Operators criticised for VIP programmes and incentives

Viktor Vangelov | Published 11 Nov 2019, 3:41 p.m.

Gambling operators in the UK have been put under a lot of scrutiny lately. Organisations that provide support to problem gamblers and deal with other related issues and the Gambling Commission are putting increased pressures on operators to take on measures to ensure that players are protected.

Gambling operators on the other hand are aware that there’s pressure on them to act and they often choose to act in advance in order to stay one step ahead and to discourage the Commission and other authorities from introducing harsher legislative measures.

Last week, leading operators in the UK pledged to take a series of measures and to keep on working with the Commission and other relevant organisations to protect problem gamblers, children and other vulnerable groups.

VIP incentives aimed at players who lose substantial amounts of money, experts say

Now, betting operators have been accused of introducing VIP schemes just to lure players who would end up losing significant amounts of money. That led experts to question operators’ commitment to safe gambling.

Many cases where gambling operators have given away gifts to players who ended up losing thousands and even hundreds of thousands have been quoted. It seems that the gambling companies have no plans to introduce any restrictions when it comes to loyalty schemes and VIP programmes.

Gambling companies usually employ VIP executives, who are supposed to work to increase the overall lifetime value of VIP players and ensure increased revenue contributions. A charity that supports problem gamblers says that this is a problematic situation as while the lifetime value is increasing, the player’s life might be in danger. Some experts have labelled these practices predatory adding that they can be one of the causes for some players to develop a gambling problem, i.e. an addiction.

Another thing that VIP managers do regularly is approach players who used to be considered VIP players but haven’t been active in a while. They come up with special offers for these players, aiming to get them to play more, i.e. spend more money.

We did report on the case of Tony Parente, a player who was registered with Ladbrokes and stole £1m that he gambled away and despite the fact that Ladbrokes didn’t receive a fine the case attracted a lot of attention.

Parente had a look at some of the ads for VIP managers and he said that in his view, the job descriptions have nothing to do with responsible gaming.

VIP revenue significant for operators

VIP programmes and VIP account managers are not a new thing, many operators have employed managers who were in charge of dealing with VIP players and their activities included looking at ways to identify potential VIPs, i.e. players who would wager significant amounts of money.

While this has been a common practice in the industry, now that it caught the public eye, there will likely be increased pressure on operators to cancel or amend these VIP programmes and they will face intense scrutiny.  

Representatives of the operators have responded to the accusations stating that they have never encouraged players to wager beyond their means. Certain companies admitted that the revenue from VIPs, or high rollers represent a significant chunk of their profits, so it is not likely that they are going to give up on VIPs.