Querking in her boots at pointless ASA’s lack of action 

Hockey Olympic gold medallist Sam Querk, who is married to a millionaire, has been using her vast social media following to promote gambling company ‘Footie 5’, a UK Gambling Commission registered company.  Querk, who is now a prominent BBC Radio 5 Sports presenter, has been ‘warned’ not once but twice by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about her actions, proving that the ASA is a toothless and pointless outfit and like The Gambling Commission, a reactive organisation that does little to serve the public and protect the vulnerable.  Whilst Querk has been raking in an unknown sum by peddling out her misleading advertising to her 175,000 twitter followers, it again seems like the gambling industry goes about flouting rules with little or no consequence.  A spokesperson at Gamvisory said, ‘Yet again a sporting idol has sold herself out for a quick buck. To be warned about this behaviour twice and to carry on flouting the rules just goes to show that the only accountability in this industry is done via the media.  This is not behaviour that is conducive with standards you would expect of BBC employees. She should step down from her role so she can become a full time ambassador to peddle gambling products without piggy backing off her prominence as a BBC football presenter, which is clearly a conflict of interest.’

Laughably however, The ASA were crystal clear by stating that if she broke the rules for a third time then Querk would face a formal investigation.  

Ex-Olympic boxer speaks out about his troubled gambling past

Two times Olympic medalist, Paddy Barnes from Belfast has bravely spoke out about his past troubles with disordered gambling.  Speaking in a video for sports NI, Barnes explained how he got into crippling debt as the illness took a hold of his life.  Despite relapsing, Barnes finally managed to open up to his wife and began to address his illness.  

Ukraine latest company to block UK registered gambling sites

Following our report last week that prominent UK Gambling Commission licence holder, Progress Play has been ‘blacklisted’ by the Romanian authorities, fellow European neighbour, Ukraine is the latest country to obtain court orders against yet more prominent and well known UK listed gambling operators, with the first action taken in February 2020.  Although the latest list is yet to be revealed, it is likely that popular UK sites will be added to the list.  GVC owned Partypoker, (licensed by Electraworks) was in the first round of being forbidden to operate in the country.  GVC’s Electraworks, which also run popular site ‘Bwin’ were ‘fined’ by The UK Gambling Commission in 2018 for marketing and advertising LCCP breaches and GVC were fined in July 2019 for Social Responsibility failings and Money Laundering failings. Another UK licenced operator, Apollo Entertainment, who run just as many ‘White Label’ sites as they do their own sites, also appeared on the list in February.  

This news shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt.  Although Ukraine is in the process of legalising online gambling, it remains an illegal activity.  The intervention by the chief of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) to ask the courts to intervene, clearly indicates that again, well known and powerful UK gambling licence holders are attempting to break fellow European country’s laws to operate there illegally, with The Gambling Commission seemingly turning a blind eye. 

Gamvisory invited to advertise for an online gambling affiliate

Gamvisory were contacted last week by an affiliate working on behalf of an unknown online gambling company to promote an article on their site.  Gamvisory has put the issue of affiliates and White Label companies into the public domain and previously highlighted a case around a UK registered licence holder, Aspire Global Ltd, who run ‘Karamba’ and a large number of White Label companies, where both affiliate marketing practices and White Label companies had failed (https://gamvisory.com/publications/new-page-3/). 

The company contacted Gamvisory to request publishing an article that will be ‘about games and technology’ and that it would include a link to the online casino.  When the company asked how much the article would cost, Gamvisory offered a competitive introductory offer of £24.  The article has yet to materialise and most likely never will but if they’re that ineffective with their research to think that Gamvisory would sell themselves out then you never know, the cheque for £24 may appear, which will be waived and the article would appear not quite how it was intended to from the affiliate in question.  

On a serious note however, this just proves the lengths that some affiliates and online casion sites will go to push out their products.  Gamvisory’s publication (link above), shows how the White Label and affiliate system is a mess and targets the vulnerable.  Aspire Global targeted Gamvisory’s Alex Macey with marketing text messages and emails repeatedly after he self-excluded years back.  Macey eventually decided to accept a refund of his losses of £1,800, which was spent over the course of just a couple of days with AG’s Karamba site on his payday, leaving him a difficult 28 days of the month to grind through.  The refund was on condition of signing a Non Disclosure Agreement (or as they named it, a ‘settlement agreement’).  Remarkably, following the ‘agreement’ Macey continued to receive marketing texts and emails from the company.  Macey asked a director of the firm whether he would be complying with legal requirements to report the case to the Gambling Commission, however the director stated that he would have to refer this to his compliance team.  

