January-December 2023

Below you can find data and information about the performance of the CasinoReviews.com Complaint Management Service over 2023.

Number of Complaints Managed

We managed a total of 729 cases in 2023, of which 239 were submitted by players against MGA licensed operators that we officially act as ADR for (meaning that we have greater powers to enforce rulings).

Complaint Outcomes

To show the outcomes of complaints we are going to break the complaints into two pie charts – ADR Complaints and Non-ADR Complaints, as there are some substantial differences between the two groups:

From the above we can see:

Resolution: We are FAR more successful at securing a positive outcome for the player (Resolved) when they complain about an operator that we act as ADR for. We successfully resolved 33% of all cases accepted by this service when acting as ADR vs only 12% when acting unofficially.

Found Against the Operator: Cases where we rule against the operator but are unable to secure a return of funds for the player are substantially higher when we are acting unofficially – 28% of the time versus only 1% when we act as an ADR. Why? Two reasons: i) we have no authority to enforce our rulings when we are acting unofficially and ii) in many cases the operator will simply refuse to discuss the case at all, resulting in a ruling against them based on non-cooperative policies.

Declination: The rate at which we will decline cases is higher when acting unofficially. 11% vs 18%. Why? The weaker regulation in most markets when we’re forced to act unofficially means that fewer cases offer viable avenues of pursuit. For instance, responsible gambling claims present no reasonable possibility of a positive outcome when submitted against a weakly licensed operator.

How Much Money Did We Recover?

How much money did we recover for players in 2023?

We recovered over almost 3x as much money for players when we acted as an ADR rather than managing the complaint informally. But the level of divergence is better shown in the average funds recovered per complaint:

We recovered over 6x as much on average for players when they complained against an operator where we could act as an ADR as compared to when we acted informally.

What does this mean? It means that if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you have to submit a complaint, the amount you recover is likely to be far higher if you have played with an operator that uses our ADR service.

How Often Do We Support the Player/Operator?

So, did we favour players or operators more often?

Counter intuitively, we rule in favour of players more often when we are acting informally. Why does this happen?

We do tend to favour the player far more often when dealing with complaints informally because i) there are more questionable practices engaged by operators in weaker licensing systems and ii) more operators simply refuse to discuss complaints, resulting in a default ruling in favour of the player.

What does this mean? It means that despite supporting the player’s claim more often when we manage complaints informally, we’re far less successful at recovering money for players.

Notable Complaints

Some notable operators and complaints over the last 12 months:

- Mr Sloty – An unlicensed casino operator who continues to accept UK players. We receive more complaints about this operator than any gambling operator that we do not act as ADR for. All the complaints we receive are from UK players. And whilst they do respond to some complaints, our impression is that these are players that likely would have been paid anyway. Out of 32 over the course of 2023, Mr Sloty only actually resolved 14 and they have recently stopped responding to complaints again.

- Rembrandt Casino, Condor Gaming Limited – In a case Rembrandt Casino, after lengthy dialogue with the operator it was our considered opinion that the operator could demonstrate no breach of any term by the player that would be considered valid under EU consumer law. The operator refused to comply with our ruling. [https://thepogg.com/complaint/rembrandt-not-paying-my-winnings/]

- Slotty Way, Atlantic Management B.V. – In a case against Slotty Way Casino we established sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the operator had changed their terms and conditions after the complainant won, then used the changed terms to justify non-payment of the player’s winnings. The operator were non-responsive to our attempts to contact them [https://thepogg.com/complaint/slotty-waynon-return-of-my-funds/]

- Tipbet – At the start of this reporting period we were acting officially as this operator’s ADR for their MGA license. Over the course of this 6 month period the operator failed to respond to two complaints. As such we have discontinued further ADR services to the operator and reported the situation to the MGA. The regulator informs us that the licensee is subject to other regulatory actions.

Compliance Rate

How often do operators comply with the rulings we give?

So 98% of the time that we make a ruling when managing a complaint as an ADR the operator complies with it. Whilst, if we are managing the complaint informally, the operation only complies with the ruling 43% of the time.

Two points of note in the above:

i) When you submit a complaint, if you are complaining about an operator who engages our ADR service it is more than twice as likely that the operator will comply with the ruling we give.

ii) Usually our ADR compliance rate is 100%. This time round a single ADR client become non-responsive and fail to address two complaints. We have terminated ADR services to this operator and when we contact the MGA about this matter, they informed us there is ongoing regulatory action against the licensee.

How Long Does It Take To Manage a Complaint?

On average how long did the complaint management process take?

Why are we quicker when acting unofficially? We’re not. The lower average complaint length is a direct result of us closing many of these complaints faster because the operators involved are non-responsive. We close these complaints after approximately 21-28 days of trying to contact the operator without success. With so many of the cases in this group not receiving a response, these low figures drag the average down.

How Many Complaints Take Longer than 90 Days?

We understand it can be very frustrating waiting while a claim is managed, and it’s our objective to ensure that your claim is managed as quickly as possible. But each claim is individual and some are far more complex than others. Where we have to contact regulators, payment providers, software providers etc, the length of time it takes to conclude a claim tends to rapidly inflate. Nevertheless, these cases represent only a tiny fraction of the claims we manage.

