Gambling Operators Continue to Face Fines Due to Consumer Protection Failures

Penalty notice stamp

Several betting firms have been fined recently for failing to protect consumers as required by UK gambling regulations and advertising standards.

The United Kingdom has regulations that gambling operators must follow to stay in good standing with the Gambling Commission as well as the Advertising Standards Authority. Online casinos and sports betting firms must follow protocols about consumer protections to ensure that participants are safe, including self-exclusion regulations. Several operators have been fined over the past few months for failing to comply such regulations and for not adhering to advertising standards when marketing their services.

Sports betting ad complaint

The latest instance of consumer protection issues involves the sports betting app Kwiff. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently received complaints about an advertisement for Kwiff that ran in December 2017. The ad contained information about a bet placed on a PSG vs Celtic game that said the punter’s odds were “perfectly normal 11/8”.

In the complaint, the odds were challenged for being misleading; the complainants said that the odds were never available within the ad. Eaton Gate Gaming, the parent company of Kwiff, replied that the ad included a simplified version of the bet “PSG to win & only one or no team scores”.

The ASA reviewed the advertisement and concluded that consumers would understand the claim to mean that the odds were attainable and that they were an example of the odds that could be achieved by using Kwiff’s service. The ASA said: “We noted that the bet on which those odds had been available was “PSG to win & only one or no team scores”.

“Because we considered that consumers would understand the claim in the ad to mean that the odds were based on PSG to win without the additional qualification, but that bet was not available at the odds quoted in the ad, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

The ASA ruled that that ad is not be shown again in its present form and Kwiff must now ensure that they are describing any example bets used in ads accurately, with the correct odds presented.

LeoVegas and SkyBet fined

Kwiff is not the only operator affected this week by consumer protections issues. LeoVegas was fined £627,000 ($852,487) by the UK Gambling Commission for not meeting advertising standards and mishandling problem gamblers. An investigation revealed that 41 misleading ads had been created and funds had yet to be returned to more than 11,000 customers of the casino when the individuals chose to be self-excluded from game play and shut down their accounts.

Tools for self-exclusion are provided to help those who have issues with gambling to request that an operator refuse them service. LeoVegas allowed more than 400 individuals who had self-excluded themselves to gamble without speaking to them or providing a 24-hour cooling off time frame before allowing game play again.

In response to the fine, LeoVegas stated: “LeoVegas has high ambitions for compliance with laws and regulations and we have continuously improved our procedures and processes. We have had discussions with the UK Gambling Commission on suspected cases of breaches of the British gaming rules. A clear majority of cases are attributable to affiliate marketing.

“We have also improved our routines, which has led us to close off non-compliant affiliates. This means that I feel great assurance in the work we do, both in the short and long term, but also in the face of continued expansion into new regulated markets. It’s good that UKGC puts increased demands on us in the gaming industry. It is an advantage for serious actors who both have the will and ambition to work in a regulated market.”

Another example occurred in March when SkyBet was hit with a £1m (1.36m) fine for failing to protect their customers. The Commission ruled that SkyBet’s self-exclusion service failed to help those who needed it. A total of 736 customers who used the service were able to create duplicate accounts for wagering and 50,000 self-excluded individuals were sent marketing materials via email, application notifications, or text.

On top of that, an additional 36,000+ people did not receive their account balance returned to them when they asked to be cut off from the site. According to the Gambling Commission, SkyBet reported the issues early and cooperated with the investigation.

The Gambling Commission said it plans to be being tough about license holders misleading customers and failing to meet standards set within license conditions and code of practice. The Commission wants operators to learn from the investigations and use the lessons to raise standards.