Online gambling companies in the UK are failing to prioritise the welfare of their customers according to a landmark new report from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) which is published today.
BIT’s Gambling Policy & Research Unit (GPRU), ran a rigorous behavioural risk audit of 10 of the UK’s leading UK gambling operators and found multiple ways these sites are designed and run that not only fail to protect the welfare of their customers but in some instances actually put them at higher risk of gambling harms.
GPRU’s behavioural audit uncovered areas of major concern such as:
- It takes much longer to cancel an account than to open one.
- Some operators send welcome e-mails before the sign up process is even complete.
- Multiple operators show default quick deposit amounts that are higher than the actual minimum required.
- Several operator sites have a minimum account balance needed to withdraw the player’s own money.
- Customers are not sent any receipts for transactions.
- Customers of most operators receive no summaries of money and time spent.
- Default amounts that are not in the customers best interests are commonplace. For example drop down menus for setting daily deposit limits feature an incredible £10,000 (or even higher) as the very first option.
- A lack of age checks before registration. For example on some sites virtual betting races can be accessed without any age verification and watched on live stream
- Most platforms have scarcity or popularity claims on their site such as countdown timers or flashing icons for bets which encourage people to act quickly. After placing a bet customers are prompted to immediately bet again and bets can be placed with a single click on most sites.
- Losses are frequently not made clear during gameplay so players may not realise if they are winning or losing. Information can also be misleading e.g. for one operator when betting £0.20 and losing £0.10, a message of ‘Won £0.10’ appeared, which could make the customer think they had won when they would clearly in reality have lost half of their stake.
Dr David Halpern, CEO of BIT and Chair of BIT’s GPRU Steering Group said: “Whether by design or market evolution, the overall message is loud and clear: gambling sites make it very easy to sign up, to bet, and to keep betting – but strikingly harder for users to find the tools to set reasonable limits, get their money out, or to simply leave. It is possible to design gambling sites and tools to enable users to limit harms, as some of the better operators show, but in the current landscape, as detailed in the GPRU’s Behavioural Risk Audit, that doesn’t seem to be the priority.”
Frankie Graham, Founder and CEO of Betknowmore UK and a member of the GPRU Steering Group, said: “Gambling operator websites have a key role in ensuring that gambling is safe and harm-free. We believe that websites should be designed with player safety as the first priority. BIT’s Behavioural Risk Audit provides an excellent opportunity to review the current user journey and take forward recommendations to raise standards and consistency of best practice across the industry.”
Professor Sally Gainsbury, Director, University of Sydney Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic and a member of the GPRU Steering Group said: “This research is incredibly important as it provides an objective and practical guide for regulators and consumers to compare how gambling operators are designing sites to nudge customers towards – or away from safe and sustainable gambling. The framework and recommendations presented can be used to improve practices and identify operators using unscrupulous tactics.”
The UK gambling operators audited were: 888, Betfair, Betfred, Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, SkyBet, Tombola and William Hill/William Hill Vegas. The audit methodology comprised three stages: framework design, data collection, and analysis and was conducted between December 2021 and June 2022.