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Huge rise in complaints to British gambling firms

12 August 2019

Today it was revealed that there has been a 5000% increase in the numbers of complaints to gambling companies in Britain over the last few years.

There were 8,266 complaints in 2018, compared to just 169 complaints in 2013. This follows a huge increase in the rates of problem gambling in the UK.

The figures were obtained from the Gambling Commission by BBC Panorama, who are examining the effects of problem gambling in ‘Addicted to Gambling’, a documentary airing this evening at 8.30pm on BBC One.

According to Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission, the rise in complaints is due to complex factors.

He argued that regulators have been pushing the gambling industry to understand its customers better, so the numbers of complaints could make gambling firms more aware of the demand on them to act responsibly:

“We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it’s suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that.”

Many complaints derive from compulsive gamblers themselves, who claim that bookmakers continue to use bonuses and special offers as enticements for customers, even if those customers have requested to be excluded from company mailing lists.

One problem gambler lost £125,000 with online casinos, and complained that they ignored any signs of her addiction and instead offered her bonuses to continue gambling:

“They have algorithms where if you’re spending a lot they make you a VIP, or send you a bonus email and they use that to their advantage.”

But complaints have also been made about increased gambling advertising on social media and television, which is said to be one of the causes of the rise in online problem gambling amongst teenagers and young adults.

Despite the fact that gambling firms have pledged to fund treatment for problem gamblers, giving around £60 million a year to charities that work to prevent and treat gambling addiction, it seems firms are not doing enough to prevent problem gambling and addiction in their own customer base.

This was apparent recently when Ladbrokes Coral, one of the UK’s biggest gambling corporations, was fined £5.9m for ‘systematic failures’ in regard to its social responsibility to help curb problem gambling and protect those caught in addiction.

At present, the Gambling Commission said it would not introduce maximum stakes online as they say operators have enough information to ensure safer gambling and to make sure players aren’t betting with money they don’t have.

The BBC Panorama documentary will also explore some of the issues faced in regulating the gambling industry, as well as the complexities of defining problem gambling as a mental health issue. It features an interview with the mother of Daniel Clinkscales, who took his own life at the age of 35, following years of gambling addiction.

His mother, Jo Holloway, thinks the responsibility should lie with betting companies:

“Gambling has been normalised. It has been made to look like something that everybody does innocently. It's not. You can lose your house in an afternoon. How serious does it have to be before people will act?"

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Gambling

While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

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