Thank goodness for the Guardian newspaper who are really working hard to publish hard hitting stories on the negative side of gambling, both online and offline. They are regularly coming up with the latest news and controversies, here are two recent big stories they have published. Shame that other newspapers are doing the opposite and actually opening up their own online gambling sites to prey on their vulnerable readers.
Online gambling ‘affiliates’ earn up to 30% commission from losses made by followers who bet via links to bookmakers
Dubious tipsters who earn commission on the business they send to online bookmakers are pulling in vast sums of money by deliberately recommending long shot bets that are unlikely to win, the Guardian has learned.
Current and former tipsters, pressure groups and charities have described how the operators have a vested interest in seeing their tips lose because they take up to a 30% cut of the losses their followers make to bookmakers.
The disclosures will increase pressure on the government to exert more control over the gambling industry. It is currently self-regulating but is facing severe scrutiny after the online betting firm 888 was penalised a record £7.8m because more than 7,000 people who had voluntarily banned themselves from gambling were still able to access their accounts.
On Thursday, the Guardian revealed that the industry was harvesting people’s data to target low-income gamblers and people who had stopped betting.
The new details of dubious practices on the fringes of the industry focus on “affiliates” – individuals or businesses who send customers to online bookmakers by posting links and taking a share of the income that the bookmakers make from those referrals. Affiliates have become one of the main ways for online casinos and bookmakers to gain new customers since the cost of conventional pay-per-click advertising rose sharply in recent years.
The spread of social media has led to a marked increase in the number of affiliates. While some conduct their business legitimately, others are alleged to deliberately mislead those who have come to trust them after they have built a rapport by showing evidence of occasional wins and by having an approachable tone. To access the operator’s tips, followers must sign up with the particular bookmaker or casino to which the vendor is affiliated.
They often advertise free bets to lure in new users. However, users often have to make up to 35 bets before any winnings can be withdrawn.
Critics say bookmakers must do more to challenge such practices.
“Online gambling companies need a constant stream of new players, as a huge proportion of their customers experience significant harm and lose more than they can afford,” said Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. “Affiliate sites disguise themselves as tipsters, but when they earn a percentage of customer losses they are clearly only pretending to be on the side of the gamblers.”
Income from “remote betting”, that is, via online casinos, poker and bingo, was £817m in 2009. It has now reached £4.5bn, making up more than a third of the industry’s £14bn income last year.
Earlier this year, the head of the Gambling Commission, Sarah Harrison, expressed her “grave concerns about terms which appear to bamboozle rather than help customers make informed choices”.
An industry expert, Peter Ling, said tipsters earn money through revenue share deals, where they earn around 30% of the losses incurred by any customers they refer to the mainstream betting websites.
“This incentivises such tipsters to only put up losers, yet no self-respecting punter would knowingly follow the advice of a losing tipster,” he said. “It has created a situation where losing tipsters are masquerading as being successful by using a variety of tactics, be it through social media where they create new accounts and delete posts to fit a narrative, or simpler things, such as quoting odds that don’t exist.”
Some affiliates, masquerading as tipsters via Facebook groups, build up a following on social media before posting a sign-up link connected to their affiliate ID. This ensures they earn from their followers’ losses once they purposely recommend that they gamble on bets that are likely to lose.
It has been alleged that one prominent tipster advised his followers to make 57 consecutive bets which lost.
Such tipsters, who work from home, frequently recommend accumulator bets that experts say represent bad value, and entice their followers by posting fake graphics of their wins.
Others will play high stakes slots all day on a livestream before cherry picking their wins and posting the videos on YouTube. These will be accompanied by affiliate links which do not disclose that the tipsters stand to win from any losses incurred by those who sign up.
The YouTube videos of the wins garner far more views than those of the livestreams, which often feature repeated losses. However, because of the success they have in encouraging people to sign up, they can afford to take the losses.
An ex-employee of a gambling company said: “I’ve watched the YouTube affiliates, they are definitely in the red [on their on-screen bets].”
Other, more reputable tipsters also enjoy win-win scenarios when recommending bets to punters.
“We have concerns about some of the ‘big players’ who generate a great deal of affiliate income,” said Brian Chapel, of Justice for Punters, a group calling for greater regulation.
