UK Gambling Commission Considers Banning VIP Schemes

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The UK Gambling Commission is considering whether to ban VIP schemes after collecting data from betting firms, including one that took 83% of all deposits from 2% of its customers.

The much-criticised membership programmes reward gamblers who habitually lose large sums of money with perks such as free bets, cashback on losing wagers or football tickets. The award of VIP status has been cited as a factor in seven out of 10 regulatory penalties issued to companies by the commission for failures to prevent problem gambling.

A Gambling Commission spokesman said it was already taking action to address poor practice linked to VIP programmes but was prepared to go further.

The regulator said: “Operators must improve their interaction with VIPs and we have challenged the industry to make faster progress to improve how they manage their customers. We have also taken robust action against operators who fail to protect consumers and we will be even tougher if behaviour does not change.”

The commission collected data on VIP schemes from nine companies that have been granted anonymity but are understood to be among the UK’s largest and best known. In one case, an operator told the commission that while only 2% of its customers are VIPs, they account for 83% of deposits made on the site.

“This report shows how completely reliant the industry is on people with gambling problems and that they are profiteering from them. As the Gambling Commission has itself suggested these practices should be banned to protect problem gamblers and stop the transfer of money from vulnerable addicted gamblers directly into the pockets of the online gambling industry,” Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party parliamentary group on gambling, said.