Operators face tougher action under new Gambling Commission rules
Gambling companies who break advertising rules or breach consumer law will face tougher action from this autumn under new rules being introduced by the Gambling Commission.
The industry regulator has also promised better complaints processes for customers, including an eight-week deadline for complaints to be resolved, while action can also be taken against gambling firms who send spam emails or texts to customers.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: "Protecting the interests of consumers is a priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators.
"These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure consumers can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean consumer complaints are dealt with more swiftly."
At present the Gambling Commission can fine operators only for misleading advertising, but under the new rules that come into force from October 31 the regulator will be able to take action more easily and swiftly against firms who break any advertising rules, such as advertising that appeals to children or glamorises gambling.
Adverts during live matches
Firms will also face action for advertising failings by third-party affiliates.
The issue of gambling advertising, and especially its effect on children, came to prominence again during this summer's World Cup in Russia owing to the volume of adverts during live matches.
While McArthur said the commission was aware of the public concern about the issue, he added the evidence on advertising's effects was still not clearcut.
He added: "For the time being our focus around this piece of work is allowing us to be tough and really crack down on operators who are not complying with the Advertising Standards Authority rules around advertising.
"We are mindful of the debate that has taken place around advertising, but our focus at the minute is on compliance with the existing rules while building the evidence base about the impact advertising is having – particularly on children and vulnerable people. That is something we are keeping a close watch on."
'We will continue to crack down'
The commission also said the new rules will mean it is simpler for them to take swift action over breaches of consumer law, such as unfair and misleading promotions and bonus offers, or unreasonable restrictions on withdrawals.
"What we want the industry to take on board is that we are going to continue to crack down on operators who do not treat their customers fairly," said McArthur.
"These rules are intended to make sure our expectations are clearer and that companies that break the advertising rules or breach consumer law face tough action from us.
"We want to make sure we get good outcomes for the consumers, and ultimately the message we want gambling businesses to take away is you need to put the consumer and consumer interests at the heart of the way you do business and take responsibility for the way you do business."
McArthur said other initiatives were in the pipeline, including the establishment of a consumer panel "which will allow us to get a much clearer sense of the consumer voice into our work".
He added: "Also, we are working hard to get an overall sense of the impact that gambling-related harm can have not just on consumers but on their families and wider society.
"Getting a grip on that helps frame the steps you might take next. This is the first step of a long plan to make gambling fairer and safer."
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