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UK Gambling Commission: refusal to implement its own inadequate player dispute procedure against one of its licensees

Thursday, February 02, 2012

UK Gambling Commission: refusal to implement its own inadequate player dispute procedure against one of its licensees

A few months ago I had cause to review the player dispute procedure offered by the UK Gambling Commission. I was underwhelmed in the extreme and did a write up - see the UK Gambling Commission: what does it offer the player? article.

I have now had occasion to observe the UK Gambling Commission in action against an operator. Or rather, in hopeless, ineffectual inaction. Since the Commission's dispute procedure is so extraordinarily weak, requiring no more than a "third party" investigation on the part of someone appointed by the operator against whom the dispute is held, it seems logical that they would at least be able to implement that procedure - it requires almost no effort beyond the sending of a couple of emails. I had certainly assumed this was the case.

Alas, the UK Gambling Commission is a part of the gambling industry. And since the gambling industry almost invariably succeeds in falling at the first hurdle when offered the chance to behave with a shred of integrity, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the UK Gambling Commission also falls way short in this department.

Here, with names removed for privacy reasons, is the story.

The player in question cashed out a four-figure sum from one of the UK Gambling Commission licensees. The casino denied the payment, citing what appeared to me to be essentially "bonus abuse" - the actual wording was rather vague, but seemed to suggest that they considered him an undesirable customer. Since this is no valid reason to confiscate funds, the player contacted the Gambling Commission and filed a complaint as per my advice.

At this point, the Commission's "third party mediator" procedure kicks in: the casino is reqired to appoint a third party, chosen by them, to review the case:

If you are not satisfied with the outcome, ask the licence holder to refer the dispute to their appointed independent third party for investigation.

The independent third party should then contact you in the course of their investigation.

In this instance, the casino appeared to respect the requirement, and appointed IBAS, the betting arbitration service which the Gambling Commission in fact lists as one of its accepted third party mediators.

So, we're all good up to this point.

Unfortunately, there was one small problem, which IBAS explained to the player thus:

I can confirm that (the casino) is neither registered with this Service nor the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) which determines that we would not be able to offer you adjudication in this dispute.

You would therefore have to contact the regulatory body which covers the Operator, details of which should be found on the site or by contacting their Customer Service department. I trust the above will be of some assistance.

A couple of days later, they gave a slightly more detailed explanation of the above:

On reading your correspondence I would consider this more a trading matter between both parties and not within the remit of this Service, which adjudicates on settlement disputes over the pricing or settlement of transactions.

The situation outlined in your submission is more a Customer Service issue and can only suggest you continue to write to the Customer Service Manager at the company's head office.

So again, there is no great problem here on the face of it. The casino appoints a third party, but the third party in question does not wish to act as mediator, for entirely valid reasons. As such, we need to go back to the drawing board and find a third party which is prepared to intercede, as per the Gambling Commission's procedure.

This was the Commission's quite breathtakingly incorrect and blatantly operator-biased response to the player's request to have the casino in question appoint an acceptable third party mediator (as an aside, note also the poor wording and grammar of this supposedly professional communication):

We cannot see any reference as you mention in your email that IBAS stated they had nothing to do with (the casino) or that casino's were not in their remit.

From the information provided the operator has provided a complaints procedure as required by their licence conditions and codes of practice, issued by the Gambling Commission.

Yours sincerely,
XXX XXX, Licensing Officer.

IBAS clearly and unequivocally stated that they could not intercede as a third party, and gave very clear reasons for their refusal. Does the Commission suffer from selective word blindness? Look again at what IBAS said:

We would not be able to offer you adjudication in this dispute.


I would consider this...not within the remit of this Service.

The casino has, at this point, failed to appoint an acceptable third party, and must do so in order to respect their own regulator's dispute procedure. Yet having clearly failed to so do, having clearly failed to implement the Commission's requirements, the Commission says:

The operator has provided a complaints procedure as required by their licence conditions and codes of practice, issued by the Gambling Commission.

This is simply a lie. They have not.

Or does the Gambling Commission consider the simple naming of a third party, however unacceptable that party might be, or however much that third party may refuse to intercede, a reasonable implementation of their procedure on the part of the operator?

Can I, as an operator, appoint the Sugar Plum Fairy to act as a third party mediator of a gambling dispute?

What about the Pope?

What about Bill Gates?

Or Mother Theresa? She's dead, but would that be any less ridiculous an appointment than a third party which refuses to intercede?

The Commission signed off on the matter thus:

This is now a matter for you to resolve with the operator.

Nice. You're on your own, Jack. Welcome to the UK.

For the player, the matter ended well - I heard from him today that the casino had paid him in full. I don't suppose the fact that a Gambling Commission licensee saw fit to deny a substantial payout for no good reason in the first place will cause the Commission any lack of sleep.

The bottom line here: to patronise an operation that falls under the jurisdiction of the UK Gambling Commission is actually a good thing, but not because of anything to do with that industry puppet body. An operator located under the Commission is, by definition, also located in the UK. And the UK has a very simple legal procedure for reclaiming legitimately-owed amounts up to £5000 via the "small claims track" of the legal system - see my Small Claims Court article.

But do not waste your time with the UK Gambling Commission - they are clearly no better than the Malta LGA or the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. And do not buy into the currently much-vaunted industry myth that the United Kingdom is somehow a "good" gambling jurisdiction. Well, it is in a way: if you're a casino, sportsbook, poker room or a business partner of any of those, you're in good shape, because the gambling industry in the UK will clearly turn the most brazen of blind eyes to corruption and injustices against its customers. In that sense, the UK is a "good" gambling jurisdiction. It's good for the operators.

That is not, of course, anything for anyone in the industry to be remotely proud of.

3 Previous Comments

Which forum do you usually hang about in nowadays 'russo?

I'll bookmark it up


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:29 am  

Sparingly to say the least, old mate.

Under the old handle, at this affiliate forum:


As "Yokspot" (ahem):


And whenever something worthwhile crops up at the SBR sports forum, using that same silly handle:


By Blogger 100% Gambler, at 8:09 pm  


Have bookmarked them up
googlie sitesearch will show me when you're about


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 pm  

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