Complaints about gambling firms rocket 5000% in five years

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Complaints about betting firms have surged. Photo: Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Customers are complaining in record numbers about Britain’s gambling firms, with an eye-watering 5,000% surge in complaints in just five years.

The head of the UK’s betting watchdog said it was a “good sign” gamblers were complaining to the regulator and expecting more from betting firms.

The Gambling Commission received 8,266 complaints about companies last year, with most reported to be about firms not paying out and issues for problem gamblers.

The number is around 50 times higher than the 169 complaints made in 2013, according to figures obtained by the BBC’s Panorama for a programme on Monday night.

It comes as levels of gambling are reported to have increased in Britain over the past decade, and betting firms have come under increasing pressure to protect gamblers amid warnings of addiction and life-altering losses.

READ MORE: Grieving dad whose son killed himself over gambling debts calls for crackdown on online ads

Leading companies pledged to increase support for vulnerable customers in July after the government clamped down on fixed-odds betting terminals dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.

The maximum stake was cut from £100 to £2 a spin earlier this year, in a move that several firms have warned could force hundreds of store closures.

But top firms have also expanded their operations significantly online and abroad just as their high street stores started to struggle.

A dad whose son hanged himself over his gambling debts previously told Yahoo Finance UK that Britain needed further action from regulators including tougher rules on online betting adverts.

Ryan Myers, centre, with his dad John, left, and brother Michael, right. Photo: Handout / Myers family

READ MORE: William Hill profits almost halved after it announces hundreds of store closures

Campaigner John Myers said a crackdown could help save the lives of gamblers like his son Ryan, a carpenter from Huyton in north-west England who took his own life five years ago.

The Gambling Commission told the BBC it would not introduce maximum stakes online because operators already had enough information on their customers to keep them safe.

Chief executive Neil McArthur, said the reasons for the huge rise in complaints were complex.

He said: "We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it's suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that.”