Warning over gamblers' 'VIP status'

From BBC - February 14, 2018

Online bookmakers must make more affordability checks before upgrading customers to VIP status, the gambling regulator has said.

These members are given free bets, special offers and bonus schemes that reward them for betting with larger stakes.

Complaints have been made that gambling companies are tempting problem gamblers to spend more than they can afford.

Addicts have told the BBC about building up large debts.

Radio 4's You and Yours programme has been hearing from gambling addicts who were made VIPs when they won thousands of pounds and were encouraged to spend it once they were made a VIP.

Joe, who has depression, was made a VIP when he won 60,000 on online betting website The company delayed paying Joe his winnings while it verified his account, but made him a VIP member and sent him prompts to bet, which Joe believes encouraged him to gamble away his winnings.

"I felt groomed, I felt that they were almost a family to me. I probably logged in and out of their website on my mobile phone over 100 times a day," he said.

"There are probably bets I'd placed at 03:00 after betting all day on an Algerian League 3 match that I would not know anything about. I felt totally out of control with everything."

Joe ended up 30,000 in debt after taking out loans and borrowing money from friends and family. After You and Yours aired his story, paid off his debts.

The Betsson Group, which owns, said it could not discuss specific individuals' cases. The Betsson Group also said Joe's case pre-dated its acquisition of

Most gambling companies offer VIP membership for players who wager large amounts of money.

Players get their own VIP manager who oversees their account. Customers are also invited for free day trips to football matches and concerts.

The regulator, the Gambling Commission, said online gambling firms were not making enough checks to spot harmful behaviour in customers.

"Operators have lots of data on these customers, and this is the data they use to identify VIP customers in the first place," said Sarah Gardner, executive director at the commission.

'Proving my VIP status'



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