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Online casino under the microscope

Tue, Apr 16, 9:23am by Staff Writer

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is investigating claims that an online casino company accepted a £20,000 pound bet from a problem gambler.

The company in question is LeoVegas, with The Guardian reporting that the site accepted the bet from the known gambler, who had stolen the money from his mother.

They bombarded him with emails to encourage him to continue betting, the report alleges.

Details of the case sparked renewed calls from campaigners and politicians from gambling companies to perform more rigorous checks before customers’ place bets.

The recovering addict, who is receiving treatment, had his account locked by LeoVegas in May 2018 after a customer service employee flagged up “concerning” communication during a live webchat.

The account was suspended days after LeoVegas received a £600,000 penalty from the Gambling Commission for separate incidents of accepting bets from problem gamblers.

Despite the suspension, sister companies LeoVegas group including Pink Casino and Castle Jackpot, continued sending him marketing emails as often as four times in a day offering “free spins” and bonuses.

Emails trigger splurge

In January 2019, after months of receiving the emails, the gambler set up a new account with 21.co.uk, also part of the Leo Gaming group.

He used the same name and email address but this time registered his mother’s debit card.

He proceeded to gamble away £20,000 before 21.co.uk asked for ID verification and on realizing that he was using someone else’s card, eventually blocked his account.

Once again, the sister companies in the Leo Gaming group resumed sending marketing emails from a host of its sites, offering free spins and refunds on losses.

As well as using his mother’s card without permission, the gambler had racked up thousands of pounds in debt from payday lenders including 247 Moneybox, My Jar and Satsuma.

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is pushing for tighter controls on online gambling.

He said, “it makes no sense for gambling companies to be doing ID and affordability checks after gamblers have lost huge sums rather than before they’ve placed the bets.”

“The whole system seems the wrong way round. We also need to see immediate action to scrap credit card betting and end the practice of bombarding gambling addicts with gambling ads,” Mr Watson said.

Not the first time the commission has looked at LeoVegas

A Gambling Commission spokesman said: “we are absolutely clear with operators about the rules that they must follow to prevent and protect their customers from experiencing harm from gambling. Where we see evidence that those rules are not being followed, we will investigate.”

The case comes as the government conducts a review of whether regulations covering online betting should be tightened, including through stronger ID checks and rules that prevent gamblers from placing bets on credit.

Online casinos and bookmakers are not currently required to check whether gamblers can afford their habit before allowing them to place bets.

The Gambling Commission is understood to have collected evidence relating to the case and is examining whether LeoVegas breached the conditions of its licence to operate in the UK.

LeoVegas declined to comment.

It was forced to pay a £600,000 penalty in 2018 for a series of transgressions after a review of the company’s licence to operate in the UK.

The majority of the failings were related to self-exclusion systems, which allow gamblers to bar themselves from voluntarily placing bets with a company.

The regulator found that 1,894 LeoVegas customers were sent marketing material despite having signed up to its self-exclusion scheme.

More than 400 customers were allowed to bet £200,000 over two months, without the company speaking to them first or applying a 24-hour “cooling off” period.


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