Popular UK Gambling Firms Lack Adequate Customer Protections

  • Companies like Entain, 888, William Hill, and Flutter were evaluated
  • The report says that companies not only fail to protect customers, but often cause more harm
  • Age checks, default quick deposit amounts, and registration are among the issues
  • Some sites make it look like a player profited when they actually lost money
GBP character holding chips
A new UK gambling industry study has determined that UK gambling companies don’t just fail to protect customers, but often do more harm. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

New study reveals inadequacies

The Behavioral Insights Team’s (BIT) Gambling Policy and Research Unit recently completed an audit that revealed several popular UK gambling firms are not offering proper customer protection.

reviewed operations from start to finish

The study results stem from an audit the unit completed regarding the sites of top operators’ such as Flutter, 888, and Entain. Individuals conducting the audit reviewed operations from start to finish, including opening and closing an account.

Which UK gambling firms made the list?

Researchers signed up for a new player account with the preeminent UK gambling firms and found many lacking in providing the essential protections for customers. The behavioral audits keyed in on several factors, including data collection, framework design, and analysis. The audits began in December 2021 and continued through June 2022.

The companies involved in the audit include 888, William Hill/William Hill Vegas, Betfair, Tombola, Betfred, Sky Bet, Betway, Paddy Power, Coral, and Ladbrokes.

The key findings were that operators fail to protect their members from gambling harm and put them at a higher risk of harm. Several areas of concern were highlighted in the audit, including the registration process.

The audit noted that it takes longer to close an account than to open one and customers received welcome emails before the registration process was even finished. Sites also required customers to reach a minimum balance before initiating a withdrawal.

Several operators had default quick deposit amounts, with the totals set at higher amounts than the minimum. This, of course, would encourage players to deposit more than they had to.

Additional red flags

Age checks were an issue during registration; customers are some sites were allowed to access some betting services without reporting their age.

Losses were also a problem, with operators presenting misleading information. One example in the report showed a player who bet £0.20 ($0.24) while gambling. The player lost £0.10 ($0.12), but saw a message saying they won £0.10. in reality, they lost half the stake. Sites also had countdowns and flashing notices that encouraged players to wager quickly.

BIT CEO Dr. David Halpern commented that the operators could make changes to improve their protection measures for customers, but he does not feel it is a priority for them.

gambling sites make it very easy to sign up, to bet, and to keep betting”

“Whether by design or market evolution, the overall message is loud and clear: gambling sites make it very easy to sign up, to bet, and to keep betting, but strikingly harder for users to find the tools to set reasonable limits, get their money out, or to simply leave,” Halpern said.

The UK gambling firms listed in the audit have yet to respond.

UKGC chairman vows tougher stance

The audit comes at a time when operators are facing scrutiny from gambling officials. In May, the chairman of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) provided plans to take a harder stance against operators who violate licensing regulations.

Marcus Boyle was named the UKGC Chairman in September 2021 and in his first public statement said he would be working on creating a better regulatory environment. Boyle wants to crack down on operators that continually break regulations.

Despite large fines assigned to operators, the current approach does not seem to be working. Boyle proposed cumulative sanction packages that would have greater financial penalties, plus make the fines a percentage of profits. Long-term licensing suspensions are also on the table.

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