooks the millions in auxiliary roles or running small businesses connected to the sector. The industry isn’t just mega-corporations and gambling addicts; there’s more to the story.
Affordability checks are crippling sports betting. We see dwindling exchange liquidity and bettors opting out, with horse racing taking a substantial hit. Consumers resist sending their financial details to offshore giants that misuse their data and share it around.
As consumers leave, many businesses, including mine, are seeing plummeting revenues. My livelihood and everything I’ve built are at risk. These checks are tearing down an industry.
But the most frustrating part? they don’t even help the vulnerable.
How Affordability, AML and KYC Checks Are Used (in Reality)
In reality, these checks are exploited and there’s a tonne of evidence to support it. This is at the heart of my complaint.
Despite denials from the Gambling Commission and Andrew Rhodes, I’ve seen the reality firsthand. My recent interactions with Andrew have led me to believe that they’re not just unaware but may be intentionally obfuscating the truth, possibly even misleading the Government. Some believe this is why another consultation has been set up in such a complex and confusing way. Navigating through its hundreds of lengthy and leading questions requires exceptional persistence.
Note: Findings from the first Gambling Commission call for evidence in 2020/21 have not been published (16,000 responses received).
Similar to the tactics of the anti-gambling lobby and certain Guardian journalists, the strategy seems to be to target the author, sidestep genuine issues, and downplay valid concerns. The approach is to overlook facts, suppress information, reiterate falsehoods until accepted, and then continue business as usual.
Anyone who disagrees is a nasty person, or just being silly.
Even if there’s proof that gambling companies are directly using consumer bank statements (requested for regulatory reasons) to enforce dubious terms and conditions…
Obviously, these checking processes took place after a consumer had won and hit withdraw. It’s not in isolation either, social media is awash with such cases from multiple companies. Greg Wood of the Guardian wrote about how bookmakers are using checks to refuse paying out winnings almost 7 years ago.
Supporting evidence can be found at the end of this article. Additionally, our YouTube channel features numerous videos from the past two years. The hundreds of comments on each video affirm that these incidents aren’t isolated.
The UKGC website states that;
“withdrawal of funds must not prompt an operator to request this information”
During the select committee, Tim Miller of the Gambling Commission (sat next to Andrew Rhodes) said;
“any data that is collected through this can only be used for the purposes of helping to protect consumers. It cannot be used for commercial purposes, and if operators were to do so, not only would they find themselves on the sharp end of regulation from us but also from the information commissioner”
See it for yourself, watch his body language too:
Consumer trust? Another insult.
The worst offenders continue to withhold customer funds on withdrawal citing regulatory checks.
What action the commission has taken? NONE.
It’s beyond beggars belief. Betting companies haven’t stopped someone who has lost almost £300,000 over an extended period of time, but limit winning account that has won a meagre £300 in days. Additionally, I’ve received legal threats from other companies for highlighting their practice of limiting successful accounts. It seems they’re reluctant for the average person to know the consequences of winning money and attempting to withdraw it.
Yet the Gambling Commission and Government expect consumers to entrust these companies with their most private financial details?
Is Dispute Resolution: Fair and Open? Really?
Reminder: The UKGC’s second licensing objective is to ensure gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
So once you’ve had the bare-faced gall to place a bet, win some money and hit the withdraw button the inevitable checks begin (note they were not bothered by the initial deposit).
This is how it typically works in my lived experience:
- Operators often request various documents for ‘regulatory and compliance’ purposes. Commonly, they ask for a driver’s license, utility bill, three months unredacted bank statements, proof of income, evidence of savings, payslips, and pictures of the bank card used for depositing.
- This usually initiates a drawn-out back-and-forth exchange via email. They might request the same item repeatedly, claiming they never received it.
- When they finally acknowledge receipt, the real challenges arise, with demands for extra documentation and rejecting submissions for nonsensical reasons.
- In extreme cases, some require you to pose with all these documents outside your residence to validate your identity.
Up until point #3, and depending on the operator, this process usually takes 48 hours to 2 weeks. The dirtiest players will have you playing email tennis for longer.
This is an example of an account that had only deposited £10:
Next, the excuses come. For instance, if someone transferred you money, they might argue, based on their questionable terms and conditions, that a third party financed your betting. As a result, they refuse to pay out. Best-case scenario, they’ll only return your initial deposit, even though you bore all the risk with the bets.
But the checks can’t be used for commercial purposes, right?
It gets worse when you see some of the most recent terms and conditions these sites stipulate.
For example; Unibet’s term section 16 says…
So if your friend has sent you money, you have another betting company on your bank statement, or colluded with a friend by betting on the same thing – you might not get paid.
