IBAS joins calls for gambling ombudsman

In its 2019-20 year, IBAS dealt with 5,673 complaints, down 9.8% from 2018-19. 

Of these complaints, 4,475 dealt with consumers in Great Britain complaining about GB-licensed operators, down 14.5%. The number of complaints about GB operators coming from overseas consumers, however, grew to 1,198.

The majority of disputes – 2,511 – were marked as completed, though this was down from 3,111 in 2018-19, as the number of rejected or discontinued disputes grew to 1,964.

Of these completed rulings, most customer complaints were not upheld, though this figure dropped by 24.0% to 1,350. Pre-ruling outcomes, such as a settlement, declined by 19.4% to 853 and upheld complaints were down 14.2% to 308.

2019-20 saw a sharp increase in the number of disputes related to banking transactions, from 176 in 2018-19 to 1,300 in the most recent year. IBAS noted that many of these complaints, particularly concerning delayed withdrawals, end up being discontinued, suggesting the withdrawals ultimately occur.

Almost all other dispute types, on the other hand, declined. This included the previous most popular form of complaint – disputed settlement criteria or bet instructions – with the number of disputes falling 24.9% to 1,048.

IBAS noted that there had been a continued increase in the number of disputes related to customer identity, which usually dealt with the question of whether a customer was creating an account for the first time, making them eligible for welcome bonuses. IBAS said the rise was “a coming together of two key factors – a growth in the number of accounts being operated by third parties and increased efforts by businesses to tackle the issue”.

“Although we recognise that this type of offer is enjoyed by a large number of consumers, we remain of the view that it would be preferable for casinos and betting websites to offer different types of bonus schemes that reward player loyalty (without encouraging excessive gambling) or to compete using innovative games, products or betting markets instead of offering up front free credit on the back of minimal KYC information,” IBAS said.

Of disputes that were rejected, the most common reason for rejection was that the matter was one for the Gambling Commission as it dealt with regulation. Other common grounds for rejection included the customer not fully exhausting the operator’s complaints process or the customer ceasing communication with IBAS.

IBAS reported that the time taken to process domestic disputes decreased from 51 days to 45.

It also noted that, unlike 2020, there was not full compliance with its alternative dispute resolution decisions, though the compliance level was still above 99%.

IBAS also commented upon proposals to create a gambling ombudsman – a single official body to handle disputes in the sector. The creation of this body has been backed by many groups, including most recently the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

IBAS chairman Andrew Fraser said the current system – with nine different alternative dispute resolution bodies – was not ideal, and it would make more sense if IBAS took over the role as the sole gambling ombudsman.

“In its announcement of the review, the government downplayed the need for an ombudsman and said that IBAS provided a service for the industry and its customers concerning gambling transactions,” he said.

“IBAS has long taken the position that there are huge benefits to be realised from having a single gambling ADR body, and it is our intention to fill that role. We will respond to the review and make the point that a single body will aid consistency and clarity and the provision of data to the regulator and customers. It will also prevent ‘ADR shopping’ by businesses and consumers seeking the most advantageous answer. 

“At present there are nine ADR bodies acknowledged by the Commission. Given the Commission’s antipathy to that situation it’s not clear why there’s been a lack of progress in reducing that number.”

IBAS went on to explain its own vision for what it hoped to do if converted into an ombudsman role.

“Our vision is for an ombudsman that will work closely with, but be independent of the Gambling Commission,” it said. “Its purpose will be to promote fairness in gambling and to hold licensed gambling businesses to complaint service standards. Those standards may be set out in law – an updated Gambling Act – or they may instead form part of the Ombudsman’s own Fair Play Code. 

“Adhering to the code will be a condition of participation in the Ombudsman service. The service should be 100% free to use for consumers and like all ombudsmen, apart from those concerned with public services, it should be funded by the businesses under its jurisdiction.”

China’s lottery revenue increases for June thanks to increased sports betting

Welfare lottery revenue was down slightly compared to last month, decreasing 0.9% from 2020 to ¥11.22bn. Within the welfare lottery, lotto ticket sales were down to ¥6.92bn, instant win revenue was down to ¥2.17bn, and keno figures were up to ¥2.13bn.

