IBAS puts itself forward for UK gambling ombudsman role

The UK is expected to create an independent ombudsman to deal with disputes.
The UK is expected to create an independent ombudsman to deal with disputes.

The Independent Betting Adjudication Service has set out its claim to run the anticipated new body.

UK.- The Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) has put itself forward to run the expected new British gambling ombudsman. The body is expected to be created as a result of the UK government’s delayed review of gambling legislation.

While the government may decide to create the ombudsman from scratch, IBAS said that it could transition to fill the role itself much faster than it would be possible to create an entirely new service. It’s also outlined operational and financial matters, with a proposed organisational structure and a roadmap for its transition.

It argues that a new ombudsman must not have to “learn on the job”, noting that it has 25 years of experience in resolving disputes between gambling operators and customers. It also says that the creation of a new service from scratch would require a large outlay, while it already has part of the structure in place, offering a free and easy-to-use disputes process.

Managing director Richard Hayler said: “IBAS’s experience, expertise and commitment to independent decisions are unparalleled – having resolved over 85,000 gambling disputes. I welcome the creation of a new ombudsman, but for this to work it needs to be run by an organisation that understands the sector and has a track record of helping and protecting consumers.”

He added: “An ombudsman with additional resources, built on the foundations of IBAS, is best placed to hit the ground running, protecting consumers, and raising industry standards through fair, consistent decision making and constructive dispute avoidance feedback.”

IBAS has been vocal in calling for the creation of a British gambling ombudsman and it says the requirement still stands following the Gambling Commissions recent update to its recommendations for complaints handling.

It says that an eventual ombudsman service would need to cooperate with the regulator to “define the parameters” for its services, including the content of its advice and what to consider as harmful gambling. It said that if it gained the role, it would make transparency a major objective, making case studies public online to raise awareness of issues.

It would expect to handle 7,500 complaints and resolve 5,000 in its first year of operation, with 2,000 likely to be referred back to operators’ own complaints systems and 500 likely to be outside its remit. It also anticipates 10,000 requests for advice or support from players and operators that don’t enter into to an actual dispute, and would also liaise with claims management companies regarding historic complaints. 

As for the cost of this, IBAS anticipates £3.5m annually, with fixed business registration fees of £1m to fund the transition period and per case payments of up to £2.5m. It proposes an average case fee of £400 for resolved cases with a lower median fee and an average handling fee of £25 per enquiry or operator request. 

The proposal states: “We will take on and expand the work started by IBAS, providing informal advice and guidance to consumers, helping in navigating sometimes complex complaints processes and signposting where appropriate to other services and organisations.

“We will set out detailed performance targets in support of these aims and concerning our cost, efficiency, and timeliness. We will publish our performance against these targets each quarter. We will be committed to making gambling fairer and safer, to the benefit of consumers and gambling businesses.”

IBAS chairman Andrew Fraser said: “It’s an exciting time for the gambling industry. There is a real opportunity to enhance the service offered to gambling customers through a new ombudsman. 

“IBAS has been committed to providing an accessible, fair, and independent service to all gambling consumers. Our plan for a gambling ombudsman would make sure consumers are protected and avoid the backlog of complaints. On top of this, this plan provides a solution that works for government, the regulator, and the industry.”

The creation of an independent gambling ombudsman is widely expected as part of the British government’s review of gambling legislation, with one recent leak predicting a consultation on the matter this autumn. However, with the results of the review still up in the air due to Boris Johnson’s resignation as prime minister, it’s not clear to what extent the next administration may want to put its own stamp on the long-delayed gambling white paper.

What is IBAS?

The Independent Betting Adjudication Service was founded in 1998 as a third-party body to settle disputes between gambling operators and customers. Originally part of Sporting Life’s Green Seal service, it was known as the Independent Betting Arbitration Service until 2007.

It estimates that it currently handles around 80 per cent of all gambling sector customer disputes in the UK, covering everything from racehorse betting to online casino and lottery.

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