Betting watchdog betrays gambling addicts as it refuses to ban ‘grooming’ tactics used by bookmakers to encourage gamblers to bet more
- ‘VIP’ schemes have faced furious backlash due to their role in high-profile fines
- Have been blamed for encouraging gamblers to bet more than they can afford
- The Daily Mail has been calling for greater protection for addicts with campaign
The gambling watchdog has refused to ban the ‘grooming’ tactics used by bookmakers to encourage gamblers to bet more.
‘VIP’ schemes have faced a furious backlash due to their role in a series of high-profile fines, frauds and suicides.
They have been blamed for encouraging vulnerable gamblers to bet more than they can afford by enticing them with massive cash bonuses, exclusive tickets to sports matches and ‘matey’ messages from personal account managers.
The Daily Mail has been calling for greater protection for addicts with its Stop the Gambling Predators campaign.
But next month, after a year-long consultation, the Gambling Commission watchdog will tell bookmakers they can keep using the ‘highly dangerous’ products.
Ladbrokes’ owner GVC admitted it takes 38 per cent of deposits from just over one per cent of its customers, while Paddy Power Betfair last year took a fifth of its revenues from just 0.6 per cent of customers (file image)
Campaigners have labelled the decision a whitewash, saying it will allow gambling companies to ‘prey on the vulnerable’.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling, said: ‘By failing to ban VIP schemes the regulator is literally licensing abuse.
‘The term ‘VIP’ is simply the means by which betting companies trap problem gamblers, potentially destroying them and their families.
‘These schemes must be outlawed.’ Charles Ritchie, founder of the charity Gambling with Lives, who was involved in the consultation, said: ‘We know so many people on ordinary incomes who have been destroyed by these schemes.
‘They are dangerous and have no place in gambling.
‘We do not want VIP schemes to be run more carefully, we want to see them stopped altogether.’
Campaigner Tony Parente, who was also involved in the consultation, said: ‘It’s a whitewash.
‘These schemes prey on the vulnerable and incentivise individuals’ losses. They must be banned.’
The Gambling Commission is expected to announce new measures including enhanced affordability checks and greater oversight of VIPs from senior managers.
The Daily Mail has been calling for greater protection for addicts with its Stop the Gambling Predators campaign (file image)
Bookmakers are unwilling to ditch the schemes because they are enormously lucrative.
Ladbrokes’ owner GVC admitted it takes 38 per cent of deposits from just over one per cent of its customers, while Paddy Power Betfair last year took a fifth of its revenues from just 0.6 per cent of customers.
In January, MPs criticised the Commission for appointing GVC to lead a review of online betting for VIP customers, with one saying ‘it’s like putting the mafia in charge of looking into organised crime’.
Gamblers who are offered the incentives are about 11 times more likely to be addicted to gambling, according to figures released by the Commission.
Peter Jackson, CEO of Paddy Power Betfair. In January, MPs criticised the Commission for appointing GVC to lead a review of online betting for VIP customers, with one saying ‘it’s like putting the mafia in charge of looking into organised crime’
VIP schemes were cited in the case of Ben Jones, who stole £370,000 from his employer to feed his addiction. Betway, the firm he bet with, was fined £11.6million.
In 2019, the Commission cited VIP rules when it fined Ladbrokes Coral £5.9million for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failings. And in April, it fined casino operator Caesars Entertainment a record £13million for ‘systemic failings’ in its VIP programmes.
The Commission said the new rules would ‘make gambling safer for players’ and ‘are designed to stamp out malpractice in the management of VIP customers.’
It added: ‘Operators will be left in no doubt about our expectations and, if significant improvements are not made, we will have no choice but to take further action and ban such schemes.’
Betting giant Playtech is accused of ‘profiting’ from high-flying engineer’s suicide after claims it refused to pay back his £119,000 losses to his family
By Business Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Betting giant Playtech has been accused of profiting from a high-flying engineer’s suicide after claims it has refused to pay back his losses to his grieving family.
Chris Bruney, 25, a gambling addict, took his own life hours after being plied with bonuses by staff at Winner.co.uk, an online casino owned by the £1billion company.
At first Playtech used a legal loophole to avoid paying a £3.5million fine over his death and only paid up after a Daily Mail campaign.
But Mr Bruney’s family say that the company has now refused to pay back £119,000 he lost in the five days before his death.
Chirs Bruney and his girlfriend Fran Green. Chris took his own life hours after being plied with bonuses by staff at Winner.co.uk, an online casino owned by the £1billion company
His mother Judith said: ‘It is shameful… They have profited from his death.’
Mr Bruney, a £60,000-a-year electrical engineer from Sheffield who was designated a VIP player, was given £4,500 in bonuses and 120 ‘free spins’ in the five days before he died. After an investigation, the Gambling Commission found ‘serious systemic failings’ in the way Playtech’s subsidiary, PT Entertainment Services, managed social responsibility. The Bruney family has accused the Commission of incompetence over the case.
Mr Bruney’s partner Fran Green said: ‘The continued abuse by the gambling industry is costing more lives. It must stop.’
Playtech said Mr Bruney’s losses were ‘included in the £3.5million charitable donation and [we] worked with the family to ensure this went to charities delivering impactful programmes to reduce gambling-related harms’.
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