The Maximum Bet Problem

As an ADR with a significant complaint volume we get a global overview of the problems that players are encountering. Amongst the most common complaint themes we encounter, with an average of almost 1.5 complaints per week relating to this issue, is something that should be easily preventable where the right parties were engaged in an effort to do so. Bonus maximum bet terms.
Maximum bet terms are essential. Preventing players from placing large bets with bonus funds is critical for operators to be able to offer the bonus offers that are so popular with large swaths of the player community. Without maximum bet terms there would be no bonuses. Full stop.

But the reality is that many players do not read terms and conditions. So buried in the terms of a bonus is a restriction that if violated voids the bonus contract. A player doesn’t read the terms, or doesn’t remember this specific condition and when they subsequently win (whether due to the violating bet or not) the operator can then void the win.

Understandably players get extremely frustrated when they lose thousands over this type of violation. And in our opinion they’re right to be frustrated – this is an issue that is easily preventable if the right parties were motivated in the right ways to take action.

Why Aren’t Maximum Bet Terms Enforced Automatically?

To enforce a maximum bet term, operators would have to be able to access the internal workings of the games to reject any attempts to place bets that are larger than the limit they have put in place while bonus is in play. The simple facts are that the parties producing the games – the software providers – are likely to view it as a security risk to allow any 3rd party access to the function of their games beyond that which is absolutely required.

Beyond this, while it may be possible for an operator to negotiate with specific software provider the inclusion of some facility to limit the maximum allowed bet, indeed some operators who were significantly ahead of the curve have historically done this, in the modern marketplace where operators are offering games from scores of different software providers, the logistics of negotiating this facility with every software provider are unworkable. Add to this the complexity of constructing a back end platform that could integrate with each of the different softwares without fault and this is a problem that operators could not be reasonably expected to resolve.

And this does not take into account the lack of incentive that exists on the operator side to resolve this issue. As things currently stand, when a player breaks the maximum bet term and loses, the operator retains the losses. When the player breaks the maximum bet term and wins, the operator void the win and return the deposit. This is a win/push situation for the operator. There is no possibility of loss. There is no gamble when the worst that can happen is that you break even.

How Significant Is The Issue?

So just how significant is this issue? How many players are impacted? While we cannot speak to the entire market, we can give figures derived directly from the complaints that we have managed.

Out of 1420 complaints managed by this service between October 2019 to September 2020, 76 (5.4%) of those complaints were confirmed to relate to breaches of the maximum allowed bet term of a bonus. That is more than 1 out of every 20 complaints. In effectively every single one of these complaints, the ultimate ruling favours the operator.

Out of 496 complaints we managed under our MGA ADR remit in the same period 49 (9.9%) of all complaints related to breaches of the maximum allowed bet term associated with a bonus. That is effectively 1 in every 10 complaints.

We ruled a total of 403 complaints in favor of the operator, 222 of which were ADR rulings. So the complaints that we ruled in favor of the operator due to max bet violations represents 19% of all complaints ruled in favor of the operator (nearly 1 in every 5) and 22% of all ADR complaints.

In our opinion the ADR figure is far more representative. The non-ADR complaints include large volumes of complaints against operators in weakly licensed jurisdictions, which have no published regulatory standards that operators are required to meet, and who pay little heed to far more fundamental tenets of fair and responsible management of players. This resulting in a far wider array of complaint issues. The ADR complaints are far more focused and represent complaints against operators that have clearly defined standards that they have to adhere to.
What does this mean in terms of money? A total of €365840 of contested funds voided over the course of 12 months. On average that is €4813 of winnings voided for each player who breached the maximum bet term. That doesn’t mean that this money would have been paid to these complainants. These complainants were betting higher than the maximum allowed. If the limits had been enforced automatically they wouldn’t have been able to bet so high and as such would not have won as much. But it does mean that each of these complainants would on average be €4813 less disappointed in their experience of gambling online.

In effect, if maximum bet terms were to be automatically enforced significantly fewer complaints would be generated overall and more than 1 in every 5 ADR rulings that favored the operator would disappear. That is a win for everyone involved. Significantly fewer complaints against operators overall can be nothing but good news in terms of protecting the reputation of the industry, giving what is unquestionably a hostile press less in the way of ammunition. ADRs reduce the proportion of complaints that result in them favoring the operator with the consequence that the ADR system is seen to do a better job of representing consumer interests and building public confidence in the ADR system as a whole. And fewer players see wins voided.

How Can This Issue Be Fixed?

We discussed above all the reasons that operators cannot resolve this issue by themselves. But fixing this issue is actually remarkably easy for other parties in the industry.

The drive for change has to come from regulatory agencies. The regulators need to put pressure on the software providers to put forward a solution to this issue. A couple of easy and obvious solutions spring to mind without any great amount of though:

  • Regulators define the technical specifications of a standard interface that all licensed software providers have to include to allow operators to set their maximum bet limit while bonus is in play. In coding terms this is very straight forward – is a bonus in play? No, standard limits. Yes, defined limit. By the regulator setting the standard framework that all software providers have to adhere to this negates the problem for operators in having to develop a platform that can integrate with dozens of different systems across all the software providers they engage.

  • [This is even easier] Software providers offer two versions of the their games. One that is for standard play. One for play when a bonus is in use. This system would allow the operator to control everything without interacting with the game at all. If there is a bonus in the player’s account it simply loads the bonus game. Admittedly this second option would require the implementation of standard max bet limits, but given that the vast majority of the industry already implements a 5 credit limit on bonus play, this would only serve to drag the those operators that are implementing non-standard rules – like limits that are a percentage of the bonus, differing limits based on deposit method used, or ‘greater than or equal to’ limits – to conform to simpler and more player friendly maximum bet rules.

The bottom line here is that this issue is not going to be fixed without the intervention of regulatory authorities.

How Can Operators Help?

In the meantime, while we are waiting on regulators and software providers to get together to address this issue, there are some very simple steps that operators can take to make their practices in this regard more player friendly. Namely, they can take a more lenient approach to the enforcement of these terms and rather than voiding the entire bonus contract, they can reset both parties to the financial positions that existed immediately preceding any violation and allow the player to complete the remaining wagering requirements from that position. This means that any funds that were won before the violation with compliant bets are not impacted by the violation.

This is a fair and reasonable solution and one that does not result in operators being seen to opportunistically void funds that were won via compliant wagers.