Imagine you walked into Waitrose -up to the crisp counter and there were three similar bags of crisps for sale for 50p. Watched three customers try to buy them. All at the very same price. One customer could buy the crisps freely at the advertised price. The second could only buy part of the bag at the price. The third couldn’t buy the crisps at all.
Would you consider that a breach of the consumer rights of two out of the three customers?
Were Ryanair to place an advertisement, on every platform, advertising seats to Paris for just £10, but in reality there were only a few seats available at that price. Would you consider that to be fair advertising?
The first two paragraphs highlight just how badly modern large betting concerns behave, how their general business ethics have dipped– and simply get away with it. Consider the following common practices:
They can advertise prices on any event and not lay them to each or any of their customers if they want to. There’s no acceptable lay to lose minimum. It’s available to selected individuals only. Essentially they can adopt an unsustainable pricing policy and remain untackled by regulator, or government. Advertising odds, yet not undertaking to lay those odds to every customer on their books, not to guarantee to lay that price to everyone on their books, for as long as they hold that price. To selectively manage who gets a bet, and who does not, which at the very least is surely a serious issue for trading standards under every law, and honour, that I understand.
‘No industry behaves worse to consumers than the gambling sector’
We hear daily grand claims of the 22 million customers of Bet365. What percentage of those customers are factored, and if so, why are they so restricted? How has it become allowable that one individual can wager- whilst another cannot, for whatever the reasoning? If firms could only advertise odds available to many, as Ryanair are required to do, what claims would they be forced to bin? In other words, if it’s sold to but a few, how can it be legitimately advertised as such.
In doing so, and tacitly ignored by the various regulators and competition authorities, they’re able to beat off lesser competition with such unsustainable offers and deals they’re not in any way mandated by governance to give to their own customers. With business models based on far lower cost base, and a volume approach to betting. People don’t care about small business, but were I to tell you the small bookmaking sector, which behaves so well and contributes so notably to tax and levy, declines by 15% year on year, would you consider such advertising or pricing fair or reasonable competition?
Most of you know I grew up racing with John Banks, my Father. Were I to tell you in all the time I raced with him he never turned down a single offered wager, would you believe that? That he never chastised any customer for winning. Ever.
Times have changed.
When the Gambling Commission appeared a decade or so ago, I felt, as many did, for a very long time, that they were an exercise in futility. An expensive one. They took the view operators should know and understand the social code. The very soft hand of regulation. Such policy has demonstrably failed the means test. Let a big gambling firm have their way and they’ll proceed as fits their pockets. Many major operators have paid regulatory fines for compliance failures so pitiful in value, it’s good business sense to continue to behave badly and pay the bill. I feel change has arrived in the new CEO, who is now looking to license reviews, but I also fear that change takes far too long if politicians do not provide her with the necessary backing to get moving on overdue reform of my sector.
With problem gamblers exceeding a staggering two million of us, how do you feel about the regulator’s record, the to date for example on the proliferation of gambling adverts on television? To include questionable claims from even Hollywood star Ray Winstone about how he ‘bets responsibly with Bet365’ whilst reminding us that every 20 minutes? Does he in fact wager with them? And even if he does do as he claims, how is an avalanche of such claims supported?
Are the Senet group acting responsibly in a series of adverts placing the word ‘fun’ with far more prominence to ‘Stop?’ Even in the same sentence! Isn’t this a thorough sham? Clever marketing, telling you gambling is fun.
The Gambling Commission of the past actively shielded big betting from necessary regulation, allowed adverts by the thousand, allowed free bets disguised as money back offers to be shoveled down vulnerable people’s throats, in mediums like the Racing Post, totally unchecked. I mean surely the Commission should be slamming the door on firms lying to customers about money back offers, and removing their licenses. But they didn’t. Why wasn’t and hasn’t the daily bombarding of gambling related ads been slashed, if they are at all serious about protecting problem gamblers and children from betting companies in every single telly break? After people become addicts is precisely the wrong time to close the stable door. The horse has already bolted.
Why is gambling treated in any way different to alcohol or cigarettes, is it some form of special case? Have the firms self-regulated here? Or doing just as they please from offshore? I welcome the gambling commission, if, that is, they set about overdue and urgent reform in this sector.