Over the last 12 months we’ve had 14 ADR complaints (5.9%) and 22 non-ADR complaints (4.5%) take longer than 90 days to conclude.

Complaint Types

What do the complaints we receive relate to? Where we accept a complaint they fall into one of eight categories:

i) Problems with bonuses
ii) Opening more than one account
iii) Problems with a payment to or from an operator
iv) Problems with KYC and other security procedures
v) Basic breakdown in communications
vi) Responsible gambling
vii) Retro-active term enforcement
viii) Problems with the technical function of some aspect of the website or games

Breaking down complaints again in two groups we see:

The only notable differences between ADR and non-ADR complaints seen in the above is the increased proportion of Security/Payment Problem related complaints for non-ADR complaints. This is to be expected.

Other than this it’s worth highlighting that we haven’t encountered any cases of operators trying to change the rules after a player has won amongst our ADR clients, while this practice still happens occasionally in the less well-regulated markets.

Abandonment Rate

We consider a complaint abandoned when a player stops responding to our request for additional information or documentation relating to their claim. The rate of abandonment can be seen below:

We hope to improve on this in the coming year with an improved email notification system to remind players about the current status of their complaint.

Complaints Declined

When we decline to take a case on, we do so for a variety of reasons. When acting as an ADR we cannot simply decline any complaint. It has to clearly defined criteria before we decline it. When working unofficially, we do look to work to the same criteria as often as possible, but do allow for a few additional grounds for declination. We will detail below:

- The player hasn’t completed the operator’s internal disputes system (ADR) – generally, we do not decline cases for this reason, but we will direct the player to revert to the operator and allow for more time for the operator to act on the case, and return to us if they are still experiencing issues.

- The complaint is of a frivolous or vexatious nature (ADR) – This tends to be complainants who are persistent in communications that are rude, abusive or antagonistic in nature.

- Insufficient evidence (ADR) – Generally, these are claims that a player has been cheated without a sufficiently large sample size of play to mathematically demonstrate the claims.

- Where another ADR service, court or regulatory agency has already reviewed the case (ADR) – This is self-explanatory. Much like a court, you cannot simply keep re-submitting your claim until you get the answer you want.

- Where the complaint is older than 12 months (ADR) – We do show some leeway in this and will, at our team’s discretion, review claims that are older. But the older a claim is the harder it is to obtain the necessary evidence to support it.

- Where the claim value is less than €10 (ADR) – Again we will at times set this restriction aside, but generally claims that are of this low a value have an extremely high abandonment rate and are not an effective use of this service’s times and resources.

- Where we have reasonable grounds to believe one or both parties has misled this service (ADR) – The ADR service requires good faith. Where one or both parties looks to engage in wilful deception it substantially impedes the function of this service. We reserve the right to decline to investigate a case further where we have reasonable grounds to believe one or both parties have misled our team.

- Where the workload involved in managing a complaint would impair the service’s ability to function (ADR) – Some claims involve more work to verify the claims that we can reasonably undertake. These cases are few and far between, but we do retain the right to reject claims on this basis.

- Where the claim is not appropriate for review by an ADR (ADR) – Generally where the issue relates to licensing, or lack thereof, or where the claim relates to a disputed financial transaction that is more appropriately managed by the polices or payment provider.

- Weak license responsible gambling claim (non-ADR) – Where the player’s complaint relates to responsible gambling protections against an operator who holds no license, or a license that requires licensees to provide no viable protections to players.

- Ambiguous claims (non-ADR) – Where there’s sufficient reason with the complaint submission and evidence we’ve reviewed to reasonably conclude that the player may have been involved in non-compliant activities.

- Repeated claims against weak licenses (non-ADR) – Where a player persistently chooses to play with weakly licensed operators, ignoring our warnings about doing so, we will stop accepting similar claims from them.

- Operator already offline (non-ADR) – Where the claim relates to an operator who has already closed down and as such cannot be reached to discuss the matter.

Here's how the declined complaints broke down for ADR and Non-ADR complaints:

As can be seen above we decline a higher proportion of complaints when we are managing the case informally. The reasons for this are simple – these complaint are primarily against weakly licensed or unlicensed gambling operators. These gambling operators more frequently ignore national licensing requirements and are subject to no responsible gambling standards. As much as we would like to, we cannot assist with these types of claims.

Systematic Problems

- Maximum Bet Terms – As is consistent with what we have seen historically, maximum bet terms associated with bonuses represent one of the largest single point of conflict between players and operators. There would be a significantly reduced case load of complaints if these terms were to be enforced automatically rather than relying on players to remember and adhere to them.

When looking at the UK market, many operators are enforcing these restrictions automatically. Some of the same operators who have systems to enforce these terms automatically in the UK then disable these systems in other markets. This is extremely questionable practice.

