Gambling Commission CEO on 'grave concerns' over bonuses and marketing

Gambling Commission CEO on 'grave concerns' over bonuses and marketing

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Sarah Harrison also warned affiliates at WRB

Gambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison has told the industry that she has ‘grave concerns’ about the sign up bonuses offered by the industry and that the regulator is working with the Competition and Markets Authority to make sure everything is above board.

Speaking at the WRB conference, part of ICE VOX, Harrison said: “Last year, I warned on this platform of our concerns with terms and conditions in online gambling. We are leading a programme of work with the Competition and Markets Authority, launched last October, to prioritise action in this area. This is drawing on consumer concerns about online operator practices to cancel bets, alter odds after bets have been accepted, and offer misleading sign-up promotions. The CMA continues to see complaints and has recently extended the scope of its work to include online betting promotions.

“Despite our clear warnings to industry operators, I continue to have grave concerns about terms which appear to bamboozle rather than help customers make informed choices. We look to this joint work to set a new benchmark for fairness and transparency. This is vital at a time when competition in the industry, manifesting itself in intense marketing, excessive and complex bonussing and free bets, risks creating further incentives to cut corners.”

Harrison added that several regulators are looking at how the gambling industry communicates with people with a focus on issues with misleading marketing practices and unsolicited e-communications (notably, spam email and SMS).

She explained: that the Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are working in partnership to drive up standards and, where necessary, take enforcement action.

“In recent months the ICO has launched a wide ranging investigation targeting more than 400 affiliates associated with the gambling industry. We know that the gambling sector is one of the worst offenders when it comes to spam SMS (which breaks the law) – and these practices are often associated with affiliates.

“My message to those businesses is that they need to get their house in order. But far more importantly, my message to operators is there is no ‘fudge’ around this, no equivocation - the affiliates who promote your brand and who drive business to your websites are your responsibility, and it is you who are accountable.”

She added that following action by the Commission, progress has been made by some operators to improve practices in affiliate marketing and ‘while this is to be welcomed there is much more that needs to be done’.

Totally Gaming says: Affiliates, which have hitherto managed to duck under the regulatory radar, are now very much in the sights of the Gambling Commission, so now is the time to start improving standards and phase out any remaining unscrupulous practices. If this doesn’t happen, then the affiliate sector could soon find itself bound in red tape as the regulator looks to flex its remit to protect the vulnerable.

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