Within the gambling industry there exists a dichromatic nature that few truly perceive. A mirroring in approaches between those names that even non-gamblers would recognise and those names that many unfortunate players which they did not know.
Having worked for close to a decade now resolving disputes for players and with well over 3k complaints under our belt, we have put ourselves in a relatively unique position, one which provides odd insight into the manner in which the gambling industry functions. There are many different ways in which this perspective manifests but today I would like to discuss one of the patterns that is readily apparent to anyone in our position, that being the similarity between the approaches taken by the biggest names in the industry and some of the most questionable unlicensed operators on the market when it comes to the management of player complaints.
At the start of every month we send out an email to the users subscribed to our mailing list detailing the complaints of note that we have managed over the course of the preceding month. At the bottom of this email there is always an extended list of operators that have refused to engage in the complaint management process at all, instead choosing to offer no response, or writing back to tell us that either their license or data protection laws prevent them from being able to offer any response to the complaint (neither of these responses has any factual basis in reality – there are entirely reasonable ways of ensuring both compliance with license and data protection laws if there is the willingness to engage at the operator’s end). And month after month we see the same names turning up on our list.
This list is invariably made up of some of the worst rogue operators in the industry – those targeting black markets like the United States and Australia and those targeting licensed markets like the UK and Sweden without an appropriate license. That these groups end up on this list is unlikely to surprise anyone. What is surprising however is that sandwiched in amongst this gallery of rogues we consistently find some of the biggest names in the industry: William Hill, Betway, Sky, Gala, Ladbrokes, Coral, Bet365, Paddy Power, Betfair.
The shocking reality is that size in this industry seems to cause operators to revert to the same practices as the groups renowned for ripping off their players. Once they reach a certain market share, gambling operators seem inclined to shirk transparent of player friendly practices instead opting for to take a protectionist approach and leave players out in the cold.
Some of these operators would argue that this is not what they are doing, pointing to the fact that they will talk to their appointed ADR. This however is a smoke screen. In the first instance, the operator’s ‘willingness’ to talk to their ADR is regulatorily mandated. These operators are the same groups that refused to talk to anyone about complaints prior to the UKGC and MGA stipulating that they had to. Suggesting that complying with their license represents genuine goodwill is non-sense. And this is even more evident when many of these groups do not even take the time to enquire after the nature of the complaint to see if they could manage it internally without having to share any information with the service the complainant approached.
Secondly, these operators choose their ADR. Operators are forced to choose an ADR. But when the player expresses a preference for a different ADR, asking for the same choice that operators have, these operators close the conversation down with totalitarian single mindedness.
Finally, even where these operators agree in principle to work with their chosen ADR there have been instances of groups engaging in legal manoeuvring to undermine the system, looking to ensure that the operator does not have to engage in appropriate disclosure even with their chosen service. ADRs can find getting basic levels of engagement from these groups challenging.
But we are now starting to see changes. Some of the major players in the industry are starting to take a far more progressive and player friendly approach to complaint management. Huge groups like BML Limited (Betsson and Betsafe), Mansion (who also run Casino.com) and Bethard are stepping forward and opening up channels of communication that have been unheard of until the last couple of years for groups with their level of market share. They still look to engage robust and appropriate legal agreements to define the limitations of data usage, which are necessary to protect both the business and the consumer, but these groups are not taking the stonewall approach that has been so frequently observed amongst the giants of the industry.
Long may this trend continue. We should all hope that more of the giants take to eating snozzcumbers.
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