The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued a warning to online gaming operators not to impede players from withdrawing their money. Remote gaming businesses that defy the UKGC and do not cease unfair withdrawal restrictions will be subject to “action” by the gaming regulator.
The increased scrutiny follows an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the £4.9 billion industry after complaints by consumer alleging that online gaming companies were preventing them from accessing the funds they had on account online.
The CMA’s investigation included online gambling companies Jumpman Gaming and Progress Play.
Under the terms and conditions of some sites, players’ entire balances could be confiscated if the accounts were deemed by the company to be dormant for even a short period of time. In some cases, the money in players’ accounts was seized if the player failed to provide identity verification documentation within a required period of time.
The investigation by the CMA showed the accusations to be true by at least some remote gaming operators. Some companies were also limiting the amount that could be requested in a single withdrawal in what was viewed to be an attempt to keep money on the site so that players may gamble it away at a later date.
“The CMA has been working in collaboration with the sector regulator, the Gambling Commission, to improve terms and conditions for players online and to help ensure firms do not break consumer protection law,” the group stated in a recent post announcing the results of its investigation.
“People choosing to gamble online should be able to walk away with their own money whenever they want to,” added Senior Director for Consumer Protection of the CMA George Lusty.
The UKGC is encouraging all online poker providers, lottery sites, slots sites, sports betting operators and other sites offering online casino games to adjust their practices to reflect the new mandates.
The CMA investigation spawned from a rash of consumer complaints of unfair treatment by online gaming companies in 2016. An initial investigation at that time led to this recent look into the unfair business practices surrounding the withdrawal of funds from online gaming sites, which began in June 2017.
Earlier this year, the CMA issued a list of “Do’s and Don’t’s” for the online gambling industry in which it warned against restricting access to funds on deposit, incorporating “complicated or unfair play restrictions,” and the confiscation of funds as a result of a period of inactivity by players in their online gaming accounts.
In its recommendations (the CMA’s findings are not considered binding law), the CMA cited a decline in trust in the online gambling industry as a reason for operators to heed their advice.
Online gambling in the UK accounts for 34% of the entire regulated gambling industry within its borders. In its latest report on the industry, the UKGC reported that there are more than 28 million active online gaming accounts in Great Britain alone, and more than 9 million people had placed wagers via the internet in the four-week period just prior to their latest tally on September 30, 2017.