CMA & UKGC Announce Crackdown on Casino Bonuses

The Competitions & Markets Authority (CMA) has told online casino operators that they must drastically alter their bonus terms and conditions, or risk being taken to court.

CMA Project Director, George Lusty, has identified six crucial areas where operators must make changes in order to comply with CMA and UKGC standards. The six areas identified are:

  • Opaque terms and conditions for promotions
  • Restrictions on withdrawing winnings
  • Restrictions on withdrawing unspent funds
  • Unfair terms and conditions
  • Changing terms on free bets
  • No player opt-out for publicity

Lusty made the announcement whilst speaking at the Gambling Commission’s Raising Standards Conference 2017 yesterday. His comments come at the end of a year-long review into online gambling operator’s terms and conditions, and whether or not they mislead customers.

One of the biggest issues was the practice of tying initial deposits to the same wagering requirements as any awarded bonus funds, thus restricting customers from withdrawing their own cash unless they stake the money up to 50 times over on the site.

Wagering requirements, in general, were criticised. The CMA said that forcing players to “commit to an extended period of gambling before winnings can be withdrawn” prevents gamblers “from stopping gambling whenever they choose.” Thus, raising huge issues surrounding the practice of presenting a particular risk to consumers who are vulnerable to problem gambling.

It was striking that, even after a very detailed study of operators’ terms and conditions, the reality of gameplay was frequently quite different from what we expected, suggesting that operators’ terms were inadequate in informing customers about the parameters of promotional play. George Lusty, Project Director, Competitions & Markets Authority

He added: “There were important issues that remained unclear to us even after operators had provided such demonstration. We were concerned that, to the extent that these matters were not clear to the CMA with our expertise in consumer law, they would likely not be clear to consumers at large.”

Lusty wasn’t the only speaker at the UK Gambling Commission-organised conference to fire shots at the UK gambling industry. UKGC chairman, Bill Moyes, warned visiting operators that “public support for gambling is beginning to decline.” In a provocative speech in which Moyes described his words as a “call-to-action”, he proposed that the UK gambling industry was at a tipping point. He said: “[The UK gambling industry] will have to choose whether it’s viewed as a responsible part of the entertainment industry or as beyond redemption and requiring tough action to tackle its worst excesses.”

During the keynote address, Sarah Harrison, UKGC CEO, said: “I urge you as an industry not to wait for a crisis to happen that shakes the very foundation of customer trust. Your due diligence and consumer protections are not up to scratch. We will intervene, and you should consider yourselves warned.”

The UKGC has handed out more than £10m in fines and penalties to major online gambling operators in recent months.

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CMA Project Director, George Lusty

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