Justice for Punters has been making waves again, this time in the Palace of Westminster. The group helps winners recoup their earnings from operators who might take a little longer than they should.
Founder Brian Chappell claims the number of operators dragging their heels over payments is increasing, and he spoke to Parliament to make them aware that the hold-ups were continuing.
What is Justice for Punters?
It is a campaign group, led by Brian Chappell, that works to help punters struggling to claim their winnings from unscrupulous betting operators.
While in Westminster this week, Chappell claimed that the companies he deals with take an average of about three months to pay up even relatively small payment amounts.
He cited his recent work after the Grand National, when he helped “Jane” to recoup the £55 ($72) from one betting operator that owed her after the tension-filled race.
Debate in House of Commons
The House of Commons held a debate earlier this week sponsored by the Parliamentary All-Party Betting & Gaming Group and titled “Should bookmakers have a regulatory time limit to pay out bets?”
Here Brian cited the failure of customer service channels to help claim back winnings. Proclaiming them “awful,” he added that “the gambling industry treats the customer like they are guilty until proven innocent.”
Chappell claims that Justice for Punters has helped gamblers obtain £700,000 ($919,486) from gambling companies by helping them pursue their complaints.
Why are operators slow to pay?
The committee is currently looking at the practicalities operators face to control fraud, especially the “bonus baggers” who seek to exploit reward bonuses. This might be one of the reasons why accounts are not paid out in a timely way, as operators make sure that punters play by the rules.
But Brian outlined how this could damage relationships with new customers, especially women, whom he believes are being targeted by operators. He claimed that women who bet on racing “get flagged up pretty regularly,” as bookmakers unfairly assume that there is a man behind them directing bets that he cannot obtain himself. Brian also believes that operators assume that casino winners should be given time to bet again, potentially losing their winnings.
Winnings are a ‘debt’
Despite gambling winnings being a legally enforceable debt, there are grey areas when it comes to the timing of payments.
Slow payouts without cause is simply bad service that makes no business sense, given rising costs of acquiring and retaining customers, said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association.
But he contended that the vast majority of the £70m ($92m) to £80m ($105m) UK wagers placed online go through without incident, and only 1 in 1,000 payouts are held up.
When they are delayed, it is usually because of worries about money laundering (AML), data protection, knowing your customer (KYC), or suspicion of a crime, Hawkswood said.
Outlined on the day was the view that many operators were simply worried about getting things wrong and triggering an investigation from the Gambling Commission.
But Brad Enright of the commission disagreed, claiming that to argue over further checks and other regulations was distracting attention from the issue of operators potentially profiteering by withholding cash.
Instead, he added, the abuses are more likely linked to the industry cracking down on gamblers who are “perceived to be unprofitable.”
The Competition and Markets Authority has now launched the second phase of its investigation into terms and conditions, focusing on some bookmakers’ unfairly slow payouts and restrictions.
This would include more defined patterns of play in the terms and conditions and the inability to change the rules after a betting event the agency said.
Prohibited kinds or patterns of play must be clearly outlined in terms and conditions, and the rules must not change after the betting event, the agency said.
It was agreed at the meeting was that checks on members should not be done at payout, but much further upstream in the process. With the word “cock-up” used by the committee, Punters for Justice seemed to have its view taken seriously in what Brian called “blatant profiteering.”