Gambling VIP Schemes – Vulnerable Incentives Program
The sustained use of VIP schemes by gambling operators have been heavily scrutinised by many interested in the gambling industry for the last 18 months. The secrecy of these schemes is slowly being uncovered. A very noticeable observation is that at times we witness the three letters “VIP” are often dodged by industry executives, regulators and operators. As an Expert by Experience, this blog will attempt to highlight the predatory practices of VIP managers, with examples of the inducements offered and how there is a complete disregard for social responsibility checks. As late as the middle of 2018, I became a victim of the VIP treatment for a 6-month period as my gambling losses spiralled.
The gambling industry’s secret scheme
The secrecy and lack of transparency around the world of gambling VIPs is something that merits greater exposure. For example, just how is such status given? When does an individual get allocated such ‘privileges’? What checks are done in advance? From personal experience, the answer to these questions are it is when huge losses are being made that gambling operator employees will seek to befriend you and the inducements begin. Absolutely no upfront checks are done with the individual in advance around affordability. Profiling of the individual is done in the background.
In late 2018, when I questioned the benefits of a VIP scheme that an operator enrolled me in, I was told VIP status is about:
“offering enhanced support, rewards and offers to loyal customers. The service is available to customers on an invitation only basis (optional). There are no specific set criteria which customers are extended an invitation to join the VIP scheme.”
If a VIP scheme was actually about offering enhanced support then surely a source of funds or affordability check would be a better example of support, particularly from an industry that talks so much about raising standards.
Exploiting vulnerable individuals’ program
From experience, VIP schemes are quite simply about exploitation of vulnerable addicts at their lowest point. When for example, I deposited over £50,000 in a 6-month period, with multiple £5,000 deposits on up to 12 different occasions, there was not a single phone call or affordability check done. Having previously self-excluded, but using the same details and no bank account, but an EWallet, this did not matter either to the gambling firm. All that was ever received was some automated responsible gambling emails stating I did not need to reply. It is inconceivable that depositing x10 the average UK disposable income multiple times in a month was affordable.
On multiple occasions unsolicited emails would appear from my VIP manager stating:
“Hope you are good. Just to let you know, I’ve reviewed the account and added a £200 sportsbook bonus. Have a great day”
I felt made to feel special. I was offered numerous free bets, invites to Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, The Open, ATP Tennis, along with Arsenal and Manchester United games. With the gambling firm I was exploited by, I was regularly told how the VIP look after some of the most valuable clients and offer a bespoke personal account management service. For as long as I remained a VIP, I’d have my new friend (VIP manager) at my disposal.
Questioning the exploitation
I did often question the criteria for the VIP scheme, specifically asking whether it was based on bookmaker profitability? I asked that given was £50,000 down I am not sure how it helps me? A reply was unsurprisingly never received.
At the same time as receiving automated emails – the same operator would email around VIP promotions. Spiking 656% of RG reports did not matter. Diamond, Silver and Gold VIP status was all allocated instead. A quite incredible conflict of interest was playing out where Responsible Gambling Operations were sharing data with VIP managers.
The future of VIP schemes?
Regularly, we see operators fined for breaches of the LCCP 3.4.1 social responsibility codes of practice. The Gambling Commission is also permitting operators to carry out their own investigation into these schemes, of which the findings are yet unknown.
What is vital is that redress for those affected and exploited by VIP schemes is vital for the industry to really be seen to taking responsible gambling seriously. An ombudsman may help is the operators do not wish to do the right thing with redress. In summary, Gambling VIP schemes are nothing sort of exploitation of vulnerable addicts in deep trouble, where gambling firms are placing shareholder profit over consumer protection.