Jhe biggest week of the year for racing betting turnover is almost upon us and here are the adverts full of pumped up punters, projecting the image of the game the bookmakers want you to see: bonuses, free bets, four dizzying days of fun and frolicking in the west country with a rousing chorus of Sweet Caroline to top it all off. And for thousands of their customers in Cheltenham weekdays at least, the reality may not be too far off the mark.
If, however, you are one of those whose experience of betting with the regulated UK gambling industry is quite different, here is a website you might be happy to bookmark.
For the past six years, a small group of Justice For Punters volunteers have offered free advice to bettors in conflict with gambling companies, regularly drawing on their experience of hundreds of individual cases and, in doing so, extracting £2.6 million from operators. which they had initially refused to pay. On Monday, its site and its operation were relaunched in a new form, and although it no longer accepts individual requests, its aim is that in the future it will do everything in its power to ensure that punters can help themselves.
J4P was founded by Brian Chappell, who worked tirelessly on issues relating to the fair and transparent treatment of bettors alongside fellow campaign veteran, Paul Fairhead, until the latter’s sudden death some time ago. 18 months. Both had extensive experience living at the cutting edge of the game, and in particular, how individual businesses can use vague and unfair terms and conditions – which customers accept upon registration via a checkbox – to avoid paying out bets, confiscating balances and other questionable practices.
Chappell decided in November that the workload involved with J4P was getting unmanageable, and has spent the last four months putting together a number of detailed “self-help” guides for bettors who want to bring a case against a bookmaker. The options are laid out clearly and clearly, with an honest assessment of the pros and cons.
In addition to betting disputes, another guide considers the possibility of forcing companies to reimburse vulnerable punters who may have been exploited, for example through a “VIP” system that offers free tickets for major events and other freebies to high-stakes gamblers, so that as long as they keep betting. Again, there is no promise of success, and a detailed and very personal account of a gambler’s journey into the depths of despair due to gambling addiction packs no punches.
“The workload has become much more difficult with the sad and unexpected passing of Paul Fairhead 18 months ago,” Chappell says. “I’ve missed him immensely. After six years, hundreds of cases, thousands of hours, £2.6m returned, it’s time for J4P to provide self-help guides for bettors, because J4P can’t keep doing the same amount of volunteer work forever, so we hope they’ll be helpful.
The new material on J4P also goes beyond dispute resolution to include articles every bettor should read. An article entitled “Making an informed choice to play” details the day-to-day realities of customer tracking, betting restrictions and dodgy terms and conditions that operators would rather keep secret.
With the imminent publication of the government’s white paper on gambling law reform, there is much to consider for all parties as a new regulatory regime for gambling in the UK United is taking shape. Chappell has been at the heart of the reality of how the current regulatory system works for years and remains deeply skeptical of what the next gambling law is likely to accomplish for bettors.
‘After six years of helping punters get £2.6million owed to them, J4P volunteers are disillusioned with regulators and others close to the gambling industry’ , says Chappell. “Very few seem interested in transparency, which is crucial to achieving the main aims of UK gambling regulations, being as fair and safe as possible and excluding crime from gambling. We hope that the new self-help guides will really help people keep fighting for justice as J4P goes backwards.