Player disputes: Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ

The continuing success of the remote gambling industry, coupled with the headline making regulatory decisions over the last year, has inevitably led to a new focus from claimant lawyers on perceived, exploitable cracks in the industry that might lead to pay outs for clients whose betting contracts don’t turn out how they wanted.

Who is claiming?

In addition to claims from individuals over self- exclusion issues, there has been a sharp increase in claims from people who have been excluded from betting or from collecting winnings as a result of ‘know your client’ screening. It seems that there are a significant minority of players who do not understand that operators have a duty to undertake strict antimoney laundering checks and have protective measures in place to prevent pay outs to people who may be acting in contravention of these terms and conditions.

On this, the Gambling Commission of Great Britain is at one with the sector: it has confirmed that there is no right to bet, acknowledging that just as a player can decide whether to place a bet, a gambling business is also free to decide who it accepts bets from, on what terms, and to manage its business as it sees fit. This is usually done through the use of online terms and conditions, which have understandably tended to be lengthy.

Fairness for players

This is not to say that operators can do exactly as they want. Consumer protection legislation, in particular the Consumer Rights Act 2015, sets parameters on the lawfulness of terms, so that if a term is thought to be ‘unfair’ it will not be upheld. It is this general but unspecific test of fairness in favour of the consumer that is regarded as fertile ground for challenge by the unsuccessful players and their backers.

With current media interest in the privacy and other online policies of internet businesses, operators should expect to see further scrutiny of their terms and conditions. Following on from the conclusions of the investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority, operators must take steps to make these as concise and clear as possible so they can continue to rely on them to deflect the increasingly sophisticated claims being made by experienced players and professional gamblers sheltering behind less experienced individuals.

A new claims landscape

There is much that operators can do to protect themselves. Robust terms and conditions coupled with careful, considered and consistent application and operation of those practices will mean that claims will be unlikely to succeed. But just as with every successful industry before it, claims are inevitable, even for the most careful and considered operator. Claims handling going forward will require a sophisticated and strategically sensitive approach to the issues in play.

This article was first published in our “Expert insight for the gambling sector” 2018 brochure, which you can read in full here. Please click here to subscribe to Wiggin’s Front Runner and receive gambling updates direct to your inbox.