UKGC Warns Bookmakers Over Issuing Gag Orders

February 4, 2019 by Natalie Whitehead

Bookmakers in the United Kingdom have recently been warned by UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to stop using gag orders on people who lodge complaints against frequent and problem gamblers.

The usual problem with gambling is that there are players who just can’t seem to control their urges. There are various situations where bookies are faced with cases arising from bettors who use stolen cash to place their bets.

Usually, these are settled privately between the bookies and the parties lodging the complaints.

The industry has been notorious in inserting Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) in settling complaints. Just recently, large bookmaker Ladbrokes paid £975,000 to five people who were victims of a frequent bettor. This particular bettor went as far as borrowing £60,000 a day from his victims.

In exchange for the settlement amount, Ladbrokes told these victims to never lodge any other complaint relating to the incident, not make any report to the Commission, and consider the case closed and settled. These kinds of gag orders have not gone down well with the gambling watchdog.

Ladbrokes, however, defended its own actions and says that NDAs were a standard provision in any settlement. They further cite compliance of licensing requirements and cooperation with the Gambling Commission as part of its practice, including the curb of addiction problems.

Where the Problem Lies

The UKGC reports that NDAs may have become detrimental to the industry and would serve as a hindrance in effective regulation. The NDAs would prevent these consumers from informing the commission of the many problems which bookmakers have caused. As a matter of fact, these gag orders may even enable the perpetuation of the problem, and the watchdog would not have the slightest clue.

Gag orders may also be a way for bookmakers to get away from paying a huge number of fines and getting targets off their backs. In that way, both complainant and bookmakers leave the room happy and satisfied at their respective ends.

The UK Government knows that gambling addiction has become a pressing issue. In 2017, the number of people with gambling addiction has risen to a staggering number of 400,000, and charts are showing that those numbers are not really slowing down. The watchdog is worried that it might not be able to address this problem given the number of gag orders issued.

The UKGC admits that NDAs were indeed standard provisions inserted on settlement agreements. In fact, these can even benefit both parties if these were used appropriately such as protection of intellectual property.