Betting firms face a crackdown on breaches of advertising rules and consumer law in a drive to ensure fairer treatment for gamblers.
From October the Gambling Commission will have powers to impose unlimited fines for promotional campaigns that appeal to children or glamorise gambling.
The watchdog will also introduce an eight-week deadline for operators to resolve complaints with customers. It said the changes would make it quicker and easier to take action over breaches such as misleading promotions and bonus offers or unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals of winnings.
Britons gambled £13.9bn between October 2016 and September 2017, the most recent period for which figures are available. More than 100,000 people are employed across the industry and there are 8,532 betting shops, 649 bingo halls, 152 casinos and 183,928 gambling machines.
During the World Cup, British viewers were exposed to almost 90 minutes of betting adverts, prompting claims that children were being bombarded with messages encouraging them to gamble.
Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that consumers can withdraw their money more easily and will mean that consumer complaints are dealt with more swiftly.”
The changes come after an open consultation and aim to provide stronger protections for gamblers. Operators will also face action for misleading advertising by third-party affiliates such as marketing agencies and for sending spam emails or texts to customers.
In June the government faced criticism, including from its own backbenches, for delaying curbs on £100-per-spin fixed-odds betting terminals, which earn £1.8bn a year for bookies.
“Time will tell whether these new powers are used appropriately and if are able to obtain their rights quickly following unfair treatment,” said Brian Chappell, the founder of Justice for Punters. “This announcement doesn’t cover all the injustices that occur, but it’s very welcome.”
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a sector-wide investigation in collaboration with the Gambling Commission in 2016 into whether online gambling firms were treating customers fairly.
This led to the CMA launching enforcement action in June 2017 against a number of online gambling operators suspected of breaking consumer law in connection with their gaming promotions.
In February this year it announced that Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment had committed to change how they offered bonus promotions to customers playing online, and in March it said BGO Entertainment had made similar commitments.
Source: The Guardian