Apparently, players aren’t the only ones wondering these days.
Late last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was launching an investigation in the fair trade practices of online gambling sites regulated by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The CMA’s investigation stems from concerns voices by the UKGC relating to whether or not some internet gambling operators were violating the consumer protection laws.
The investigation is expected to take quite some time, due to the intensity of the probe, and will encompass various aspects of an online casino’s fairness. These include things like an operator’s terms and conditions, marketing tactics, promotions and a player’s genuine ability to win.
The CMA will be looking closely at each operator’s terms to decide whether or not they are fair to consumers. Promotion will be examined for any false advertising or misleading context. Additionally, the CMA will assess terms related to withdrawals to ensure a user’s ability to cashout isn’t being unfairly blocked.
The CMA issued Information Notices regarding the probe to all UK online casinos. Fair business practices, as outlined by the region’s consumer protection laws, were outlined in each notice. The CMA will then gather evidence to determine what operators, if any, are in violation of those laws.
Gambling Shouldn’t Be A Con
Nisha Arora, CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Enforcement, noted that “Gambling inevitably involves taking a risk, but it shouldn’t be a con. We’re worried players are losing out because gambling sites are making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing, and may not be giving them a fair deal. We are now investigating to see whether firms are breaking the law.”
The CMA will work alongside the UKGC in this investigation. The Commission has specialists with detailed knowledge of how online casinos work, and the regulations they are lawfully bound to uphold.
The UKGC’s Chief Executive Sarah Harrison is eager to see what the collaborative investigation unearths, as she feels operators “aren’t doing enough” to make online casinos fair.
“I continue to have concerns that many [operators] appear to bamboozle rather than help the customer make informed choices,” said Harrison.
“Gambling, by its very nature, is always going to involve risk,” she explained. “But customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand.”
Promotions at Online Casinos Fair or Fraudulent?
The CMA specifically addressed concerns over the promotional terms and conditions upheld by online casinos. Fair rules, for example, should permit a player to withdrawal the remaining balance of their initial deposit should they decide they don’t want to play anymore.
However, many gambling websites deliver rather large bonuses on a player’s first deposit. The terms do not permit withdrawals until wagering requirements on that bonus are met. Thus the CMA’s investigation could potentially lead to smaller promotional offerings in the UK, or more transparent guidelines being displayed to players before they accept any promotional offers.
Not Enough Time To File Disputes?
The CMA also received grievances from consumers that the window to lodge a complaint challenging any decisions by the operator is too small. Some operators are providing only a 7-day window for complaints, which may infringe upon consumer protection rights.
No estimated time frame was given by any of the parties involved, but it will at least be nice to know that once it’s all over, we can finally answer the age old question; are online casinos fair to their customers?
You can find more detailed information about the case here.