Two representatives of the Gambling Commission attended the last Horseracing Bettors Forum Meeting in December to discuss matters raised by the HBF and as an early step in consolidating links between the two bodies.
Topics that were discussed included: Tracking Cookies/Spyware; The Application of Rule 4s; Dormant Accounts; Difficulties in Withdrawing Funds; and Future Contact Between HBF and The Gambling Commission.
The GC’s representatives emphasised the need for the public to be aware of the correct procedures to be followed if they have a complaint. In many cases, this involves exhausting the relevant operator’s complaints and disputes procedures, including, if necessary, reverting to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body, available at no charge to the public. The GC then acts as the authority that oversees the activity of the ADR.
The GC’s regulatory focus is on evidenced breaches of the operator licence conditions and codes of practice. Where regulatory shortcomings are identified, the GC has a range of compliance and enforcement powers which can be used to raise standards within the industry to the benefit of consumers.
The GC does not directly resolve individual customer complaints and cannot help customers to get their money back from a bet placed.
On the specific matters discussed:
- GC had shared with the Information Commissioner’s Office evidence of possible commercial misuse of tracking cookies brought to the attention of HBF.
- GC understands that ICO will shortly be publishing updated cookie guidance and that ICO expects that organisations allow individuals to consent to having cookies placed on their devices. The latter implies that such software should not be placed on the landing page as, by so doing, it negates the opportunity for consumer consent.
- HBF/GC was joined by one of the BHA’s Betting Investigators to discuss concerns about Rule 4 use and possible solutions. GC stated that it requires clarity and transparency about a company’s Rule 4 approach, but that decisions on – for instance – whether to apply Rule 4 deductions at time of withdrawal or time of bet placement are a commercial matter for those companies.
- In response to expressed concerns about the potential for wider market manipulation through withdrawals and Rule 4s, the GC stated that it sees it as the Starting Price Regulatory Commission’s role to monitor the integrity of SPs. HBF has since restated its lack of confidence in the SPRC as a body and pointed out that SPs are only a small part of market operations that may have the potential of being compromised.
- HBF was encouraged by GC’s public comments regarding alleged Rule 4 abuse made subsequent to the December meeting. GC has restated that anyone with clear evidence of improper activities regarding R4s should contact the GC, either directly or through HBF.
- GC is monitoring possible issues regarding dormant accounts but has not received much indication of public concern about this matter. GC has made limited comments on this matter here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/pdf/Customer-funds-segregation-and-disclosure-to-customers.pdf
- It is ultimately for the Courts or the Competition and Markets Authority to rule on the fairness of dormant account charges. GC expects operators to take reasonable steps (and to provide evidence of this) to notify a customer before invoking charges, and it expects that such charges be reasonable and proportionate.
- GC is also exploring concerns regarding difficulties in withdrawing funds (HBF had pointed out the asymmetry between procedures governing deposits, which tend to be easy, and withdrawals, which frequently are not).
- GC expects operators to monitor both deposits and withdrawals as part of their regulatory obligations. It continues to educate the industry regarding the need to explain why checks are undertaken.
- GC’s new website includes a page for consumers about identity checks [http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/for-the-public/Safer-gambling/Why-ID-verification-is-important.aspx].
Both GC and HBF saw the discussions as an important early step in consolidating links between the two bodies and in clarifying matters of concern to each of them. There will be an ongoing dialogue, and it is likely that GC representatives will attend future HBF meetings on a selective basis.
HBF thanks the Gambling Commission for its time and efforts already. HBF invites the British horseracing betting public to contact it through the usual channels if wishing to query or develop further any of the points raised above.
Horseracing Bettors Forum, March 2017