Gambling operators in the UK have been told to improve their interactions with big-spending customers after confidential data illustrating the scale of VIP schemes was published.
The Guardian newspaper obtained information collected by the Gambling Commission through a Freedom of Information request. The membership programmes reward gamblers who deposit large sums with perks such as free bets, cashback and prizes.
The regulator collected data from nine operators, with one of those revealing that while just 2% of its customers are VIPs, they account for 83% of deposits.
The Gambling Commission study also shows that VIP gamblers are more likely to be addicts than ordinary customers. Some 8% of the country’s 47,000 VIPs are estimated to be problem gamblers, which is more than 11 times the rate among the wider public.
The award of VIP status has been cited as a factor in seven out of 10 regulatory penalties issued to companies by the commission for failures to prevent problem gambling.
A Gambling Commission spokesman told the Guardian it was already taking action to address poor practice linked to VIP programmes but was prepared to go further.
It said: “Operators must improve their interaction with VIPs and we have challenged the industry to make faster progress to improve how they manage their customers.
“We have also taken robust action against operators who fail to protect consumers and we will be even tougher if behaviour does not change.”
Speaking to iGamingBusiness.com, GambleAware chief executive Marc Etches said more must be done to inform all gamblers about services that can assist them.
He said: “Gambling is a major public health issue. Keeping people safe from gambling harms starts with ensuring the risks of gambling are made clear. We encourage gambling companies to promote and inform all customers including VIP customers about the free help and advice that is available via the National Gambling Helpline and online at BeGambleAware.org.”
The UK government has pledged to conduct a review of the 2005 Gambling Act with a manifesto promise to “legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online”.
It described the Gambling Act as “increasingly becoming an analogue law in a digital age”.