With regards to sports lottery, total revenue amounted to ¥23.39bn. Although lotto sales decreased to ¥5.58bn, sports betting revenue increased 54.3% to ¥15.62bn. Instant win sports lottery ticket revenue also increased ¥1.37bn to ¥4.36bn.

Sales were largely affected by the suspension of Zhongfu online video-based lottery games, changes in the rules of Happy 8 keno-based lottery games, and a ban on high-frequency quick-open lottery games.

The Guangdong province proved to be the most lucrative area, generating ¥11.91bn – a 28.2% decrease from last month. Zhejiang was next with ¥9.35bn, followed by Shandong with ¥7.35bn.

Tennis player Simohamed Hirs banned for life

The case was ruled on by anti-corruption hearing officer Amani Khalifa, and means that from 28 July Hirs is permanently prohibited from playing in or attending any tennis event authorised or sanctioned by the governing bodies of tennis.

In addition to the ban, Hirs was order to pay a fine of $35,000 (£25,143/€29,499).

The player, whose highest Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles ranking was 1,798, was found guilty of 3 match fixing charges and was also charged with failing to report being approached with requests to fix matches, as well as soliciting other players not to use their best efforts.

Since April, the ITIA has handed out several bans related to breaches of its Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP) rules.

Venezuela’s Roberto Maytín, who previously ranked 86th in the world for doubles, was handed a 14-year ban and a $100,000 fine with $75,000 suspended.

Kazakhstani tennis player Roman Khassanov was subsequently banned from the sport for 10 years after admitting several instances of match fixing between 2014 and 2018, while a trio of Belgian players were provisionally suspended from the sport in May pending a criminal investigation.

Last month, Colombian player Carlos Andrés Sepúlveda Navarro was handed a three-year ban from the sport.

Earlier this month, the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) announced that a record low number of suspicious betting alerts had been recorded in the second quarter of 2021, despite tennis authorities confirming that they were investigating irregular betting patterns at this year’s Wimbledon grand slam tournament.

The Association said it had received just six alerts on tennis during the quarter, the lowest number recorded in the sport since the body began producing regular reports in 2015.

The ITIA, meanwhile, said it had received a total of 11 suspicious betting alerts for the quarter – less than half the number recorded in Q1.

Sportsbet launches safer gambling initiative

The initiative aims to encourage bettors to set deposit limits on all online betting accounts to prevent problem gambling behaviours, in an effort to normalise safer gambling tools.

The campaign will be the primary focus of Sportsbet’s media investment, featuring on TV, radio and billboards and broadcast integrations.

“We have a vital role in the promotion of safer gambling and a responsibility to use our
profile to send the message; no matter who you bet with, we want you to do so in a way
that is safe and responsible,” said Barni Evans, CEO of Sportsbet.

“And setting a deposit limit is a proactive way to help keep your betting in check.”

This month, Flutter entered a debt-restructuring deal to free up £250m of liquidity, in order to increase its mobility.

Softswiss obtains Greek gaming licence

In addition for Softswiss becoming available to those with Greek passports and bank accounts, the license allows the company to move forward with a partnership with operator N1 Casino within the country.

Greece becomes the latest market that Softswiss has gained access to, after it was granted a Nigerian gaming licence earlier this year.

Softswiss founder Ivan Montik said: “It’s a tremendous landmark and an amazing achievement for us to receive the Greek gaming licence to be able to do business in a regulated national market and expand our reach. It’s even more exciting to be officially announcing our very first client for the Greek region to be N1 Casino Greece.

“We’ve recently made strategic moves to fast-developing markets like Nigeria and are now establishing ourselves more in the European continent. It is opening new horizons for us and we’re ready to go for it. Softswiss is not only planning on doing business in Greece but also making a positive impact through charity and corporate social sustainability efforts in the country.”

As well as branching out into different markets, Softswiss’ affiliate platform Affilka recently expanded to include sports betting.

