By Pavlos Sideris, Director at Double Up Media

Operators can do more to increase customer confidence

Pavlos Sideris has been involved in the iGaming industry for over 12 years and is director of Double Up Media, a UK-based affiliate lead generation company. Sideris values the importance of fairness and transparency in iGaming and believes in putting players before profit.

2022-03-08
United Kingdom
Reading time 3:22 min

As the gambling industry gradually returns to a new kind of normalcy two years after the Covid-19 pandemic, Pavlos Sideris, Director at Double Up Media, analyzes in his latest column how this uncertain landscape has affected public trust in gambling, some significant responses from operators and regulators in the UK, transparency issues related to bonuses and promotions, and the best path forward to bring customer confidence back.

During the struggles of the last eighteen months, a spotlight has been shone directly on the iGaming industry as prominent figures within Westminster rallied for more restrictions to be placed upon operators in an attempt to ‘protect’ players. 

With people back in work and the economy up and running with all signs looking positive, there seems like no better time for operators to start looking at increasing customer confidence.

There’s nothing to suggest that online casinos and bookmakers have acted immorally during the pandemic, they, like any other business have done what they have to do in order to keep their heads above water and their staff in a job. 

Despite trying to operate as normal, the industry voluntarily introduced socially responsible measures during the pandemic to help curb potential problem gambling, which included a TV and radio advertising ban and the introduction of safer gambling messages.

Any gambling firms that already had pre-booked advertising slots either replaced them with a positive safer gambling alternative backed by charities or removed them entirely.

The last time a real surge of trust and confidence struck the industry was in 2017 when the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) began clamping down on operators for failing to communicate the terms and limitations of their welcome offers and bonuses. 

Before they stepped in many players had become particularly disillusioned with certain online casinos and bookmakers for a supposed lack of transparency over wagering requirements and other restrictions. 

The complaint was that operators weren’t clearly stating that a bonus needed to be played through a number of times before it could be withdrawn. Upon investigation, the UKCG and the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) concluded that something needed to be done. 

In a speech given by CMA Project Director George Lusty at the Gambling Commission's Raising Standards Conference in 2017, he said: “In our view, such a restriction [wagering requirements] is both substantively unfair under the Consumer Rights Act and implementing such a restriction amounts to an unfair commercial practice.

“We think that making the withdrawal of deposit winnings conditional on meeting wagering requirements is a significant restriction on the consumer’s right to withdraw, in particular given the practical impact of repeated wagering on the average return to player percentage.”

Towards the end of 2017 the UKGC unveiled a roadmap entitled ‘Making gambling safer and fairer 2018 - 2021’. This focused on five priority areas: Protecting the interests of consumers, preventing harm to consumers, raising standards in the industry as a whole, optimising returns to good causes from lotteries, and improving the way the commission regulates.

As a condition of their licence, operators were told they must be more transparent with their T&C, so that customers know exactly what they’re getting into before entering a promotion or claiming a bonus.

Both operators and affiliates alike immediately took the new guidelines on board in order to ensure they would not be breaching new rules, putting themselves at risk of receiving a hefty fine, or even losing their licence to operate within the United Kingdom. 

Terms and conditions relaxed and became less stringent as operators tried to show players that they could act fairly and in good faith. Some forward-thinking companies such as BGO and PlayOJO even adopted a wager-free approach, becoming fully fledged no wagering slot sites in the process.

Action of this kind goes a long way in increasing customer confidence in the industry, as there are fewer nasty surprises and so fewer disgruntled customers. However, there’s evidence to suggest that the move towards a fairer industry has met increasing resistance in recent months, and some operators might even be returning ‘back to their old ways’, which is disappointing to see.

There’s undeniable proof that fairer terms really do work, not only in increasing customer confidence, but also in terms of profitability. It was recently revealed that SkillOnNet casino PlayOJO (that prides itself on having “no wagering, ever”), was far outperforming its 39 sister brands, all of which featured wagering requirements across their offers and promotions. Other popular operators such as Paddy Power and Betfair have also continued to flourish, in part thanks to their generous ‘wager-free spins’.

It’s quite clear that there’s still a huge demand for these types of offers, as well as a fairer, more transparent and trustworthy landscape in general, and whilst they’re few and far between in this day and age, players are gravitating towards fairer casinos in a bid to avoid unnecessary restrictions and complicated conditions.

At a time when public trust in gambling is at an all time low, having fallen from 49% in 2009 to 29% in 2019/20, it’s never been more important to put players first and claw back their confidence.

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