In January 2017, one multi-site operator was reprimanded for the closure of several winning accounts during last year’s Cheltenham Festival. This case highlights the necessity of abiding by your own Ts and Cs, argues IBAS’ John Samuels.
The now well-documented mission by the Gambling Commission to improve standards in the gambling industry continues and, in January 2017, one licensed operator of multiple sites received a public ticking off for the handling of a series of offers and promotions run in parallel to horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival.
The operators in this case – TGP Europe and Fesuge Ltd – were managed as separate entities, with different brand names, but operated by one company. Using shared security systems, the operator of these multiple brands had initially deemed that many of those who had, across the brands, signed up to the bonus offer were doing so duplicitously. The consequence of this was that winning bets were voided and accounts closed – an action that firm states was in accordance with each individual brand’s Ts and Cs.
Following the operator’s actions IBAS received over a thousand emails and telephone calls regarding the issue. It was also reported that the Commission received a substantial number of complaints on the same subject.
After the initial furore and the incident had been reported across the sporting media, the operator reviewed its position and settled the accounts of those who had not contravened the terms of the offer which, by decision or omission, had in fact not prevented individuals from participating in the same offer on each of the differently branded websites.
Anyone who read the report (which can be found on the Gambling Commission’s website), will see that the GC was also concerned by the requirement for operators to satisfy themselves that their terms, on which gambling is offered, are not unfair within the meaning of the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. This requirement is also part of the GC’s own Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP).
The case highlighted the issue of fairness to the GC, who felt that there was no clear definition in the Terms and Conditions of what ‘bonus abuse’ was. The Commission also observed a lack of clarity in what specific circumstances a gambling contract could be terminated.
No doubt the brands involved in this case did initially take some action to fulfil their licence conditions and managed to satisfy themselves that none of the terms were unfair. Subsequently, however, it has been found that this subjective view, and presumably the same view as that of the brands lawyers in believing that the terms were not unfair, was misguided in the eyes of the GC.
In line with the Commission’s wishes, other ‘outside’ lawyers have now been employed to undertake a full review of the terms, to ensure compliance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and LCCP requirements.
At IBAS our view of the situation was that it highlighted a different problem that we also encounter, where sometimes individuals employed by gambling operators choose to seek a solution to a particular situation without careful consideration of their own rules or terms. Perhaps the terms are entirely reasonable, but it is the actions of those acting on instinct – albeit with good intention – that undermines them.
It is interesting to see how the Terms and Conditions on the websites concerned change, particularly those terms relating to bonus offers. Perhaps as they have now been put under the microscope and updated, one could conclude that the new revised terms will serve as a template for other operators to ‘draw upon’.
We wait to see with some interest how other operators react to this case, and whether or not other operators’ Ts and Cs – or their policies for enforcing them – are changed.