A new manager has appeared for the commission of late. What she has been saying and how she has been approaching matters signals I hope a fundamental change in their approach. I for one wish her and her new squad the very best. The following remark holds many truths
‘Self regulation by gambling companies has demonstrably failed consumers’
The subject of FOBT’s in betting shops, creating misery to so many, is highlighted daily by problem gambling groups, and the free press. By free press I do not refer to the Racing Post, shackled as it is to big betting companies. Questions in Parliament are frequent on the subject. It’s so readily apparent of the seriousness of the problem, we don’t need empirical evidence on the matter as argued by the ABB. Frankly it’s a national scandal it has taken so long to be formally addressed. Once again a failure by companies to self-regulate, to control their urgency to make money off of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. These executives denying the thoroughly obvious harm such machines cause and refusing unilaterally a necessary and inevitable cut in stakes. If people are committing suicide, out of house and home – you’re a disgrace as a company, as an executive, to be responsible, in any way for such unhappiness. Gambling is supposed to be a fun pastime, occasionally frustrating of course. Not an all enveloping depression.
It was never and should never have been the intention of government to place casinos every fifty yards apart in our towns and cities.
Here’s a fact. I am one of but a couple of operators left in the UK who remain licensed and regulated here. Every single major betting company operates from offshore havens to avoid taxation and sensible controls. Those of us who do pay our taxes to offer services to UK residents penalised by the evident advantages afforded to offshore giants in British protectorates. Disgusting.
Newspapers, TV networks and other powerful mediums exist solely because they are propped up by sponsorship and advertising by big betting. How can they remain in any way independent challenging what’s going on? Little wonder it is the BBC alone who’ve expressed the most concern as to the behaviour of such companies. Racing also has sold its very soul to big betting – hardly snob value is it? The BHA and the Racing Post in bed together each protecting their financial well being at the expense of consumer rights and fair play.
Big betting often cross sell sportsbook customers sending customers of all denominations free bets for their casinos. Not what the customer signed up for, the far more insidious and dangerous product. Sharp tactics and no mistake, similar to someone who smokes being sent twelve free boxes of cigarettes.. A simple tactic, an unfair one, to induce gamblers toward the more addictive product.
Here’s the rub. Does my firm restrict some customers? Yes, a small proportion of my customers must be. And why? Because some of them unquestionably try to cheat and defraud my business, operating multiple accounts, imagining that it isn’t a clear fraud, utilising clever trading and expensive software to scalp my website for arbitrage and so forth. Members of secret little free bets clubs, scoping the web for these offers, and nothing else. Discussing subverting bookmakers and Banks alike. Coupon cutters. On reading these forums one becomes aware of how warped they have become, dipping to tactics and behaviour so dishonest they cheapen the ideals they claim to strive for. Not the intended honest battle between bookmaker and punter. Bear this in mind, the actions of such low life impinge on the true punter. They should be outlawed, chastised.
But to begin to compete, I also have to bet to similar minimal margins, offer similar deals, if I am to attract customers in an online market place. There’s little point being 3/1 something if everyone else is 4/1, I’d be as well shutting up shop and joining the 15% decline. Some customers end up inevitably factored because they run business out of my own, they’re neither licensed, nor pay the taxes due for what is in fact clearly a business, rather than a hobby. Such individuals bet in Bolivian division three if the market spoke in favour of one team or another and as a consequence our price becomes out of line and we attract purely one sided action. Not how a bookmaker survives, being exposed constantly to only ‘smart’ money. Many of these customers wouldn’t give you a bet if the World Cup, Wimbledon final and Grand National all occurred on the same day. To them it’s a business and they consider bookmakers their bank.
Do I hate what I must do to remain in business in that regard by factoring customers or the pricing environment that’s created , absolutely I do – I find myself wedded by website to firms i cannot, and never will, respect, who can make price offers they don’t have to support. Where is the ASA?. I do not have a choice but to compete, but I see absolutely no reason why I should rival a company offering 10/1 Wings Of Eagles to win a race for the benefit of ‘new customers only.’ You cannot walk into Tesco and see a packet of biscuits sold for 2p for ‘new customers only.’
As I see it the Commission, ASA and government, not only needs to work on protection of consumers (going beyond advertising restrictions), but also protection of small businesses that are contributing into this economy in many ways far more than the offshore giants with hundred million pound websites and 200 million annual spend on advertising.
For how long can my industry continue to behave as if it has carte-blanche to create misery by exacerbating problem gambling unchecked, to new and unprecedented levels? To operate unsustainable pricing models and restrict those who can and those who cannot to partake. To price small business out of the equation as they lord it over us from the Isle of Man and pay little to nothing into the economy of this great country whilst plundering the pockets of punters, yes tax paying folk, here.
Not long if decent minded people have their way. Because decent minded people don’t run these operators.