The initial case was submitted to The Gambling Commission back in June 2018, prior to the settlement agreement, with the regulator failing to take any action.  Following a Freedom of Information request sent to the regulator, Macey discovered that some of the case material he submitted was simply ‘filed’ and closed off with no investigation whatsoever. Fortunately for Macey, he doesn’t get triggered by these illegal marketing practices, however it begs the question: how many other struggling disordered gamblers are out there being bombarded illegally which could lead to dire consequences? Yet again, the Gambling Commission’s failure to act opens the door to malpractice and goes against the core principles they are meant to uphold, namely protecting the vulnerable from gambling harms.  Macey will be publishing the settlement agreement with AG soon.

From Twitter: Silence is becoming deafening 

On a similar theme, @coceptwin received an affiliate driven promotional email from Betfair last week. Deciding to raise the issue on Twitter, Betfair initially treated @conceptwin with distain by informing him that the email was nothing to do with them, despite it clearly stating that the casino advertised was owned by Betfair at the bottom of there email.  Betfair then continually insisted that the matter is best dealt with via private messaging, however @conceptwin requested that the matter be dealt with publicly.  When Betfair tried to pass the buck onto the affiliate, @conceptwin pointed out that Betfair are legally responsible for the actions of affilaites. Following this, Betfair ignored him.  Not wanting to let the issue go, @conceptwin requested an intervention from the new Non Executive Director of the huge new powerhouse merger between Flutter and the Stars Group, Richard Flint.  Flint has been the industry’s Twitter ‘voice of reason’ over the years, respectfully engaging with EbEs along the way.  However, Flint simply echoed the advice from Betfair to simply unsubscribe from the affiliate in question and then began to deflect the issue onto @conceptwin for not being signed up to Gamstop.  @conceptwin stated that he didn’t need to use the service and furthermore, wants to bring accountability for malpractices, rather than have the issue swept under the carpet.  Flint was the CEO of Sky Bet when they fined £1m for sending promotional marketing material to 50,0000 self-excluded customers. Betfair and Flint continue to ignore the issue.

Meanwhile……………The Stars Group officially reported that it was on track for a record first quarter in its latest trading update.  The Group reported that its online casino and poker platforms have had a 75% uplift during the quarter, which has clearly been as a result of the lockdown and the advertising bombardment both online, through affiliates and on the TV.  

The Betting and Gaming Council, proudly announced that Ygam had become a large beneficiary of The Gambling Commission’s release of £9m for the funding of ‘Research Education and Treatment’ (RET).  Whilst the limelight is slowly shining on the exact nature of how these industry-backed organisations spend this money, eagle-eyed twitter user @PP_A_G_E noted a bizarre anomaly between two almost identical articles from different sources on the subject.  In one article, it was stated that Ygam’s ‘education’ programme would be involving the police, yet the other didn’t.  When @PP_A_G_E challenged Ygam, they simply brushed it off and appeared to offer confusing messages about this aspect of their proposed work.  @PP_A_G_E also noted that the reference to police was also not mentioned in Ygam’s official press release on their own website.  With there being a number of recovered and recovering disordered gamblers with a police background that are forming a close network through Gamvisory, close attention will surely be paid to this subject.  

Over the weekend EbE @ChrisMurphy180 repeatedly asked The Betting Gaming Council and its Ceo, Michael Dugher why some of its members were still not complying with the Gambling Commission’s request to immediately suspend the practice of reverse withdrawals.  Dugher had previously replied to another issue murphy raised by calling him ‘derranged’, an issue later raised by MP Carolyn Harris to a stunned BBC Radio 5 presenter, after the BGC refused to appear on the show.    

WHAT HAS THE GAMBLING COMMISSION DONE THIS TIME?

The Gambling Commission made a surprised but welcomed announcement that it was ‘advising’ its licence holders that reverse withdrawals should be immediately suspended.  The practice of banning reverse withdrawals has been a prominent theme for many EbEs and indeed Gamvisory.  It’s a clear marker of disordered gambling and should never have been permitted in the first place.  Other measures of ‘guidance’ The Gambling Commission mentioned were pretty much a ‘copy and paste’ lift from Money Laundering Regulations that have been in place since 2007 and again refreshed in 2017.  

It seems quite unbelievable that in 2020 The Gambling Commission have to issue guidance to a multi-billion pound industry about how to comply with the most basic of laws that should have been integral to their business models from the off. Before anyone heaps praise on our useless regulator, remember that all they are doing is asking the businesses that they are meant to regulate to simply comply with the law.  

Furthermore, the Betting and Gaming Council haven’t even bothered to get its members to abide by the reverse withdrawal suspension.  Chris Murphy has quite rightly asked the BGC what they are doing, yet he and all off us simply get ignored when there are questions that industry folk simply don’t want to face up to. We repeatedly call on the government to take control of the gambling industry as self-governance is not working and our regulator is about as effective as a chocolate teapot.