Online gambling firms face investigation for cheating customers

The internet gambling industry has grown rapidly in Britain and more 5.5 million people regularly log on to sports betting, gaming and casinos using gambling websites

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The Independent Online

Online gambling companies who are refusing to pay up or are preventing players from collecting their winnings are to face a probe, the competition regulator has said.

The online gambling sector has grown by around 146 per cent in the UK since 2009, and more than 5.5 million people regularly log on to sports betting, gaming and casinos using gambling websites.

An inquiry from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will look into whether terms and conditions for online betting accounts are unfair, following complaints from customers.

Players claim that betting companies have been using the small print of contracts to disqualify certain games, alter odds on successful bets and place unfair curbs on winning accounts.

Nisha Arora, senior director for consumer enforcement at the Competition and Markets Authority, said:  "Gambling is by its nature a risk but it certainly shouldn't be a con."

"We’re worried players are losing out because gambling sites are making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing, and may not be giving them a fair deal. We are now investigating to see whether firms are breaking the law."

Sarah Harrison, Gambling Commission chief executive, said that operators are not doing enough to ensure terms and conditions are fair. “Gambling is always going to involve risk but customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand,” she said.

The Remote Gambling Association, which represents the industry, said it will co-operate fully with the CMA investigation. It added that there was no reason to believe there were widespread failings among its members. Companies have been issued with notices requiring them to give evidence. The investigation could result in enforcement action against individual gaming sites and could lead to prosecution in court.

The campaign group, Justice4Punters, welcomed the decision to investigate.

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