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Operators will need to take ‘immediate steps’ to comply with consumer protection law or face enforcement action, after a joint investigation between the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Gambling Commission into bonus promotions.

The CMA report states gambling firms must “stop unfair online promotions that trap players’ money,” with changes now having to be adopted across the sector.

Three operators have already committed to make changes – Ladbrokes, William Hill and PT Entertainment, a Playtech subsidiary, are to change the way in which bonus promotions are offered, to ensure players can always access and release their own money.

Specifically the CMA set out a trio of factors, detailing what the changes mean:

  • Players won’t be required to play multiple times before they can withdraw their own money
  • Gambling firms must ensure that any restrictions on gameplay are made clear to players, and cannot rely on vague terms to confiscate players’ money
  • Gambling firms must not oblige players to take part in publicity

If the whole sector does not “promptly adopt similar changes,” firms will be facing regulatory action from the Gambling Commission.

The CMA has stated that undertakings requires the majority of practices to be amended by 28 February of this year, with a later date of 31 July 2018 set for the implementation of prompts for consumers when they are playing with restricted funds.

George Lusty, Project Director at the CMA, commented: “Gambling always carries a risk, but players should never face unfair restrictions that prevent them from getting at their money. Firms mustn’t stack the odds against players, by putting unfair obstacles in their way, or making it difficult for them to stop gambling when they want to.

“The CMA is here to make sure businesses’ terms and practices are fair for their customers. We welcome the commitment from these leading firms to address the problems our investigation uncovered, by making important changes to their terms and conditions.

“We now expect others to follow, and look forward to the Gambling Commission’s continued work to make sure all operators in this sector play fair with their customers’ money.”

Sarah Gardner, Gambling Commission Executive Director, added: “We back the action taken by the CMA today. Gambling firms must treat their customers fairly and not attach unreasonable terms and conditions to their promotions and offers.

“We expect all Gambling Commission licensed businesses to immediately review the promotions and sign up deals they offer customers and take whatever steps they need to take, to the same timescales agreed by the three operators, to ensure they comply.

“Operators should be very aware that we will continue to work closely with the CMA to ensure customers are getting a fair deal across the gambling industry.”