“-Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is expected to introduce derivatives legislation on Friday that is far stricter for banks than Wall Street had anticipated.“-
Online gambling companies that advertise in the UK, or take bets from customers in the UK, are facing the prospect of much greater scrutiny and the requirement to obtain a licence of some description from the UK Gambling Commission.
This is the news, emanating from the DCMS just a few days ago, which I suspect will not be welcome news to the online gambling industry. Credits go to the APCW 2nd April video for bringing this information to my attention.
I’-ve commented also in my own UK online gambling article.
The plans came to light in an announcement by the DCMS of a consultation on the regulatory future of remote gambling in Great Britain. The full details of the proposals can be found as follows:
I have also produced a user-friendly version, with contents links for convenient navigation to the various sections –- see my consultation document copy. If you want to read the full document, this version definitely facilitates the process.
I’-ll summarise the situation as succinctly as possible:
Basically, the DCMS, the governmental department directly responsible for remote (online) gambling in the UK, is concerned about the current imbalance represented by the existence of two types of online gambling operations with access to UK customers:
• Those which are located in the UK and fully covered by UK legislation.
• Those which are located outside the UK.
The latter category represents the vast majority, and this is then divided into two groups:
• EEA member states, plus Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Alderney, Tasmania and Antigua &- Barbuda.
• Everyone else.
It is the problems presented by these two non-UK based groups that the proposals seek to address.
The problems under consideration, all outlined in the document, centre on the lack of a guaranteed regulatory framework for non-UK based operators, and the risks this presents to UK customers.
First, the DCMS considered four possible options for EEA member states, which I quote here:
• Do nothing.
• Introduce non-statutory changes to the system and increased regulatory co-operation.
• Introduce the need for such operators to obtain a licence to enable them to advertise in the UK.
• Introduce the need for such operators to obtain a licence to enable them to transact with British consumers and advertise in the UK.
The option planned for adoption is the last, which is the most far-reaching.
Second, for non-EEA member states (plus Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Alderney, Tasmania and Antigua &- Barbuda), The DCMS considered three possible options:
• Improve the white listing system for non-EEA jurisdictions.
• Develop a more streamlined white listing process as well as introduce licensing for operators in white listed jurisdictions.
• Abolish the white list and introduce a licensing system for operators in all non-EEA jurisdictions.
The option that the government proposes to adobt here is the second, the more “-streamlined”- whitelist.
To summarise to date: EEA member states (plus Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Alderney, Tasmania and Antigua &- Barbuda) would need a to obtain a license to transact with UK customers- non-EEA member states would need to be whitelisted.
The proposals are currently very flexible on matters of compliance. They do suggest the following safeguards, however:
• A mirrored, tamper-proof server containing a full copy of gambling transaction records for inspection by the Commission (in Britain or elsewhere)
• A regulatory representative in Britain
• A UK registered company and certain office functions located in Britain
• More enhanced regulatory returns
• A bond lodged in Britain or payable to the Commission in the event of default.
On the question of actual enforcement: the consultation considers, and rejects, prohibitive and punitive measures (such as extradition applications for offenders, the actual blocking of transactions to non-licensed operators by UK banks, ISP blocking, and so on), preferring to focus on cooperation, rather than than sanctions, as a means of ensuring compliance.
Which is all very “-British”-.
They also say as follows with regard to prohibitionist measures:
We have considered whether to make it an offence for a British citizen to gamble with an unlicensed provider.
At this stage we are not minded to consider such a provision further as it seems disproportionate to the harm caused and raises issues of informed adult choice.
We do not intend at this stage to introduce an offence that would criminalise the consumer for gambling with an unlicensed operator.
This suggests that they do not rule out a US-style prohibitive approach at some future point –- though I suspect this is very unlikely.
Issues of raising consumer awareness, such as a dedicated section of the Commission’-s website put aside for facts relevant to the player customers, are also considered as part of the compliance / enforcement considerations. Consumers could thuswise:
• Check the licensed status of operators.
• Learn which operators have had their licences suspended or revoked.
