In the United Kingdom, the Competition And Markets Authority independent regulator has launched an investigation into allegations that some online gambling operators are refusing to pay up or preventing players from collecting their winnings.

According to a report from The Independent newspaper, the nation’s online gambling industry has grown by around 146% since 2009 with more than 5.5 million people now regularly enjoying sportsbetting, gaming and casino services over the Internet.

The newspaper reported that the probe, which has been welcomed by the Justice4Punters campaign group, follows complaints from customers and is to look into whether terms and conditions for online betting accounts are unfair.

“Gambling inevitably involves taking a risk but it shouldn’t be a con,” said Nisha Arora, CMA Consumer Enforcement Senior Director for the Competition And Markets Authority. “We’re worried players are losing out because gambling sites are making it too difficult for them to understand the terms on which they’re playing and may not be giving them a fair deal. We are now investigating to see whether firms are breaking the law. We’ve heard worrying complaints suggesting people may be lured into signing up for promotions with little chance of winning because of unfair and complex conditions. We’re now working closely with the Gambling Commission to examine this more closely.”

The Competition And Markets Authority revealed that the Gambling Commission regulator had also raised concerns about potential breaches of consumer law including the use of misleading promotions and unfair terms that may block players from receiving payouts. Using consumer protection legislation, it declared that it has issued notices requiring operators to produce evidence of their terms and conditions while additionally asking people who may have been affected by such practices to provide it with further information.

“We expect the gambling industry to ensure terms and conditions are not unfair,” said Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive for the nation’s Gambling Commission. “However, operators are still not doing enough. I continue to have concerns that many of these appear to bamboozle rather than help the customer make informed choices. Gambling, by its very nature, is always going to involve risk but customers must have faith that if they win, they will not end up feeling that the deck is stacked against them because of an obscure condition that they did not properly understand. We approached the Competition And Markets Authority to work with it to address issues in the gambling sector and we are delighted to have agreed a joint programme of work to ensure terms are fair and transparent.”

The Remote Gambling Association industry representative stated that it intends to cooperate fully with the investigation, which could result in enforcement actions being taken against individual gaming websites, while adding that there was no reason to believe there are widespread failings among its members.