An industry insider familiar with casino VIP programs has recently alleged that two operators in Ontario, Canada, encouraged high-stakes bettors to continue gambling and place large bets. The informant said that VIP employees of the two operators were informally told to keep customers, and even stop high-rollers from using responsible gambling tools to self-exclude.
Currently, Ontario regulations state that companies are forbidden from publicly advertising their websites or related promotions. However, operators can promote their offers and limited-time offers directly to the players on their official websites, by players signing up for their platforms, or by giving consent to receive such promotional offerings and perks.
VIP Programs Worsen the Problem
The news has not been received well among critics such as Brian Dijkema, VP of external affairs with Cardus. Mr. Dijkema who co-authored a report on provincial gambling reforms last year commented that VIP programs should not be a thing, as if gambling is a drug, then for many people, such VIP programs are basically boosting the dose.
In August, Statistic Canada released some concerning news regarding the Canadian gambling industry. The organization published a study which stated that more than 300,000 residents of the country are at severe or moderate risk of developing gambling-related problems. This study was conducted back in 2018 and the situation could be even worse with the recent advancement of the gaming industry.
CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, Paul Burns, responded firmly that he does not believe the allegations that VIP programs discourage bettors from resorting players to not seek self-exclusion. Mr. Burns added that the province has rigorous regulations which protect players and numerous gambling firms who offer VIP programs have vowed that their programs are in compliance with the local gambling standards.
According to the insider, the two operators are mining customer data to identify potential VIPs, by looking for patterns of high-frequency betting and players who continue wagering even after winning. The insider also alleged that free credits invitation to private suites at major sports games are also used by those companies to make bettors feel special and encourage them to spend even more.
A spokesperson for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the agency that oversees the local iGaming market, said that a confirmation of the insider’s allegations would be a major violation of the regulations. It would mean severe sanctions, including monetary penalties or suspensions or revocations of licenses for the operator who has broken the provincial standards.
The spokesperson assured that the regulator reviews control at each operator and monitors the business via direct observations on operator sites, requests for information, targeted audit activity and monthly data transfers. Lastly, AGCO shared that to this date it has not received any complaints in relation to the allegations from the industry insider.
Availability is a Concern, say Experts
Meanwhile, addiction experts are worried that the availability of sports betting can be harmful to gamblers who already experience gambling problems. Some specialists say that said that sports betting has evolved in a way that it is now similar to addictive slot machines due to its availability and the ability to wager on almost everything.
Source: Dobby, Christine “Insider alleges Ontario gambling VIP programs aim to stop high-spenders from quitting — even when they want to” Toronto Star, November 25, 2022