Online casinos could have an image problem with UK players

  • Survey shows more participation, but players losing trust, according to UK Gambling Commission
  • Only one-third of players think that industry operates fairly
  • Gambling commission suggests player bonuses and offers are cause for player dissatisfaction
  • Industry expert suggests online casinos should focus on average player more, not just VIPs

The number of people playing at online casinos in the UK may be increasing, but the industry as a whole is viewed in a negative light by the majority of the UK public. Worryingly for those offering casino games, this includes players themselves.

Gambling Commission Sarah Harrison, player trust dip
UK Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison. The commission has released figures suggesting player trust is falling.

These are the findings of the latest report from the UK Gambling Commission, released last month and may well give food for thought for those involved in the industry.

When asked whether they thought that gambling in the UK was trustworthy and conducted in a fair manner, only 34.3% of the general population answered yes. That represents a significant decrease from the 48.8% who answered positively in 2008.

Even players’ trust levels appear to be suffering

Even more ominous for the industry is the dramatic tumble in trust levels among its own customers. In 2008, more than 60% of players said they trusted that the industry conducted its operations fairly in the UK. By 2016, this had fallen to 37.7% and that decline appears to be accelerating, as trust levels fell by seven percentage points between 2012 and 2016 and by 4% in the year to 2016.

The fall coincides with the controversy surrounding Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) which has attracted a lot of media attention in the last few months. These video slot machines based in high street betting shops have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and the UK government is soon to decide on what restrictions might come into force.

But the Commission suggest that the decline in trust is more likely to have been affected by the ongoing debate about the perceived fairness of bookmakers’ bonuses and free bets.

Dan Waugh, a partner at gambling consultancy firm Regulus Partners, agreed with the Commission’s conclusions, saying that in his experience, gamblers were most vocal on the issue of terms and conditions associated with free bets.

Engage with your customers, says expert

While the Commission offers no suggestions to address the issue of declining trust, Waugh argues that the industry could address the problem of trust by focusing on the wider customer, rather than a small number of what he described as ‘VIP’ gamblers. He also suggested that gambling companies should engage more positively with the government to design an industry based around the mainstream customer.

OUR VERDICT

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, who knows a thing or two about keeping customers happy, said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” Casinos are in the entertainment and leisure business, so this must ring particularly true.

The worsening figures for UK player trust don’t seem to be affecting the expansion the online casino sector, or many other forms of wagering, but they should at least make the industry sit up and take notice.

Players are staking their hard-earned money and deserve the very best experience possible. Luckily for players, there’s a huge amount of choice when it comes to selecting your online casino. If you’re not happy about what’s on offer, and how your casino conducts itself, tell them, and if their answer is not satisfactory, then you are at liberty to go elsewhere.

Yes, online casinos do focus customer experience, for quite obvious reasons, and there’s many innovations looking to improve player engagement.  But there’s nothing like the sight of customers voting with their feet to really drive standards upwards.

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