I mean honestly, in 2023 people are digitally sending each other money and using WiFi hotspots every second of the day. How is this an indicator of foul play?
Note: if your ‘collusion’ is by following dead-end tips that make them profit, it’s not questioned.
Unibet is the data handler, judge, jury and commercial executioner here. The Gambling Commission appointed them with the responsibility.
But are they alone? Here’s just one of Bet365’s terms…
If you bet with another provider they might not pay you either. I won’t delve into every operator’s terms here, but it’s important to note that they tend to be quite similar across the board.
So what dispute resolutions has the consumer got?
IBAS or eCOGRA depending on which operator it is. Both of these are known to side with the betting company’s ridiculous terms and conditions. Before submitting a complaint you need to go through the company’s complaints procedure (usually 2 weeks minimum). The dispute resolution process from here fluctuates depending on the case (up to 12 weeks).
Now bearing in mind you’ve probably wasted 4 months of your life at this point, if you should wish to take things further – where do you go?
The Gambling Commission won’t comment on individual cases, seemingly they’re not interested (unless it’s about gambling harm). MPs often offer sympathetic gestures, but usually respond with generic, templated assurances that all checks will be smooth – a rather laughable claim. Journalists, for the most part, either miss the subtle intricacies of the situation or show an interest only when the story involves a massive payout or extreme, sensationalist angles related to tragedy.
The public gets stiffed.
Lived Experiences Matter?
I’ve highlighted the common experiences of many bettors. But to present a well-rounded view, there are other groups worth noting.
Consider this premium statement from a Betfair account: The account boasts a profit of £1,735,317.68. Throughout its history, Betfair has levied ‘premium charge’ fees amounting to £723,806.01, essentially an extra tax for being successful.
Affordability documentation was requested and a £1000 deposit limit was applied.
Update: we are pleased to report that deposit limits on the above account have now been lifted.
Moreover, how do self-employed individuals, company directors, and retirees prove their income? They don’t have standard PAYE slips to present to betting companies. With the affordability checks in place, they’re cut off at the knees. Unlucky, it’s game over they couldn’t care less.
Regrettably, the lived experiences of such groups seem to fall on deaf ears. Their freedom to use their own post-tax money is curtailed by a small yet vociferous (and often litigious) group of campaigners. Their narratives and “experiences” seem to overshadow all others. To question it is labelled as insensitive.
It strikes me as imbalanced, especially when the UKGC discreetly indicates that these campaigners often misrepresent facts and figures in public. In my view, if “lived experience” is used as evidence, it should reflect all perspectives, not just those of a few aggressive activists.
This misrepresentation extends to mainstream media. Channels like SkyNews or the BBC tend to showcase only one side of the debate, often leaving the misconceptions and inaccuracies they propagate unchallenged. Untrue statements about tragedy are repeated over and over, to the point the public believe it.
My Conversation With Andrew Rhodes on LinkedIn:
Now that we’ve some context, I present my conversation with Mr. Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the Gambling Commission. It comes on a LinkedIn post about the select committee hearing. Presumably, Andrew is keen to further his career in front of his peers on the business-based social media site…
Despite several years of GC ignorance, frustration and financial damage I did my best to engage in a polite manner. After all, he was responding to others and as his post explicitly says; it’s part of his job. Here is the message thread. Fortunately, it was screenshotted before some posts started to disappear!
Now at this point, it was evident he wasn’t going to answer the question. I had no intention of being mates, but I did check back to see if there were any more replies. I was confused and wondered if perhaps there was an error with the App, so I reposted my last reply…
Three deleted comments and a battered ego later Andrew had reinforced my suspicions. Using the same tactics as the anti-gambling lobby, he attacked the player instead of playing the ball and side-stepped the question. Talking of which, I best be careful or I’ll be getting one of those delightful threat letters.
It’s a real shame, I only wanted him to do his job, but this is all the public gets for £255,000 in remuneration for the year.
Andrew, I know you’ll read this, so quite sincerely:
I’m sorry if my social media comments have upset you or embarrassed you in front of your career pals. If you would like me to delete anything you can get in touch. The intention has never been to upset you personally, I just want you to stick to your word and do your job. Censorship, ignorance and failure to be reasonable only aggravates people. I appreciate how it may feel when it directly affects your livelihood, especially when the changes don’t even help those who genuinely have a problem.
I say genuinely because many of the drivers behind this debate are not…
Misusing Statistics: Double Standards & Contradictions
Let’s get one thing straight here; Nobody in their right mind wants people to be harmed.
