Gambling Commission delivers damning verdict on dispute procedures

Greg Wood
Operators have been warned to act to halt a sharp decline in the number of customers who believe gambling is fair. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

The Gambling Commission, which regulates all betting and gaming in the UK, has delivered a damning verdict on the gambling industry’s procedures for resolving complaints and disputes and warned that operators must act now to halt a sharp decline in the number of customers who believe gambling “is fair and can be trusted”.

The commission’s findings were published on Thursday, a year after the introduction of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for the gambling industry. The first step for any gambler in a dispute with an operator is to raise it with the company which accepted the bet. But, if the issue cannot be resolved, the customer can pursue it further with one of 11 ADR providers approved by the commission.

In a report – Complaints Processes in the Gambling Industry – to assess how the scheme is working, the commission says the amount and quality of information supplied to customers about dispute resolution varies widely from company to company and that information supplied to the commission is “not always accurate”, as is required by an operator’s licence.

The commission also finds that some punters are unable to pursue complaints because their dispute “is about the way a gambling business is being run”, rather than the outcome of a transaction. It promises to “look at our definition of disputes to make sure ADR providers look at the widest range of complaints about a gambling transaction”, words that could offer hope to the increasing number of punters on racing and other sports who find their bets are being refused or restricted to tiny sums by online bookmakers.

In a foreword to the report Sarah Harrison, the Gambling Commission chief executive, notes that “our survey data tell us that 61% of respondents who gambled during 2007 thought that gambling was fair and could be trusted [but by] 2016, only 38% of respondents agreed”. The commission has also seen a 300% rise in contacts from members of the public in two years, to a record 77,000 in 2016.

For most racing and sports punters the relevant ADR is the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, although the historic Tattersalls’ Committee still arbitrates on disputes between gamblers and on-course bookmakers.

As a first step towards streamlining the disputes process, the commission will introduce an online tool called Resolver, currently in use in a number of sectors including energy supply and public services such as the Passport Office. This promises to lead users step‑by-step through the process of lodging a complaint and resolving a dispute.

The commission report could mark the start of a difficult few months for Britain’s bookmakers, as the industry is also the subject of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into “potential breaches of consumer law, including misleading promotions and unfair terms”.

The CMA report is expected to be published within the next few weeks, while companies with betting-shop chains are also awaiting a review of FOBT gaming machines, which is expected to recommend a sharp cut in the maximum stake from the current level of £100.

“This is conclusive proof the new regime at the Gambling Commission are listening,” Brian Chappell, a long-standing campaigner on issues affecting punters via the website justiceforpunters.org, said on Thursday .

“The continual pressures on the regulator mean punters are now moving towards being treated like other consumers. When you combine this report with the likely outcome of the CMA investigation, it’s fairly obvious that the ways these companies operate will have to be dramatically different in future.”

George Baker, who suffered bleeding on the brain after a fall at St Moritz in Switzerland in late February, was reported to be making “really good progress” in his recovery from his injuries in a bulletin on his condition issued by the Injured Jockeys’ Fund on Thursday.

Baker, the winner jockey aboard Harbour Law in last year’s St Leger, was riding at one of St Moritz’s famous meetings staged on a snow-covered lake when his mount suffered a fatal injury and fell. He was initially treated in a local trauma unit before returning to Britain at the beginning of March to continue treatment at the Wellington Hospital in London.

“George has made really good progress in the last week,” the rider’s wife Nicola said in the IJF statement, “and the doctors are proposing that in two or three weeks’ time, he will move to another rehabilitation centre nearer to home.”

Morando, the ante-post favourite for Saturday’s Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster, will miss the race after suffering a “minor setback” at the yard of his trainer Roger Varian on Thursday morning. A full field of 22 was declared for the race a few hours later, and Roger Charlton’s Yuften, who has been drawn in stall 14, now heads the market at 9-2.

Friday’s tips, by Greg Wood

Fontwell Park

2.10 Benatar 2.40 Clondaw Banker 3.10 Flanagans Field 3.40 Tara Bridge 4.10 Carnspindle 4.40 Remember Forever 5.10 Dell Oro

Wetherby

2.20 Master Of Finance 2.50 Chestnut Ben 3.20 Magic Dancer 3.50 Treat Yourself 4.20 Manwell 4.50 Ardea 5.20 Duc De Beauchene

Lingfield Park

2.00 Captain Courageous 2.30 Right Action 3.00 Our Channel 3.30 Stepper Point 4.00 Amanto 4.30 Anonymous John 5.00 Ajman Princess

Newcastle

5.45 Mazaaher 6.15 Cheval Blanche 6.45 Multicultural 7.15 Athollblair Boy (nb) 7.45 First Excel 8.15 Little Miss Daisy 8.45 Indian Pursuit (nap)

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