“A legal standard that requires parties to demonstrate that a claim is valid or invalid based on facts and evidence”

Following on from my initial two blogs which I would class as a small insight into my feelings and experience as a disordered gambler, I have decided to provide a further evidence-based account in relation to gambling related harm and how the industry needs to take more seriously the legacy it has not addressed. 

Gambling Insight has already provided fascinating insight into the flawed gambling consumer complaints process, which leaves us with a compounded feeling that we have been let down and exploited as vulnerable people clearly showing signs of a gambling disorder by an operator. I would like to take this opportunity to show what happened to me, when complaining and let the you, the reader decide exactly who is in the wrong. 

Evidenced-based harm markers

Between 2015 – 2018, I gambled with a company online within the UK. To confuse matters, the licence holder for this company has a different name to the operator and is based in the Isle of Man with the actual company ultimately responsible is a well-known online gaming and sports betting software provider (sounds like a story from the cold war doesn’t it), but these complex operating structures are common place.

On conclusion of my disordered gambling behaviour, I did request a copy of my full gambling activities with this company through the correct SAR (Subject Access Request) process under the Data Protection Act 2018. From this I was able to see that I was clearly showing dangerous and harmful gambling disordered behaviour. An example of some harm markers that raised no concerns with the operator included:

–       Opening and closing my account six times using the particular wording: “Could you please close my account for me? I have spent a considerable amount of money with ***** and feel like I have received poor bonuses in return” / “I would like to close my ***** account please. I have spent a large amount of money with you.

–       I made several large amount repetitive deposits, some on the same day, in effect trying to chase losses for example £1200, £1100, £950, £700 in one day. 

 –       I cancelled withdrawals 226 times in total in one year. During 2016, of which some of my worst behaviour occurred I had the following cancelled withdrawals:

February 2016 – 15 Cancelled withdrawals

March 2016 – 53 Cancelled withdrawals

April 2016 – 85 Cancelled withdrawals

I once won a £6,488.25 sports bet but spent all of this win on slot machines without withdrawing any of the money and lost the lot within a three-day period.  I had multiple failed deposits.

A lack of due diligence from gambling firm

On top of my disordered gambling behaviour, I was quickly able to see that I had clear evidence of this company not only failing to ask if I was ok, they actually, in my view encouraged my disordered gambling behaviour as follows:

–       On seven separate occasions, I tried to close my account but the operator persuaded me to keep my account open with either a free bonus or deposit related bonus, on occasion they used the wording “We would suggest you to keep your account open, We hope that you would accept this offer and try your luck again” / “Let me invite you again with £30 FREE bonus so you can try your luck again. I may be able to add the free bonus if you keep your account active.”/ “I am very glad to hear that you will be keeping your account with the casino as you have been one of the best VIP member in the club.”At no time did anybody from ***** ask me why I wanted to close my account during the multiple unsuccessful and successful times I did close my account.

–       I was once contacted by an employee of the operator without prompting who actually noticed one of my deposit transactions was declined, instead of asking if I had a problem or trying to identify the reason why it was declined (like I had no money), I was encouraged by this person to try my debit card again, suggested I tried a lower amount or another payment method as per:

“29th December 2015, Chat #2 

03:23:36 Zoey:: Welcome to Customer Services! This is Zoey. I noticed your transaction got declined. Please let me assist you with your deposit. 

03:23:49 Zoey:: Kindly enter the correct information needed to complete the transaction then try again to place your deposit. Please make sure that you will enter the correct CVV2 code at the back of the card and the expiration date is 2018-06. 

03:23:53 Zoey:: If you prefer, you may try as well to place a lower amount of deposit or try using a card available, if there is any, to complete this kind of transaction. We do accept Visa and Mastercard. 

03:23:55 Zoey:: In addition to your options, you may also try to make a deposit using another payment method such as Internet Banking or online account such as MoneyBookers or Neteller. 

03:23:56 Zoey:: You may also try using Paypal, Entropay, Boku, Ukash or Paysafecard as payment option. 

03:23:58 Zoey:: Feel free to place your deposit once again and kindly make sure that all the information needed to complete the transaction are entered correctly.”

–       Instead of being concerned about my gambling, the operator made me into a VIP platinum customer and even encouraged me to gamble more when I was given a VIP weekly cash back offer on any losses I made. I was described at one point as one of the best VIP’s in their club using the wording: “being one of our most valued VIPs”

The below highlights a significant period of my losses:

Month             Deposits          Withdrawals               Profit/ Loss                 Deposit Count

Feb 2016         £5,350             £2,700                         -£2,670                        77

March 2016    £7,619             £5,180                         -£2,439                        129

April 2016       £9,185             £5,821                         -£3,364                        114

May 2016        £2,165             £0                                -£2,165                        57

Losses equal to almost half UK average wage

With regards to the above table, surely there should be trigger thresholds which flag up a £10,638 loss in a four-month period which accounts for over half of my losses in the three years of my account being open and the loss equal to a total four months of the average UK monthly wage.  According to the UK Office of National Statistics, the average disposable income after tax is £500 per month.  Effectively x20 that was lost in just 4 months.

 Whilst I respect everyone is different, the gambling operator must have had some general figures, they work with that ‘trigger’ customer intervention, especially written checks on proof of income.  If any operator assumed, I earned an average UK salary, this means that this operator deemed it acceptable for the UK general population to lose a significant amount of their take home pay every month. At no time was I asked to provided written evidence of my source of funds to prove that I could afford such high losses.

The burden of proof in gambling

UK gambling licensing has a central theme of customer risk assessment, so it would be interesting to know why the operator’s systems did not ‘flag’ myself for a source of funds check. I was also able to become a platinum VIP customer with the operator as a direct result of my spend/ play but this behaviour did not hit any triggers within the operator with regards to disordered gambling.

It is very important to highlight that I was never asked by this operator if I was in control in anyway.

I will let the reader digest the above evidence, before providing part II of my blog which will encompass the full complaint procedure and further action as further proof the gambling industry do not care about rules and regulations. This includes the company denying all wrongdoing, the Gambling Commission’s failure to help me and concluded with myself receiving a threatening letter last year from a well-known gambling company lawyer (I will provide full evidence of this correspondence).There is a clear PR offensive ongoing by the gambling industry’s new standards body, where it appears they do no wrong.  This blog has hopefully provided proof that there is still a long way to go before standards will be raised.