- Self-Exclusions – One of the most frequent type of complaint occurring relates to Responsible Gambling policies and specifically the language surrounding the MGA self-exclusion system. Where the majority of the world views a “self-exclusion” as a responsible gambling based account closure, within the MGA system a self-exclusion is not always considered to related to gambling addiction. Under the Malta license players have to actively tell the operator at the time that they self-exclude that they are excluding due to reasons related to addiction before a self-exclusion would be treated as a problem gambling issue.

This is counter intuitive to users who expect that when they self-exclude, they will be recognised at using tools to manage gambling addiction. This is especially significant when the heightened emotional state of a self-excluding player is taken into consideration.

Alongside this, under the MGA licensing regime, a self-exclusion applies only to the url that it is requested at, unless the player has actively instructed the licensee to carry over the self-exclusion, or the player has directly stated that they exclusion is due to gambling addiction. Players naturally expect that where they request a self-exclusion, it will be applied to all properties that the licensee operates.

This type of dispute not only represents a large proportion of the overall case load but is ethically challenging to defend. These are vulnerable players that as an industry we should be working to protect.

- 3rd Party Payments – Another common point of friction relates to operators prohibiting the use of 3rd party payment methods within their terms of use (for example disallowing the use of a credit or debit card belonging to anyone other than the account holder). While there are clear and valid reasons for the industry to look to put these types of restrictions in place, this type of restriction should be enforced automatically at point of deposit. At present time we are seeing notable numbers of complaints generated by these policies being enforced to void winnings after deposits from 3rd party payment methods have been accepted.

By waiting to point of withdrawal to enforce this type of rule, this practice is another that creates an bias towards operators. Where players deposit via a 3rd party payment method and lose, the operator retains the funds. Where they win, the operator voids the win and returns the deposit on the basis of violation of this term. That being the case there is little incentive for the industry to address this issue.

From a regulatory perspective this is a relatively easy issue to address. Simply requiring the player to enter in the name on a payment account whenever the deposit method is set-up would preclude this problem. If the name is not an exact match to that on the account the payment method is temporarily restricted until such time as the player contacts support to have the payment method manually approved.

Operators in the UK market have already deployed systems to enforce this requirement automatically, so this is a case where the technology already exists to address this issue.

- High Risk Activity – Over the last year we have seen sustained high volumes of high risk activity, specifically originating in one Eastern EU country. There is strong evidence to indicate that there are large numbers of accounts being registered that are being operated by people other than the person identified in the account information and that the name on the account is being used to allow a 3rd party to access welcome incentives that they are not entitled to.

This activity has been observed moving from group to group within the industry, generally targeting one group until such times as they have exhausted the proxy identities being used or the licensee takes steps to limit the value of the promotional incentives being offered. This activity has been observed both at our ADR clients and non-ADR clients, though admittedly our insight into their activity at non-ADR properties is more limited, and has over the time period worked through the better licensed systems and seems to be moving on toward Curacao licensed operators.

We cannot suggest any direct solution to this issue other than licensees restricting this country from receiving promotional incentives or waiting for the attention of whoever is directing this activity to shift to the unlicensed markets.

- Source of Wealth checks - The increased levels of high risk activity detailed above is resulting in higher levels of enhanced due diligence being engaged, specifically Source of Wealth checks, with the intention being to establish exactly how the account holder came to be the legal owner of the funds put into play.

These checks are resulting in higher levels of frustration for users, but they are also proving very effective in identifying situations where the person named on the account is neither the person operating nor funding the account.

Again we have no direct solution to this particular issue.

ADR Official’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

Our ADR Official – Duncan Garvie - continues to maintain their membership of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb).

Our ADR Official attends quarterly meetings with the GamShield group – a collective of compliance personnel, regulatory representatives and other industry bodies who participate in gaming protection. This ensures that we retain an up-to-date knowledge of the challenges facing the sector and the various approaches being taken to address said challenges.

Our ADR Official has taken a position as a Trustee for the responsible gambling focused charity BetBlocker, a group that support tens of thousands of users on a daily basis. They have daily input to the user support function of the charity. This ensures that our ADR Official has extensive experience engaging with and supporting those experiencing gambling addiction. This creates transferrable experience that is invaluable in the management of responsible gambling related complaints.

Our ADR Official has refreshed their knowledge of the licensing standards in both the Maltese and UK markets as part of ongoing application processes.

Our ADR Official has signed-up to multiple training courses relating to the review and management of digital documents, that will take place in the coming months. This is a key part of a large proportion of the claims reviewed by this service.

Cooperation With Other ADRs

We maintain an open door policy with any other ADR working within the industry and sustain a positive relationship with some of the most significant entities in the field. Most notably we continue to work closely with the Malta Gaming Authority, who are currently still sustaining a notable presence in terms of dispute review, both consulting on open cases where regulatory guidance is appropriate and offering feedback where our input is sought on other complaints the regulator is reviewing.

We have found the MCCAA’s biannual meetings with all ADRs to be a constructive and useful forum.

Measures We Can Take To Improve the Service

We have built an entirely new complaint management platform on CasinoReviews.com. Over the coming year we will continue to improve and develop this system to ensure that players have as smooth an experience as possible.

Over the next year it is our intention to hire additional staff to train as ADR Officials.