LeoVegas in Trouble (Again) After Goading Problem Gambler
UK online casino behemoth, LeoVegas, has found itself once again in hot water after claims that it hounded one problem gambler into making further deposits.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) is investigating the brand for accepting over £20,000 from a recovering addict, and then encouraging him to play more with promotional emails.
This new investigation comes just 11 months after the operator was fined heavily for creating adverts which targeted problem gamblers. The new case has also prompted renewed calls for stricter customer checks at online casinos, and better self-exclusion schemes.
Read on to find out more about the case, what UKGC guidelines have been breached, and what needs to be done to keep online gambling safe for all.
Details of the Investigation
The case began last year, in May 2018, when a problem gambler had his LeoVegas account suspended after a customer support agent reported ‘concerning communications’ with the player via Live Chat.
However, after the suspension, the player was still sent marketing emails and promotional offers from other LeoVegas-ran casino sites, such as Pink Casino and Castle Jackpot. These would come as often as four times a day, promising free spins and bonuses.
Earlier this year, in January 2019, the problem gambler set up a new account with 21.co.uk, another LeoVegas sister site. He used his own name and address, and registered his mother’s debit card to the account.
In the days following, he proceeded to gamble over £20,000 before 21.co.uk asked for identification. In doing this, they realised he was using someone else’s card and blocked the account
That wasn’t the end though. Even after his second account closure, the LeoVegas brand still continued to send the player advertisements and special bonuses.
Renewed Calls for Tighter Checks
The case has inspired many safer gambling campaigners to push for tighter controls on online casinos and more rigorous safe-guarding checks. Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said:
It makes no sense for gambling companies to be doing ID and affordability checks after gamblers have lost huge sums, rather than before they’ve placed bets. The whole system seems the wrong way round. We also need to see immedate action to scrap credit card betting and end the practice of bombarding gambling addicts with gambling ads.’
Whilst the practise of accepting bets before identification doesn’t currently break gambling regulations, the process of actively pursuing someone who has already been flagged as a problem gambler is not allowed.
LeoVegas’ Past Offences
This isn’t the first time LeoVegas has run into compliance issues, which makes the whole case more significant. In May 2018, the operator was fined a total of £600,000 for a series of regulation failures.
The UKGC found that 1,894 LeoVegas customers were sent marketing materials, despite having signed up to the site’s self-exclusion scheme. Moreover, over 400 LeoVegas vulnerable customers were allowed to bet a total of £200,000 in a two month period, without the casino contacting them first and checking their history.
Although the casino did eventually pay the fines, they refused to own up to their mistakes and blamed it on a software error. What’s more, in a revenue report published later in the year, the brand claimed that tighter regulations were having an adverse effect on growth.
This is obviously very worrying, and calls into question LeoVegas’ commitment to player safety. Moreover, the UKGC maintain that they are very clear with operators about the rules that they must follow, and so there should be very little room for error on the operator’s behalf.
Do We Need More Rigorous Regulations?
This case has raised many new concerns about the safety of online gamblers. However, whilst it’s inarguable that problem gamblers and vulnerable people should be protected, tighter regulations may do little to help.
Both the UKGC and the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) make their codes of conduct very clear. In relation to self-exluded problem gamblers recieving marketing materials, the rules are as stated:
- Code Provision 3.5.3 (1) – ‘Licensees must have and put into effect prodcedures for self-exclusion and take all reasonable steps to refuse service or to otherwise prevent an individual who has entered a self-exclusion agreement from participating in gambling’
- Code Provision 3.4.4 (5) – ‘Notwithstanding the expiry of the period of self-exclusion chosen by a customer, no marketing material should be sentto them unless and until they have asked for or agreed to accet such material’
As you can see above, the regulations are already very direct and unambigious. As such, it seems that the only way to prevent more infringements would be to punish operators more severly.
The fact is, new regulations will not help the problem, if the operators are still failing to adhere to them. The UKGC cannot investigate until a problem has been reported, which is often too late.
Instead, operators should be made to be more fearful of what may happen if they do break codes, and there should be more serious consequences for acting irresponsibly.