Complaints against British betting companies are steadily rising, with the number of complainants increasing to nearly a mind-blowing 5,000% in the last half-decade.
Last year, a staggering 8,266 complaints were recorded, according to data that was made available by the Gambling Commission. In stark contrast, only 169 complaints were documented back in 2013. The most common gripes involved companies that were flat-out unwilling to pay out on winning bets or failing to function or operate in a socially responsible manner.
This sharp rise comes after a steep increase in gambling in the UK over the last five years.
The most prominent betting companies in the country have already vowed to help address the problem by earmarking £60m a year to help problem gamblers. In addition, the firms have mentioned that they are at the moment, formulating a plan to lessen gambling-related damage.
Neil McArthur, who is the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, expressed that there were intricate reasons for the upsurge in complaints.
"We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it's suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that," he said.
The industry has grown at such a rapid pace since the government slackened its hold on restrictions on betting and advertising in 2007.
However, the adverse effects of that development now have gamblers losing almost twice as much to the betting firms as they were a decade ago. Last year, punters lost a record-setting figure of £14.5bn.
The biggest increase has been in the realm of online gambling, where new games and products have drawn in a large swath of clients. One such woman, who requested anonymity, admitted that she was already 50 years of age when began betting on an online site called Jackpotjoy. Not long after, she gambled away all her cash from the sale of her home. And then, when her father passed away, she inherited a share of his house, and she promptly lost that on Jackpotjoy as well.
In all, Amanda lost a staggering £633,000. She made her last bet on the day she was made bankrupt.
"I was in a complete sort of lost bubble world," she relayed. "To me, it was just escapism and I would just sit online and I would just be pressing the button on my computer.
"It's horrific what I've done to myself really. Everything that I had worked for. My children looked up to me and now I have blown their inheritance."
Jackpotjoy quickly defended itself and stated that it always acted in compliance with the relevant regulatory requirements and that it had already urged Amanda to use responsible gambling tools.
"This included the use of deposit limits, cooling-off periods and alternative withdrawal methods; tools which Amanda was aware of and used during the time she played with us," the company relayed.
High stakes betting machines have been prohibited from the High Street, but there are no lawful restrictions in place for online games. This essentially means that customers could potentially squander thousands of pounds in mere minutes.
Campaigners continue to insist that the government needs to do more to safeguard the most susceptible of gamblers.
Another prohibitive tale is that of Daniel Clinkscales, who tragically committed suicide at the age of 35 after a long and extended battle with a gambling addiction. He was a well-paid sales manager, but he took on two more jobs just to fund his betting addiction.
Jo Holloway, Clinkscales’ mother, explained that his son was mired in a downward spiral because of his gambling habit.
"I think he found it so hard to really come to terms with the fact that there he was - clever, intelligent, largely successful at almost everything he turned his hand to - and he'd got this one problem. Gambling," she said.
She believes that the burden of responsibility should be placed on the betting firms because some gamblers just don't know how to stop or want to but just do not have the means to do so.
"Gambling has been normalized. It has been made to look like something that everybody does innocently. It's not. You can lose your house in an afternoon. How serious does it have to be before people will act?" Clinkscales added.
The Gambling Commission explained that it had no plans to launch maximum stakes online because operators already have enough data to keep players safe and to virtually guarantee they are playing with money they can afford to lose.
The major betting companies have also already agreed to raise safer gambling messages and to carefully assess the tone of their marketing collateral.
The Most Common Online Gambling Complaints
Whenever people ask what the most common online gambling complaints are, they always come away feeling disappointed with the answer that is usually offered to them. So let’s get the bad news out of the way from the get-go: the single most common type of complaints is that they are not really complaints at all.
That’s because they’re fraudulent cases where the player has tried one version of scam or another on the casino and failed, so they come to the authorities in order to get their money back or to pressure the casino into giving up the money they’ve won but don’t deserve.