Years worth of military service makes me no stranger to suicide and death. It’s terrible, I feel sorry for all who should experience it. However, fabricating the truth around such matters to win an argument is sick in my opinion.
Statistics, unfortunately, have become a powerful tool in the gambling debate, and not always for the better. Over time, various parties have manipulated these figures. These inaccuracies have been perpetually echoed online, in print, and through media outlets like SkyNews and the BBC. Let’s delve into a few examples of these misleading claims…
“55,000 children are addicted to gambling”
“105,000 UK children addicted to gambling or at risk”
“86% of gambling profits come from 5% of gamblers who are addicted or at risk”
“Up to 469 gambling suicides in England every year”
“Every day someone takes their life in the UK because of gambling”
Here is a rather discreet letter to parliament correcting them. As I understand it, all of these statistics are totally incorrect.
So why won’t Andrew and the UKGC put a stop to it? There hasn’t even been a comment in public.
Yet recently, Andrew penned an open letter on the UKGC website about misusing statistics – you can view it here.
I mean, how many times can you contradict yourself?
As an observer, it appears this open letter was aimed at the Gamblers Consumer forum for mistakenly saying “99.8% of gamblers use without issue” instead of “99.6% of gamblers use without issue”. A heavily biased slant from Mr Rhodes, and another unkept promise it would appear.
But it gets WORSE, FAR WORSE.
It seems there’s little motivation to rectify the misinformation spread by anti-gambling charities advocating for the affordability check agenda. Andrew, notably, used the official Gambling Commission’s Twitter handle to disseminate some dubious information himself…
His statements and the blog he has linked are full of incorrect statements saying things like checks will not happen in betting shops (they already do).
The GCF even wrote a blog correcting the ‘myth-busting’ (linked).
But it wouldn’t be the first time he’s endorsed mistruths. Like this, with the anti-gambling lobby and their bus (see 55,000 children are already addicted).
Note: In the letter linked below he wrote to Parliament stating there are no official statistics about addiction amongst children.
To make matters worse, much of the ‘facts’ that the Gambling Commission wrote to Dame Caroline Dinenage about are all over the homepage of an organisation the Gambling Commission awarded £350,350 in May 2023.
These claims have been repeated relentlessly in the public domain, even after his open letter about misusing statistics…
Now it’s important to say; this is not just one organisation within the anti-gambling lobby, it’s many. Several recipients of regulatory settlements push these mistruths into the news. One journalist does it repeatedly. As far as I’m aware, the Gambling Commission has not asked for a correction or public apology from the mainstream media. They routinely publish this hogwash, calling it ‘editorial choice’ if questioned.
It appears that legal letters and threats of litigation are used by people within these groups to censor critics, bully and stifle debate.
Surely funding from regulatory settlements is not supposed to be used like this?
Checks on Effective Distribution? £32.8 Million
The distribution of huge sums of money isn’t just going on campaigners pushing questionable statistics either. The Gambling Commission have pledged £32.8M to Gamble Aware, here they are earlier in the year – using a reported alcoholic to promote their campaign via beer mats…
Important Note: it was reported that Paul Merson blew £160,000 betting on table tennis during lockdown. The betting operator isn’t named in the numerous articles I’ve seen about this hefty loss, although it clearly reinforces one thing – affordability checks don’t work.
If it was an operator licensed by the commission; how could such a large sum of money have been lost?
Perhaps he could afford it? If so, it shows the checks don’t help people who find themselves with such issues. If he couldn’t afford it then it shows operators are checking £10 punters but not high-profile gambling addicts losing huge sums of money.
Iif it wasn’t a licensed operator, it shows that affordability checks are pushing consumers to the black market!
Which ever way you look at it, the checks are of little use.
The Number #1 Question Being Avoided:
So in conclusion, this whole situation is a mess.
- Ordinary folk are being financially exploited with the excuse of regulation
- Lived experience (of a select few) appears to override the sensible majority
- When it comes to ‘checks’ the fox is left in charge of the hen-house (corporations)
- The regulator doesn’t act on their public promises and spreads misinformation on social media
- Dodgey statistics are broadcast by almost every mainstream news outlet repeatedly
- Massive funding gets blown on ridiculous groups with questionable behaviour
- MPs are oblivious that checks have already been happening for two years
I hope this doesn’t sound too silly, made up or abusive but…
Is it really that wrong to ask that public servants do their job?
Next steps for you:
- Make a submission to the ongoing consultation here.
- Write to your MP complaining about these issues and CC in your journalist friends.
- Check out the evidence linked below.
Checks with a commercial interest…
A £53 winner faces checks…
YouTube Videos: Check out the 000’s of comments on them from consumers