MansionBet allowed VIP gambler to use redundancy payout to keep betting
Investigation shows online firm accepted payout as proof gambler could afford bets then gave him ‘VIP’ perks
MansionBet accepted a gambler’s redundancy payout as proof that he could afford to place thousands of pounds in bets, and then rewarded him with “VIP” perks for doing so.
Evidence reviewed by the Guardian shows that the online betting firm showered “Matt”, 44, with free bets and football tickets even as his gambling spiralled out of control.
During 26 calls with a specially allocated VIP manager, Matt begged for free bets and cancelled withdrawals from his account – behaviour considered by the Gambling Commission to be signs of problem gambling.
At one stage, Matt sent MansionBet a copy of a redundancy settlement with his previous employer and asked for free bets in return for a promise to deposit large sums funded by the payout.
The Gambling Commission’s guidelines state that firms should be wary of accepting funds from anyone who has recently received a “windfall”.
A spokesperson from the Gambling Commission said: “While we can’t comment on individual cases, we are absolutely committed to reducing gambling harms and we expect operators to step in and prevent harm when a customer’s behaviour indicates they are at risk. Given repeated failings with ‘VIP’ practices in the industry, we will also shortly be consulting on additional requirements in this area.”
When Matt deposited £8,000, the VIP manager phoned to ask for reassurance that he could afford the bets, noting they were “a large chunk of your annual salary”.
But he appeared to accept Matt’s verbal assurance that he had other work, and he dished out more free bets in return.
In a telephone call, a recording of which was shared with the Guardian, the VIP manager said: “I can tell them [MansionBet’s responsible gambling department] he’s received the settlement, he’s managing it responsibly and he’s got other work.
“The thing is, we don’t even want to do it but we have to do it because the UK gambling regulators make us do it.
“As a thank you for clearing that up, there’s a £100 free bet for you. I hate being intrusive but I’ll always reward you if you give me proper answers.”
A few days later, the VIP manager asked Matt to write a review of MansionBet on Trustpilot, a website that consumers visit to see reviews of brands.
Matt was rewarded with another free bet after saying he had left a “rave review”.
Transcripts of WhatsApp conversations show that the VIP manager also offered Matt incentives to deposit more money, saying: “If you deposit a further £3,000, I would give you £500 in free bets.”
After handing out one bonus, he said: “I hope that’s lucky for you,” but he later admitted: “I tend to give bigger bonuses when you lose.”
Matt, whose name has been changed at his request, said: “MansionBet knew I had been made redundant and could see my funds deteriorating every day and yet still allowed me to deposit sickening amounts of money.”
The Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “This is not only exploitative but cruel, predatory and cynical. These cases grow in severity, yet the industry still protest that they behave responsibly. The time for radical change is now.”
MansionBet, which has won recognition among British gamblers thanks to sponsorship deals with football teams including Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Bournemouth, said it had refused a request from Matt to refund money deposited in his sports betting account.
“This case has been reviewed thoroughly by senior management due to the extensive nature of the contacts by the customer, and we are satisfied all conclusions drawn are in line with our regulatory requirements,” said a spokesperson.
“MansionBet disagrees with the characterisations of the incidents in question, as put forward by you in your questions.”
The Gambling Commission is considering whether to ban VIP schemes, which have been linked to a string of cases in which firms failed to protect vulnerable addicts.
The regulator, which has come under fire over its effectiveness, has commissioned a review of VIP schemes led by GVC, which itself has been criticised over VIP schemes run by its Ladbrokes business.
In an interim report, the review suggested new restrictions such as barring under-25s from VIP schemes and enhanced checks before customers can join the schemes.