A UK firm says its betting disputes team has recouped £6m since it was formed seven years ago, reflecting the growth of this niche sector and the increasing issues with gambling addiction.

Ellis Jones Solicitors now has 14 people working in its specialist betting and gaming disputes team, with the largest single compensation payment coming to £1m.

The firm says many of its claims relate to vulnerable gamblers who have been allowed to carry on betting by operators even when it was clear they were addicted or could not afford to continue.

One case from 2019 involved a 32-year-old man from the south east who recovered £100,000 – amounting to 89% of his net losses. Ellis Jones was able to prove that the betting operator breached the Gambling Commission’s social responsibility code because it failed to protect the client as a vulnerable customer.

Most of Ellis Jones’ cases – around 90% – are related to online betting. The majority of clients are men in a variety of age groups, although most commonly in their 30s and 40s

But the firm says it has noticed a trend in claims lodged by women who have been targeted by gambling companies particularly through bingo-style online sites.

There has been a drive to target women with gambling adverts over the last few years, bingo in particular,’ said partner Paul Kanolik. ‘Some sites, apps and adverts are now quite feminised and clearly aimed at women. We have certainly been acting for more women.’

The firm, which has 178 staff working from six offices, is warning that problem gambling may increase because of VR and augmented reality.

Kanolik added: ‘It is not just people who are tragically taking their own lives, but those that are being ruined because of the mental health and financial impacts, as well as the toll it exacts on their relationships.

‘I have dealt with many cases which have resulted in severe mental health issues, divorce, as well as financial problems. For every gambler there can be four, five, six or more other people affected too.’

The government published a white paper last year on gambling regulation which stated that 300,000 people in Britain experience ‘problem gambling’. A further 1.8m people were considered to be at elevated levels of risk. Possible reforms include stake limits for online slots and extra protections for 18- to 24-year-olds who are considered to be particularly vulnerable. The Gambling Commission has consulted on updating design rules for online products to consider features like speed of play, illusion of player control and other intensifying features which can exacerbate risk.

Law Gazzette

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