Unfair Bonus Terms: What Operators & Players Need to Know

By Dale Shelabarger, Updated:

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced they will enforce important changes into how online gambling operators frame their bonuses and promotions. The government body opened an investigation in October 2016, after receiving over 1,000 complaints from consumers who felt that bonus and promotion terms were unfair. In June 2017, the CMA announced they would be taking enforcement action and this month, they announced that three operators (Ladbrokes, William Hill, and PT Entertainment) had “formally committed” to improving their promotional terms. Operators who do not do the same by next month, will face enforcement action.

The CMA’s announcement, backed by the UK Gambling Commission, will have a seismic impact on the industry. In this article, we’ll recap the background behind the changes, what exactly these changes are and what are the next steps for operators to make sure they are 100% compliant. Additionally, we’ll provide a checklist for consumers so that they know what to look out for, and when they are being treated unfairly.

Online Gambling Bonus Terms against the Law?

The CMA points to two specific consumer laws that they believe are being contravened by unfair casino operator practices; Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) and the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA).

The first refers to unfair commercial practices, including misleading acts or active omissions. The second refers to contract terms; they must be fair, understandable, and totally transparent.

This is the question that George Lusty of the CMA, back when he laid out their intentions to rule on this thorny issue; “Does a (promotional) term create a significant imbalance, contrary to the requirements of good faith, to the detriment of consumers?”

The 3 major tenets of the CMA’s enforcement action

What does this mean for operators?

To make it easy, the CMA have drawn up simple steps for how operators should proceed to stay in line with the new announcement.


On the other hand, operators must ensure that they are no longer doing the following.

Do Not’s

Operators must bring themselves in line by March 2018 or they will be subject to enforcement action from the CMA.

What does this mean for consumers?

Educating the customer in order to empower them is a crucial element in the sustainability of a healthy and ethical industry. Of course, online gambling comes with risks. So, while the consumer must understand the possibilities of losing money while gambling, the consumer can also expect to be treated fairly and legally, within the bounds of consumer law.

The CMA have created a short YouTube video to help consumers know what to look out for, and when they are getting, as the president of the United States might say, a bad deal.

Checklist for Online Gamblers

If you believe you’ve had an unfair experience, what should you do?

What’s Next for the Online Gaming Industry?

This will not be the end of the CMA’s involvement in the industry. The government body will continue to look at other areas in which they have received consumer complaints. These complaints are not necessarily related to promotional terms. Rather, the CMA have promised next to look into terms that compel players to withdraw their legitimate real money funds over lengthy periods of time. Likewise, the CMA will also look into the confiscation of legitimate funds held in a player’s account if they haven’t been active for a certain period of time.

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