This includes multiple accounts, collusion, “bonus sharing,” bogus documents, self-exclusion scams, you name it: anything where the player is shrewdly trying to pull the wool over on the casino to gain an unfair advantage. Roughly speaking, it is estimated that around 30% of the thousands of complaints over the years actually fall into this category. Fraud is a huge part of the online gambling scene and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
The second most common type of complaints is, again, not really a complaint per se. In this case, they’re complaints that simply can’t be processed because they’re fatally screwed up in one way or another, which basically keeps the case from progressing.
It might be that the player has gone AWOL after filing the complaint, or they neglect to offer pertinent information and aren’t willing or available to correct the problem, or the case is simply beyond the scope of any reasonable arbitration effort (“make the casino be nice to me” or suchlike).
Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that these cases are DOA (“dead on arrival”) and nothing within reason can be done to process them any further. It is estimated that 30% of total cases fall under this category.
Of the remaining 40% or so of complaints received, these are legitimate, actionable cases that an arbitrator can sink their teeth into and hopefully, produce some meaningful results. So what kind of complaints are we talking about?
That 40% of legit cases breaks down something like this, sorted from most to least prevalent:
This is by far the single most common and most legitimate complaint area. The bottom line is that the Terms rule and players simply must read and comply with them. Failing to do so produces pain and inconvenience, not to mention lost resources. And ignorance is no excuse.
This is when the casino drags its feet or otherwise fails to make payments that are legitimately owed to the player. The primary issue here is applying effective pressure to the casino — often tmes a matter of making it clear that they need to do the right thing or risk suffering some serious consequences — in order to get the money flowing to the player;
Dirty tricks from unscrupulous casinos
Some casinos are run by criminally inclined people who just want to collect as much money as they can from players who almost never have any choice but to do so. The best way to avoid such instances is to do due diligence in researching your casino before you hand over your money. Once they have your money, make no mistake about it, they are in control.
KYC means “Know Your Customer” and this usually applies to the process of requesting documents and verifying a player’s identity, etc. The best way to avoid problems here is to give the casino what they are asking for. Don’t tamper with your documents or you run the significant risk of being labeled as a fraudster. Casinos often tend to be a little paranoid in this area so players have to be patient: if you are an honest client, it is almost always possible to resolve any documents problems that arise.
Self-exclusion (SE) problems
Unfortunately, self-exclusion is a work-in-progress for a large part of the industry in that the rules are being written (and rewritten) on a daily basis. Whatever SE services the casino offers, the bottom line is that successful SE depends on the player’s willingness to take responsibility for their actions. Be crystal clear that you want to self-exclude, put it in writing, get the casino to acknowledge your request in writing, and stick to your resolution to stop playing. Also, be aware that the whole SE side of things is riddled with player fraud so any problems you have are going to be viewed with suspicion;
Game errors or failures
Be wary that almost every casino in the business has a Term that says something like “not liable for technical errors or failures.” A good casino will take care of their players if something like this happens, while most would unfortunately just point to the Terms and shake their heads. In the rare case where the error is pervasive and enough players can prove it, the casino will make reparations. The proof keeps everyone friendly.
Such things are somewhat rare but the blame is always on the player to prove that the casino is in error.
There’s one last but very important bit of advice that players must heed: when it comes to your complaint, you should absolutely document everything!
When you send an email that involves your complaint, you must also save a copy. If you can get screenshots to document your issue, grab them. If you have an exchange with the casino on their chat service, try and get a transcript.
It’s simple really, having proof keeps everything friendly. Without proof anyone can claim anything and, as it happens, they usually do.
Over and above the types of complaints, players should know that 50% or more of their complaints relate to casino bonuses. All through the years, there have been some pretty shocking things from casinos but the gist of it seems to be that many casinos see the bonus money they offer to players as “their money,” that is they see it as the casino’s money in the player’s account.
Needless to say, they are very hesitant to part with “their money” and as such, no end of “problems” arise when it comes to players trying to hang on to winnings they may have derived. Many players believe that casino bonuses are far more hassle than they are worth. However, many players can’t seem to resist “free” money.