• Learn which operators are trying to access the market without a licence (we envisage this would usually refer to repeat offenders).
• Anonymously or otherwise, inform the Commission of any operators that have been targeting British consumers without a licence.
The actual consultation document is long, but not too long. It’-s definitely worth reading if these matters are of interest to you.
The proposals under consideration will certainly tighten up the online gambling scene as it relates to the UK-based customer. As such, I support them. However, I suspect the industry as a whole will not view this development with any great affection, as it represents more cost and, crucially, closer scrutiny.
Close scrutiny and online gambling are not happy bedfellows.
The new law is going to be assessed by the French Supreme Court (Conseil Constitutionnel), the French Administrative Council (Conseil d’Etat about “-les decrets d’application”-), and the European Union. So, stay tuned.
Addendum: Eric Zemmour on the Internet gambling laws liberalization. (He is against.)
Online gambling regulators are not usually much to write home about as far as player protection goes. For the most part, they do little more than lie down and wait for their collective tummies to be tickled by the operators they claim to “-regulate with impartiality”-, and it can be considered an achievement of global proportions if you can manage to get a reply from any of them in anything less than a year of making a complaint.
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission? A sham of incompetence.
The Malta Lotteries And Gaming Authority? Actions bordering, at times, on criminal.
However, in recent weeks, two regulators have issued judgements which give hope for the future. One close to home in the UK, the other on the far-off shores of the Mohawk Indian reservation in Canada. Both, rather typically, centred around the casinos’- misuse of their bonus programmes to the disadvantage of their customers.
In the first case, sportsbook and casino Bet365 promoted a free bet in a UK television advert, with the promise of further free bets if the first one was successful. Customers claimed the bet, and those who won went on to claim again- another win, and another free bet claim. And so on and so on.
Bet365 didn’-t like this, and, in time-honoured online gambling fashion, refused the bets to some customers with a variety of excuses: customers showed “-unusual patterns”– customers were suspected (not proven, of course) of laying off the bet elsewhere for a guaranteed profit with the bonus, which Bet365 considered “-bad business”-.
How despicable –- customers looking for ways to win. What in the world were they thinking, trying to win money in a casino?
Anyway, some customers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, and an Adjudication on Bet365 Group Ltd was promptly issued. Here is a part of the judgement –- read it and weep, online gambling operators worldwide:
We understood that Bet365 excluded a proportion of customers who they deemed to be non-recreational players- however, we considered that without defined criteria, it appeared that Bet365 had excluded customers from the offer when they were winning or were no longer profitable.
We noted the ad did not state that customers who made each-way bets, won frequently on similar bets, or used betting exchanges would be excluded from the offer.
Although we understood that Bet365 believed the viewers were exploiting the offer, in the absence of qualification in the ad to make Bet365s limitations on the offer clear, we concluded the ad was likely to mislead.
The ASA discounted all of Bet365’-s whinging and whining about “-non-recreational players”- who were “-bad for business”-, on the basis that since none of those copouts were stated in the terms of the deal, they could not be arbitrarily applied afterwards as an excuse for non-payment.
Or, if I can summarise the ASA judment in my own words: “-This is what you said- this is what you did- what you did wasn’-t what you said you’-d do…-so please go take a running jump”-.
This was a perfectly thought out and articulated response from the ASA. What a refreshing change to see a regulator of some description actually doing its job and making a fair call.
Players 1 / casinos 0.
The next case was one I was involved with myself. A player contacted me, saying that he’-d had a €10,000 cashout confiscated by a Microgaming casino group, on the basis of infringing the conditions of the bonus he’-d received on his deposit. He had indeed, but the terms were so cleverly hidden by the casino that breaking them was almost a certainly.
To cut a long story short, the player filed a complaint with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. The KGC has long been something of a running joke on the online gambling scene, allowing its licensees to get away with almost anything. However, I had heard that a new complaints officer had recently been appointed, and that the Commission was generally trying to get its act together and be taken seriously as a genuine regulator. But I wasn’-t holding my breath.
