As the news of BetButler closing slowly spreads accross the internet (doing it on a Friday evening was a good shout on their part), attention will once again turn to The Gambling Commission.
The UK Gambling Commission are supposed to regulate the betting industry and protect customers.
In the space of 2014 alone we've seen Canbet, Bodugi and now BetButler go under, so maybe it's not working too well.
We see the slowing of withdrawals, the increase in bonuses and the lack of customer service first hand. Complaints are made, twitter feeds are bombarded, and still the Commission seems unable or unwilling to act to protect us.
If you do make a complaint to the Commission you tend to get a stock response about using the operator's complaint procedure, which is of course rediculous as if the operator had resolved the complaint you wouldn't need to contact the Commission!
One thing we've seen a bit more of recently is requests under the freedom of information act. These requests should gain you access to more useful details, details that might protect your funds from dodgy bookmakers, but they are invariably declined on the basis of not being in the public interest, or that they would jeopordise ongoing investigation.
We've seen a few declined requests with regards BetButler, the latest of which are shown below.
In favour of disclosure There is a legitimate public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of public authorities. There is also an interest in highlighting instances of non-compliance within the industry in order to promote compliance from other operators.A large number of people have been affected by delays in Bet Butlermaking payments. There is also an interest in the public understanding how the Commission investigates matters of non-compliance and that if there are any failings in this process that these are exposed.
In favour of maintaining the exemption The information requested is in relation to a very specific case so disclosure would not be of general public interest. It is of interest to thosedirectly affected by the current situation. Disclosure is likely to prejudice the Commission’sability to investigate such matters in the future if the bodies it regulates feel they cannot be candid with it regarding its regulatory investigations. This is not in the public interest as it would have a negative impact upon our ability to carry out ourstatutory functions. The case is still currently ongoing and disclosure would prejudice the Commission’s ability to engage with thisoperator.
Weighing the balance Having considered the balance of the public interest, the Commission is of the view that disclosing this level of detail would be likely to negatively impact on the openness the Commission expects from operators. The balance of the public interest lies in operators being encouraged to make timely and frank submissions to the Commission when incidents occur to allow the Commission to take appropriate steps in a timely manner.
- The Commission make a nod to the idea that there may be failings in their non-compliance invetigation processes, but are unwilling to release details of their processes.
- If the Commission released information then companies might not want to release information to them in future, even though they have to as part of their licence.
- The Commission will continue to rely on operators making timely and frank submissions off their own back, even though that would be commerical suicide for them.
And this is the same Commission that wants all betting operators that take UK customers to be UK regulated to ensure that the we, the punters, are protected. That has been written into law and will take effect in October of this year.
Well all the evidence suggests that the Commission isn't going to protect you, so what can you do to protect yourself?
Read the Rise and Fall of Canbet, an excellent article on the failings of another UK Regulated bookmaker that went bust earlier in the year. It should help you pick out some of the signs of a bookmaker in trouble.
Use the Payout Times reports, and post your own when you know them.
If you're a casual punter, go with one of the big sites like Bet365. If you're going for matched betting, get in and out of the smaller books as quickly as possible.
Never gamble with money you can't afford to lose. It's rule number 1. You might not think a bookmaker can go under, but they can and do and will continue to do so.