Leading online bookmaker Betway have been accused of grooming gambling addicts through the use of VIP scheme incentives such as cash bonuses.
A recent report in the Mail Online reveals how the gambling operator and West Ham United, Grand National and Test cricket sponsor, actively targeted and encouraged gamblers that lost regularly to keep on betting.
West Ham, who are in the early stages of decade long £10 million-a-year sponsorship deal with Betway, described the firm as a respected and responsible sponsor.
Through a series of emails, it has been made clear the Betway lured customers into parting with millions of pounds they could not afford to lose.
Almost all of the time, the emails were sent in a chatty and friendly manner by one of Betway’s personal VIP managers who are each assigned to a punter in order to build up a “friendship”. The astonishing thing about the Betway emails, and messages for that matter, is that they often openly refer to a player’s fortunate/unfortunate habit of losing.
In one particular email, one Betway VIP manager can be seen to offer cash bonuses to a player despite acknowledging in writing that he was on the worst losing streak he’s ever had. In another email, the same customer tells his VIP manager that he was planning to give up on gambling after suffering too many losses, only to be rebutted with an offer to “get some bonus added after a break”.
While the calls to carry on gambling were all undertaken in a matey manner, the automated emails calling on customers to ‘bet the responsible way’, which were delivered regularly, were monotone and automated, clearly having no impact whatsoever on their recipient.
All Expenses Paid
Bonuses were often paid to customers on their birthdays or within an hour of a one-off promotion going live. As with many other common such schemes, the firm would also provide high-rollers with all-expenses-paid tickets to sporting events such as the Champions League, FA Cup and the Cheltenham Festival.
The details were outlined and published after two former gambling addicts accessed their Betway files through an information request. One of the men was sent to jail after stealing £370,000 from his employer to fund his habit. His employer has since been compensated by Betway, in what seems like an admission of guilt.
In the case of the second man, documents show he was handed £865,000 in cash bonuses in just over two years in order to keep him betting. He too claims he was gambling using family money that was not his to spend. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has declined to comment either of these cases.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm, described Betway as outrageous for offering huge inducements for people to gamble when they were very clearly in no position to do so, calling on the UKGC to intervene.
Betway have since responded;
”As a responsible licensed operator we take these allegations extremely seriously. In the case of Ben Jones, who was jailed for stealing funds from his former employer, we have already reached a settlement agreement with the victim of his crime to compensate them for their loss. Betway would never seek, nor does it wish, to profit from any illicit and misappropriated funds wagered on its site”.
Lack Of Transparency
Betway, whose official ownership firm Win Technologies turn over £282 million a year and are based in Malta, have also been accused of a lack of transparency over their ownership structure. The confusion has come about after revelations surrounding a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands and a cross-benching peer Lord Anthony St John who has been working as advisor to the firm since 2015. Now, MPs have called on the UKGC to reveal the details of Betway’s ownership.
The UKGC claim that all UK licence holders are required to provide detailed information in order for a licence to be awarded but were not legally obliged to go public with information about the operator’s ownership.
Once again, Betway responded, “As a responsible, licensed operator, all of our regulators are provided with the details of our ownership, as is required by law. Betway is fully tax compliant in all jurisdictions and we pay all taxes due”.
Betway is owned through a shell company in the British Virgin Islands that makes it impossible to know who owns the under-fire bookmaker.