As such, the Kahnawake judgement left me astonished –- see the full complaint against UK Casino Club, of which here is an central extract:
Mr. N’-s dispute centres on the argument that, at the relevant time, some additional terms and conditions that were posted on the Casino’-s site regarding signup bonuses (the “-Terms and Conditions –- Multiple Bonus Promotion”-) did not clearly incorporate the provisions of the Casino’-s T&-C.
However, given the fact that Mr. Niemz did accept the T&-C and that his pattern of play subsequently breached Clause 13(i) of the T&-C, we cannot conclude that it is reasonable to direct the Casino to reimburse Mr. Niemz for 100% of the amount of the disputed amount –- 10,000 Euro.
We do accept that the Casino must bear some responsibility for failing to make it clear that the Terms and Conditions –- Multiple Bonus Promotion incorporated the provisions of the Casino’-s T&-C.
In view of the foregoing, we hereby direct that:
1. The Casino must, on or before 8:00 p.m ET on February 18, 2010, deposit 50% of the disputed amount –- i.e. 5,000 Euro –- into Mr. N’-s account and permit him to withdraw this amount, and
2. The Casino must immediately amend its Terms and Conditions –- Multiple Bonus Promotion to clearly indicate that they incorporate the provisions of the T&-C.
This was an excellent resolution, as much for its sheer unexpectedness as for the fact that it was fair. Way to go, Kahnawake.
Players 2 / casinos 0.
I had assumed that hell would freeze over before any official “-watchdog”- or “-regulator”- would arbitrate a conflict between player and gamnbling operation and find in the player’-s favour. As such, I’-m pleasantly surprised –- or, to be a bit more honest, entirely gob-smacked –- at the outcomes of the cases handled by the UK ASA and the Mohawk KGC.
It’-s not all bad, folks.
The Bottom Line –- Radio 4
“-Evan Davis and his panel discuss rivals and regulation.“-
Joe Weisenthal has a small opinion piece on why the CFTC allows real-money prediction markets on movie business, and bans those on politics or sports. The problem in the piece is that Joe is 100% wrong.
- Joe says that there can’-t be hedging in politics. Wrong. You can hedge your political ads on InTrade.
- Joe says that there can’-t be hedging in sports. Wrong. Businesses that operate inside a stadium could hedge the risk of the home team losing (which means less business for them).
The CFTC is a weak institution, in the DC sphere of power. In the recent past, the CFTC lost one important battle against other parts of the US government —-even though it was the CFTC that was on the right side of the issue at the time. With politics and sports betting, the CFTC does not want to lose another battle. It is a question of survival.
- the ID details of all gamblers-
- the banking info on all gamblers-
- the details of all bets made by the gamblers-
- the source code of all software used-
The specific points at issue are ownership or sponsorship of hedge funds and private equity funds, and proprietary trading — that is, placing bank capital at risk in the search of speculative profit rather than in response to customer needs. Those activities are actively engaged in by only a handful of American mega-commercial banks, perhaps four or five. Only 25 or 30 may be significant internationally.
Right2Bet (operated by BetFair):
A Senate hearing on Tuesday looked at ways in which the French authorities could make it more difficult for operators not licensed in France from offering their products to French citizens.
They are now looking at adding wording to the new gambling bill, set to ‘-open up’- the market in time for the World Cup this summer, that makes it illegal for any French-based company from taking advertising or even simply linking to certain sites.
Those sites based inside France, including multi-nationals with French subsidiares, notably Google, found to be ‘-aiding and abetting’- (no pun intended) foreign operators could face fines of up to €100,000.
This is just another example of the French bill being a facade. They want to appear like they are liberalising their market, to fit in with EU rules, but clearly they are going to make it as hard as possible for foreign operators to offer their services to value-deprived French citizens, and are even looking to make it difficult for those who do apply for a French license.
At what point is someone going to wake up and say ‘-enough is enough’-? Don’-t wait for someone else to do it, sign our petition today and add your voice to the thousands of EU citizens already calling for fairness in online gambling.
France = Communist China