VIP problem gambling controversies hit the headlines again

David Clifton is quoted in a GamblingCompliance article entitled “UK Gambling Data Fuels High-Roller Controversies” (that can be downloaded below).

The article focuses on a story featured within The Guardian newspaper on 2 January 2020 bearing the heading: “Report shows betting industry’s reliance on problem gamblers – Exclusive: Regulator considers banning VIP schemes after betting firm data reveals widespread use”and reporting that newly released Gambling Commission data – obtained by The Guardian pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request – suggests that some online gambling operators rely almost entirely on small groups of high-rollers. In particular, it was claimed that one operator got 83% of deposits from 2% of its customers and another got 58% of deposits from 5% of its customers.

David’s views (certain of which are quoted in the GamblingCompliance article) are as follows:

  • The bare information supplied in the Guardian article does not show that the betting industry “relies on problem gamblers”, as its headline claims. It instead indicates that, at differing levels as between bookmakers, small proportions of customers are responsible for relatively much higher proportions of betting account deposits. There has never been any great secret about that, any more than there being no secret that the latest HMRC statistics show that the top 10% of UK taxpayers are liable for more than 60% of total tax.
  • The key difference is that it can more safely be assumed that the highest taxpayers can afford to pay their tax bills than VIP bettors can afford to bet at the levels they do. Reputable betting operators recognise this. Responsible VIP management moved to the top of their customer protection agendas some time ago, admittedly with encouragement from the Gambling Commission’s developing customer interaction requirements in recent years, culminating with the most recent changes just over two months ago.
  • Indeed progress by operators on markers of harm, customer interaction and affordability checks (together with increased use of algorithms and machine learning to identity customers who may be experiencing harm) resulted in complimentary remarks from the Commission’s Chief Executive as recently as October, and it can reasonably be expected that this progress will be reflected in further reduced problem gambling statistics in future. With the BGC and its members planning to release a new code of practice in relation to the treatment of VIPs and associated inducements to gamble this Spring and continued efforts to improve standards on the part of the sector as a whole, it is to be hoped that further compliments will be forthcoming from the regulator in due course, although no doubt that will be unlikely to feature prominently in the Guardian’s headlines.