A gambling reform bill was passed in Greece in 2019, before HGC started the online gaming application process in 2020.

The reforms led to strict conditions for potential operators, such as €2 cap on spins for online slots, a three second spin minimum and a maximum win of €70,000 per round, though earlier proposals to ban RNG games entirely were rejected.

PointsBet raises AUD$215.1m from ASX share placement

PointsBet, which placed its ordinary shares at a price of $10.00 each, said the placement drew interest from Australian and international investors, as well as both existing and new institutional shareholders. 

A total of 21,506,682 will be issued as part of the placement, with these due to be placed on 5 August and begin trading on 6 August.

Proceeds will be joined together with funds from a previously announced entitlement offer to total approximately $400.0m.

“We are very pleased with the level of support from our existing shareholders and other new institutional investors for the offer,” PointsBet group chief executive Sam Swanell said. “We see the success of the placement element of our offer as a clear endorsement of PointsBet’s long-term strategy.”

As part of the raising, PointsBet will make a one-for-nine accelerated pro-rata renounceable entitlement offer of new shares, with retail rights trading at an offer price of $8.00 per new share, in order to raise approximately $184.9m in gross proceeds.

The institutional component of the offer will begin today (30 July) and close tomorrow, with the retail component to commence on 6 August and conclude on 20 August. Retail rights trading will be available between 4 August and 13 August.

PointsBet shares will remain in trading halt until the institutional entitlement offer ends, with normal trading of shares on the ASK set to resume from 4 August.  

The placement comes after bookmaker PointsBet yesterday reported a 153.9% year-on-year revenue increasein its results for the 2020-21 financial year, ended 30 June.

Revenue came to AUD$210.1m (£111.4m/€131.0m), a rise of $128m compared to the operator’s revenue in its full year 2020 results. PointsBet’s total net win from gaming, however, was reported as $208.5m. 

GC survey suggests limited awareness of safer gambling tools

The data came from a Yonder survey of 8,000 respondents, of which 4,576 said they had gambled in the past year.

In total, only 13% of players had used one of the seven safer gambling tools they were asked about. Younger players tended to be the most likely to have used the tools, with 26% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they had used one, compared to just 4% of those aged 65 and over.

Online gamblers were also more likely to use the tools, but rates were still fairly low at 16%. Those who had taken part in three or more different types of gambling activity during the last 12 months were also more likely to use the tools, with 20% reporting doing so.

While limits on deposits or losses were the most common player protection tool used by gamblers, takeup was still low at only 8%. “Reality check” tools followed with 5%, while 4% of players said they used “time out” features and 3% excluded themselves from certain products.

Only 2% said they used blocking software such as Gamban, multi-operator self-exclusion such as Gamstop or payment-blocking tools from banks. However, as the questions only applied to those who had gambled within the last 12 months, more people may have used these tools to stop gambling for a longer period. 

Awareness of the tools was also low. Limits were the only tool that the majority of gamblers were aware of, at 59%. Meanwhile, only 37% were aware of reality checks, 45% of time out features and 29% product-level exclusions. Meanwhile, 28% of gamblers were aware of blocking software, 40% of payment blocking from banks and 29% of multi-operator self-exclusion.

The survey also asked further questions specifically focused on self-exclusion. In total, 6% of respondents said they self-excluded, including those who used the tool more than 12 months ago. A further 34% said they were aware of the tool, meaning a total of 40% of gamblers were aware.

Of those who self-excluded, the most popular reason was to help control overall gambling levels, closely followed by helping to control gambling levels with a particular operator.

“It was particularly interesting to see that the awareness of payment card blocking with your bank, which was first brought in during 2018, had higher levels of awareness than some of the more established gambling management tools,” the Gambling Commission said.

The survey went on to ask gamblers questions about operator terms and conditions. It found that 14% of customers had read these in the past year, while 65% had not but knew they were available. 21% of customers said they were not aware these terms were available.

Another Yonder survey for the Gambling Commission, released earlier this week, found that participation in gambling in Great Britain dropped to 41.6% in June 2021, while those at risk of gambling-related harm also declined.

