Bonuses to blame for plummet in UK gambling reputation

Bonuses to blame for plummet in UK gambling reputation

Monday, March 27, 2017 Posted by Andy McCarron
Gambling Commission survey shows level of public concern

In among the data provided by the UK Gambling Commission’s participation survey data released at the end of February were some worrying statistics for the degree to which the perception of the gambling industry has turned distinctly negative in recent years.

Answering the question as to whether people think that gambling in conducted fairly and can be trusted, the percentage of the general population that agree with the statement has fallen from nearly half (48.8 percent) in 2008 when the Commission began asking the question to just over a third (34.3 percent) eight years later.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the fall is most marked in people who actively gamble where trust levels have fallen from over 60 percent in 2008 to just 37.7 percent in 2016. The trust level for non-gamblers, meanwhile, has been less precipitate, moving back from 35.9 percent to 28.6 percent.

Notably, the gamblers trust level fell over 13 percentage points in the last four years and over seven percentage points within the last year.

The figures come even as the rates for actual participation were heading upwards. The survey showed that 48 percent of respondents had gambled in the previous four weeks compared to 45 percent of respondents in the same period in 2015. The online participation rate rose to 17 percent from 15 percent in 2015.

The fall has occurred at the same time that the debate surrounding FOBTs has been raging in parliament and in the newspapers. However, the Commission surmises that the cause of the decline is more likely the similarly on-running debate surrounding the offering of bonuses and free bets. “These concerns could be linked to consumer concerns about the fairness of terms and conditions, and the odds offered by gambling companies,” the Commission report said.

Dan Waugh, partner at the gambling consultancy Regulus Partners, agrees that T&Cs are the likeliest problem among the gambling cohort. “These are the issues that gamblers seem to be most vocal on,” he told TotallyGaming.com. “The figures for gamblers’ attitude towards gambling are more worrying than the wider decline. Gamblers by definition enjoy the product so the decline in trust is a concern.”

The Commission itself doesn’t propose any particular remedies for the falling trust numbers, but Waugh suggests that the industry should “take a leaf’ out of what the watchdog is saying currently about focusing on the customer.

“They also need to find ways to have positive conversations with government,” he says. “Set out a vision of what this industry could be and what it could do if it was designed around customer need rather than antiquated licensing frameworks. We need to find ways to excite people rather than simply defend ourselves against criticism.”

He adds that the reliance of the industry on VIPs is detrimental. “The more operators are able to respond to what mainstream consumers want, the less reliant they will be on small groups of highly engaged (and therefore higher risk) VIPs,” he says.

Waugh points out that hopes for the industry to speak with one voice on the variety of issues that are facing it would be far too optimistic – “a UN of gambling is a nice idea but just isn’t going to work” – but he still feels the industry's leading figures ought to work harder to “keep channels of behaviour open and attempt to deal with differences constructively.”

Waugh concludes that a wider review of gambling in the UK might be due in a few years. “We have had Royal Commissions or similar being asked to review gambling about every 20 years - either in response to negative stimulus or positive stimulus,” he says. ‘We are now 16 years on from the publication of the Budd Report, so we are moving into the natural point in the cycle and we have an awful lot that needs fixing.”

Totally Gaming says: The gambling industry in the UK should be worried about these numbers as they point to a very clear failure to carry public opinion with them even as more people participate in gambling activities. More can be done, as Waugh suggests, to take up the mantra of the Gambling Commission and put the consumer first. Bringing the issues currently in front of the Competition and Markets Authority around bonuses and free bets to a satisfactory conclusion will only be the start of what should be a general move to rehabilitate the industry’s reputation.

Is the current bonus structure to blame for the gambling industry losing trust?

A recent Gambling Commission survey has noted a plummet in consumer confidence in the gambling industry. What do you think is the biggest cause behind this?

Confusing sign-up bonus conditions
49% (55 votes)
Over saturation of gambling advertising on TV
19% (21 votes)
FOBTs and the campaign against them
16% (18 votes)
Perceived association with crime
10% (11 votes)
The incidence of problem gambling
5% (6 votes)
Clustering of gambling establishments
2% (2 votes)
Total votes: 113
Poll availability: 
Monday, March 27, 2017 to Wednesday, April 26, 2017
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