Problem gambling is a huge issue in the UK which is increasingly under the media spotlight.
Widespread stories of problem gambling and the impact it can have are extremely prevalent. Politicians have recognised that action is needed to tackle the issue in many forms.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is conducting a range of investigations in the hope of reaching decisions which will help to safeguard vulnerable players.
Recently, it was reported that a man in Hull had smashed up his local Betfred bookmakers in retaliation for repeated promotional text messages which he received from the firm.
In this blog post we will explore whether enticing promotional methods are acceptable in the current climate.
Fury in Hull
The man who took out his fury in a very physical way said that he was angry because of a dispute over the outcome of a race, and also because text messages from betting companies have “destroyed him”.
“I’ve got a serious problem. I’ve lost a million pounds and including that I’ve had to sell my house and lost my business.”
Mark said that he signed up to GamStop, which is a company that blocks access to gambling services. He also claimed that he applied to Betfred to stop any future marketing directed towards him.
He said that despite his efforts to stop promotional material being sent to him, he kept on receiving enticing text messages and emails offering him special deals.
Eventually, this led him to a heavy gambling session after several months of largely stopping his gambling habit and the subsequent carnage in the Hull betting shop.
“Last month I started getting regular emails [from various bookmakers] on a daily basis and letters to my address. They were offering me £50 deposits and all sorts,”.
Evidently, for a problem gambler like Mark, the promotional marketing of operators was too much to resist.
Are Betfred in the Wrong?
The type of promotional marketing which Mark received is commonplace in the industry. Anyone who has signed-up to a casino will know that regular emails and text messages are a large part of the game.
However, when these types of messages are targeted at vulnerable customers, this is clearly a problem.
These promotional text messages are precisely the type of thing which the UKGC has taken issue with and is attempting to stop, or at least curb.
Indeed, the UKGC believes operators must do more to safeguard players and cease irresponsible practices which recklessly encourage players to gamble more.
Mr McArthur, CEO of the UKGC said this back in November of 2018:
“We expect operators to know their customers and to ask the right questions to make sure they meet their anti-money laundering and social responsibility obligations.”
Was Berfred’s marketing campaign towards Mark socially responsible?
If they were in knowledge of Mark’s problem gambling and he signed-up to be excluded from Betfred marketing, then they were definitely not behaving in a socially responsible manner.
Also, we can only assume that Mark’s story is just one of countless similar stories all across the UK.
What’s more, the text messages he received were certainly not providing the full terms and conditions of the bonus, and the UKGC has warned operators that they must do so (more below).
Of course, we all receive promotional material from countless companies we are signed-up to on a daily basis. This is the modern-day capitalist world after all.
However, it is clear that the quantity and scale of promotional adverts which Mark received, and which all online casino players receive, is on a whole different level.
Is this socially responsible in the current climate? No.
UKGC and Bonuses
The UKGC has already taken steps towards regulating bonus adverts and promotions.
The UKGC is very concerned with enticing promotions and adverts which do not clearly state the full picture of the promotion, including the terms and conditions, wagering requirements and any other crucial information.
Some outlets have been accused of deliberately misleading customers with their promotions, making the full terms and conditions unclear at best and inaccessible at worst.
This led to the UKGC taking action. The Commission stated that operators who didn’t clearly show the full terms of bonuses risked receiving severe fines.
Ultimately, one of the consequences of this is that some firms have stopped offering bonuses altogether, or at least cut down on the ones they offer, in fear of being in breach of the rules.
This isn’t surprising considering the impact it would have on firms both financially and reputationally if they were deemed to be guilty of breaching the rules.
Are the New Rules a Problem?
Of course, bonuses and promotions are still widely available in the industry.
In fact, although bonuses and promotions aren’t as numerous as they once were, we think that the UKGC’s new rulings around bonuses are positive.
It cannot be denied that the full terms and conditions around bonuses and promotions are not always clear.
Essentially, the UKGC is forcing operators to be more transparent. This is something we should all welcome.
We have all taken advantage of a bonus, only to realise that the rules around it ran a bit deeper than we initially thought.
With crystal clear terms and conditions, we will be in a much more informed position from which we can decide whether to take advantage of a promotion or not.
That means less chance of being ripped off and less chance of entering into a promotion with stringent terms.
The general consensus is that these rulings are a force for good and will help players to establish what exactly they are signing-up to and, help players to be more responsible in their gambling choices.
Action is clearly being taken to stop misleading and reckless bonus adverts and promotions, which is something we welcome.
In our opinion, reckless and irresponsible online casino adverts and marketing is not acceptable.
Yes, there might be fewer bonuses and promotions in the future, but we can all agree that clearer terms and conditions is something to be welcomed.
Also, we cannot deny that casino bonus promotions and adverts are far more numerous than those in the majority of other industries, and this is definitely a cause for concern when they are targeted at vulnerable customers.
Perhaps fewer adverts with clearer terms and conditions is the way forward. Maybe this is the way that trust between players and operators can be rebuilt.
Transparency and honesty are the ways forward and through this approach, the UK online gambling industry can move towards a healthier place.