The Competition and Markets Authority has published guidance for online gambling operators to help stop unfair online promotions which ‘trap’ player money.

What’s the issue?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation in October 2016, to make sure the online gambling sector was not breaking consumer protection law. The promotions under particular scrutiny were those designed to attract players onto casino-like gaming websites by offering bonus funds when players put in their own money.

As a result of its investigation, the CMA launched enforcement action against a number of online gaming firms.

What’s the development?

The CMA has published detailed undertakings from Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment, regarding their terms and conditions, in particular around withdrawal of deposits and advertising promotions. The CMA urges that these changes be adopted across the industry and has published a set of ‘dos and don’ts’ for gambling promotions.

The changes are intended, among other things, to ensure players can withdraw their own money when they play as part of a bonus promotion.

The firms involved have also agreed to be more upfront and clear in the terms and conditions of their bonus promotions. In particular, the changes mean:

  • players won’t be required to play multiple times before they can withdraw their own money;
  • gambling firms must ensure that any restrictions on gameplay are made clear to players, and cannot rely on vague terms to confiscate players’ money; and
  • gambling firms must not oblige players to take part in publicity.

What does this mean for you?

All online gambling operators must review their terms and practices for fairness and change them as required.

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In order to help ensure terms and practices are fair, the CMA has produced the following list for online gambling operators:

Do:

  • regularly review your terms and practices to ensure they are fair and comply with consumer law;
  • clearly and promptly communicate terms and conditions so customers know what to expect;
  • give customers the information they need to decide if a promotion is right for them;
  • allow customers to exit promotions at any time with their remaining deposit, plus any winnings from play with their deposit, and make this opportunity clear to them; and
  • ensure customers can clearly distinguish between playing with bonus funds and playing with their own money.

Don't 

  • if you offer customers a ‘free bet’, don’t change the deal once they have started playing;
  • deny customers access to their own money - including their deposits and winnings earned from their deposits;
  • attach complicated or unfair play restrictions to customer deposits; and
  • require customers to take part in publicity.