UK operator complaints rocket 5,000% in five years

12 August 2019

The number of UK consumers complaining about gambling operators has increased by almost 5,000% over the last five years, according to Gambling Commission figures obtained by BBC’s Panorama programme.

A total of 8,266 people registered a complaint in 2018, up from just 169 in 2013, with the majority of issues related to an operator not paying out on a winning bet or not operating in a socially responsible manner. This will be one of the headline findings of a special report that will be broadcast in the UK later today (12 August).

Despite this rise, Commission executive director Neil McArthur told the programme it can be seen as a positive for the UK gambling industry, with consumers taking more responsibility.

“We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it’s suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators, and I would encourage them to continue to do that,” he said.

The rise in complaints mirrors an increase in betting activity in the UK in recent years, with consumers spending £14.5bn (€15.7bn/$17.5bn) on gambling in the 12 months to September 2018. Although this was down 0.4% on the 12 months to March 2018, online gambling spend was up to £5.6bn and continues to rise.

However, the Commission told BBC Panorama that is has no plans to introduce a maximum stake for online gaming, despite having successfully lobbied the UK government to take such action on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

On 1 April this year, new rules came into effect lowering the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 as part of an effort to clamp down on problem gambling.

The BBC Panorama report will also look at cases where consumers had lost large sums of money while gambling online. One player, named Amanda, lost £633,000 over a number of years, gambling away the money she made from selling her house in the process.

Jackpotjoy, who the player had been gambling with, said it acted in accordance with relevant regulatory requirements and encouraged the player to use its responsible gambling tools.

“This included the use of deposit limits, cooling-off periods and alternative withdrawal methods; tools which Amanda was aware of and used during the time she played with us,” Jackpotjoy told BBC Panorama.

Image: Santeri Viinamäki