Regulator announces online gambling enforcement action
Fri 23 Jun 2017
The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has begun an enforcement action against online gambling sites.
The enforcement action is focused on sign-up promotions, which can attract new customers but have hidden restrictions or unclear terms. The CMA is also reviewing restrictions on customer ability to withdraw funds from their accounts, preventing them from accessing money to which they are entitled and removing the choice to leave the game at will.
Instead, often times customers must play hundreds of times before they are allowed to withdraw any money from their account, preventing the players from quitting while they are ahead.
Other practices that are under investigation include minimum withdrawal amounts that are far larger than the initial deposit, or other administrative obstacles that are not outlined clearly and transparently in the website terms and conditions. Often, a promotion will be provided to attract new customers by promising bonus credits for contributing their own money, which they are then prevented from withdrawing for one reason or another.
Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement at the CMA Nisha Arora said that while there are inherent risks to any kind of gambling, transparency and fairness are still important. She said, “People should get the deal they are expecting if they sign up to a promotion, and be able to walk away with their money if they want to.”
The CMA is seeking input from customers of gambling sites who have had difficulties withdrawing money from their accounts, to assist with the investigation.
The preliminary investigation began as a joint effort between the CMA and the UK Gambling Commission, which oversees all gambling in the UK including the National Lottery. Last October, the two regulators issued information notices to the sites in question as a first step in determining whether an enforcement action was required.
Online gambling has undergone spectacular growth in the United Kingdom, increasing by 150% since 2009 to 4.5 GBP annually. An estimated 6.5 million people regularly use websites for remote gambling activities.
Sarah Harrison, Gambling Commission Chief Executive said that it is important that gambling operators treat customers fairly, adding, “Whilst the CMA takes enforcement action on how consumer legislation is followed, the gambling industry should be under no illusion that if they don’t comply with consumer law, we will see this as a breach of their operating licence, and take decisive action.”