Last week, safer gambling tool Gamban extended its blocking capabilities to include cryptocurrency and trading platforms. Gamban conducted research last month into whether different forms of trading could be considered gambling. The results showed that an “overwhelming proportion” of those surveyed viewed cryptocurrency investment as a gambling medium.

FDJ enjoys €1.08bn in net revenue in H1 as EC investigation looms

This was a rise of 29.5% compared to €849m recorded in the first half of 2020, in a H1 affected by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdowns.

The lottery operator hailed the UEFA European Football Championship and bar re-openings as reasons for accelerated growth in its second quarter.

Stakes totaled at €9.15bn. Lottery stakes made up €6.87bn of this total, a rise of 18.9% year-on-year. €4.28bn of the lottery stakes comprised of instant lottery games, such as scratch cards, while the remaining €2.59bn came from draw games.

Sports betting stakes also rose significantly to €2.26bn from €1.10bn recorded in H1 2020, an increase of 109.0%. €2.69bn of these overall stakes came through either online or digital points of sale.

€6.29bn of the €9.15bn overall bets was paid out as player winnings. This left the gross gaming revenue at €2.86bn. FDJ’s contribution to public finances, at 31.3% of GGR, left the net gaming revenue at €1.08bn.

The operator’s total revenue was affected by expenses. Cost of sales took up the most expense, at €591m, an increase of 34.0% year on year. Marketing and communications cost €195m, up 32.6%. Other administrative costs came to €98m.

Overall, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the half amounted to €261m, a rise of 50% compared to 2020’s first half.

Amortization costs decreased this by €63m, leaving the total net operating revenue at €198m, a 59.6% rise year on year.

“The second quarter confirmed a recovery of our activities to levels higher than those recorded before the crisis,” said Stéphane Pallez, CEO of FDJ.

“In the absence of new restrictive measures linked to the evolution of the health situation, the Group anticipates maintaining good momentum in the second half of the year and is confident in its business and results outlook while respecting its responsible gaming model.”

This week, the European Commission announced an investigation into FDJ to discover whether EU laws were violated when FDJ paid €380m to remain the exclusive retail and lottery betting operator of the country after its privatisation.

Betway becomes premium partner of VfB Stuttgart under extended deal

The deal will run until 2024, with Betway to benefit from a branding presence on surfaces inside the team’s Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Stuttgart kicks off its 2021-22 Bundesliga campaign with a home match against Fürth on 14 August.

“VfB Stuttgart are one of the most successful football clubs in Germany; we’re very proud to be a premium partner for the next three years,” Betway chief executive Anthony Werkman said.

“The commitment reflects the ambitions of our brand, as the Bundesliga is recognised around the world as one of the most important football leagues.”

VfB Stuttgart chief executive Thomas Hitzlsperger added: “Our partnership has proven its worth for both parties, even during a challenging time for football. We’re therefore very pleased that Betway is reaffirming its commitment to VfB and we look forward to a long-term partnership.”

Betway has a wide range of commercial deals in place across the professional sports market, including other Bundesliga clubs SV Werder Bremen and Hertha BSC, as well as Stuttgart-based tennis event the MercedesCup.

The operator in March secured an online sports betting licence from the Regional Council of Darmstadt (RP Darmstadt) in Germany.

theScore partners Canlan Sports on promotional drive

Under the agreement, both brands will benefit from cross promotion across their respective digital platforms, while theScore’s properties, including its theScore Bet  mobile sportsbook, will have a branding presence at Canlan’s network of Sports Complexes throughout Canada.

This will include theScore Bet becoming the new title sponsor of Canlan’s adult recreational hockey league (ASHL) tournaments, which welcome more than 65,000 players each year.

theScore will also benefit from activation across Canlan’s adult participant network.

In return, Canlan will tap into theScore’s digital media footprint across Canada to promote its sports and recreational brand to consumers.

The new partnership is scheduled to commence this fall, beginning with theScore assuming sport-surface title sponsorship in all six of Canlan’s Ontario Sports Complexes.

Read the full story on iGB North America.