- Three operators told to make bonus terms and conditions clearer
- Players must be able to withdraw their own money when they want
Three UK-facing online casino operators will have to change the way they offer bonuses to players in order the make them fairer and clearer.
That was the announcement from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the government agency tasked with looking into the issue of unfair terms and conditions in the UK online gambling sector as whole, including sports betting.
Those firms, identified as William Hill, Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment, have had to commit to undertakings to reform their practices to make it simpler for players to understand and use bonuses in their gameplay.
One of the key takeaways for players is that the distinction between bonus funds and actual real money deposits, in the context of sign up and other bonus offers, will need to be made clear.
That visible distinction of funds in their playing account will also mean players can withdraw their own funds, at any time, rather than have subject to terms and conditions such as wagering requirements.
The bonus funds could still be subject to wagering requirements, which sees plays having to wager a bonus a multiple of times, sometimes up to 60 or 70 times, before being able to withdraw any remaining amount including winnings.
But players’ actual real-money deposits will be ring-fenced from such terms, and available to withdraw at any time.
Most of the undertakings placed on these operators will have be incorporated by March 1.
Positive news for players
The CMA picked up the investigation in 2016, after it received complaints from players about unfair or unclear bonuses from operators, which led to them not getting the deal they were expecting.
The CMA said it had identified that some operators had the ‘dice loaded in their favor’ when it came to offers, and that things needed to change.
EXPLAINED: The CMA video below highlights the changes that will be made:
Now these operators will have to make it clear which funds in their account are bonus funds, and which are deposit funds, and make any terms and conditions surrounding deals clear at the earliest opportunity of ‘clicking through’ to the offer.
So for example, if a player deposits £10, to free up £10 in bonus money, the two amounts would need to be displayed separately on the account. Furthermore, the player would be able to withdraw their £10 and any winnings, at any time.
The bonus can still be subject to a wagering requirement.
And while this only affects a small handful of operators currently, the regulator the UK Gambling Commmission has said that it expects all UK license holders to follow suit – meaning players across the board should be able to look forward to more transparent bonuses and gameplay.
And operators will no longer be able to oblige players to take part in publicity if they get a big win.
What they said
“Gambling always carries a risk, but players should never face unfair restrictions that prevent them from getting at their money. Firms mustn’t stack the odds against players, by putting unfair obstacles in their way, or making it difficult for them to stop gambling when they want to.
“We now expect others to follow, and look forward to the Gambling Commission’s continued work to make sure all operators in this sector play fair with their customers’ money.”
George Lusty, CMA project director
“We back the action taken by the CMA today. Gambling firms must treat their customers fairly and not attach unreasonable terms and conditions to their promotions and offers.
“We expect all Gambling Commission licensed businesses to immediately review the promotions and sign up deals they offer customers and take whatever steps they need to take, to the same timescales agreed by the three operators, to ensure they comply.”
Sarah Gardner, UK Gambling Commission chief executive
A statement from William Hill said: “As one of the largest online betting and gaming brands in the UK, William Hill has worked with the CMA to ensure that its concerns have been fully met.
“We welcome the standards and principles that the CMA has outlined and we look forward to their adoption across the industry.”
A Ladbrokes Coral statement said: “It is never comfortable being in the spotlight on these sorts of issues but we are pleased that a way forward has now been identified and are committed to ensuring we meet the standards set.”
The CMA said its work was continuing in the sector and was investigating some operators who force players to withdraw winnings over a long period of time.
The new future?
2017 saw a new breed of online casino, the wagerless casino, which does away with wagering requirements entirely.
Large UK-facing online casino bgo, announced its shift to the wagerless model in September.
In a statement, bgo said at the time: “In our opinion real players aren’t interested in bonuses laced with restrictive terms in any case and rather than spend our time helping people understand wagering, it is our aim to turn the model on its head and win loyal customers over by offering a fair and simple environment in which to play.”
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