Referring to larger businesses that simultaneously tip and take a cut from bookmakers, he said: “Of course these organisations provide some great information for punters, but surely there is a conflict of interest when they promote themselves as the best source of information for punters yet earns a commission based on punter losses.”
This is a story that we have long been pushing here on YesNoCasino. The ridiculous advertising rules in place allowing gambling to be promoted everywhere.
Ban betting firms from sponsoring football shirts, says Labour
Party pledges to tackle ‘hidden epidemic’ of addiction and protect children from early exposure to gambling
Football clubs will be banned from signing shirt sponsorship deals with betting companies under a Labour government, as the party pledges to tackle a “hidden epidemic” of addiction and protect children from early exposure to gambling.
The policy, unveiled by deputy leader Tom Watson, is understood to be the first of a series of proposals to curb the power of gambling firms, ramping up pressure on the government ahead of its own review of the industry.
Watson, who is also the shadow minister for digital, culture media and sport, said a Labour government would encourage the Football Association to implement its own ban but was prepared to legislate if necessary.
“Football has to play its part in tackling Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction,” he said.
“Shirt sponsorship sends out a message that football clubs don’t take problem gambling among their own fans seriously enough. It puts gambling brands in front of fans of all ages, not just at matches but on broadcasts and highlights packages on both commercial television and the BBC.”
Nine of the 20 Premier League football clubs – including Newcastle, West Ham and Everton – have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies, worth a combined £47.3m this season alone.
A further 16 clubs in England’s second and third tiers have similar deals, in many cases with firms that do relatively little business in the UK but are using the global popularity of the Premier League to woo customers in Asia and elsewhere.
Football Association rules already prohibit youth teams from wearing clothing that displays products considered “detrimental to the welfare, health or general interests of young persons” – including gambling. Labour sources pointed out that the FA’s own logic should extend to the millions of children who watch football. Last month the FA announced it was ending its sponsorship deals with betting companies and terminated a contract with Ladbrokes worth about £4m a year.
Watson also drew a comparison with laws passed in 2005 to stop cigarette firms sponsoring sport.
“Just as tobacco companies were banned from sponsoring sporting events and putting their logos on branded goods because of the harm smoking can cause,” he said, “it’s right that we recognise the harm problem gambling does and take gambling logos off football shirts.”
Watson said figures from industry watchdog the Gambling Commission, which last month indicated a rise in the number of problem gamblers to 430,000, meant football should distance itself from the industry.
“With new evidence showing gambling addiction rising, at huge cost to individuals and their families, to society and to the taxpayer, the clubs should follow the FA’s lead,” he said.
Recent research by academics at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that gambling is now so inextricably linked to football that television watchers cannot avoid industry branding, even if they don’t watch commercial TV. In a study of three episodes of the BBC’s flagship football highlights programme Match of the Day, researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London found that gambling logos or branding appeared on screen for between 71% and 89% of the show’s running time.
Despite the fact that Sky broadcasts adverts, the research found that in some cases the percentage of screen time enjoyed by gambling firms during a live football broadcast was as low as 68%. This figure was for a game between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, with neither team sponsored by a betting firm. Another game, between West Ham and Liverpool, featured some form of gambling advert for 88% of the programme.
Professor Rebecca Cassidy said the similarity between Match of the Day and Sky was partly down to the fact that live games feature long periods of pre- and post-match analysis during which gambling logos do not appear.
By contrast, highlights shows tend to feature close-up shots showing advertising billboards in and shirts, while many post-match interviews are conducted in front of hoardings festooned with company logos.
“What surprised us when we looked at a small sample of live football matches and highlights was the sheer quantity and the fact that the BBC was not a ‘safe space’,” said Cassidy. “Gambling advertising has become part of the fabric of our stadiums and whether you’re watching highlights on the BBC or live matches on Sky you will be exposed to large amounts of it.”
She pointed to the harsher regime in Australia, where gambling adverts were recently banned during sports events shown before the watershed.
The DCMS is due to publish a report in early November detailing the government’s proposals on gambling advertising and controversial fixed-odds betting terminals.
Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport, is understood to be keen to implement tough measures on FOBTs in particular, but is facing opposition from the Treasury, which is mindful of the impact of any new restrictions on tax payments from gambling firms.