Gambling operators in the US state of New Jersey have been slammed by the regulator for failings association with withdrawals for customers in the regulated market.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has publicly threatened to impose fines and other regulatory action against the state’s sportsbook operators who have been caught encouraging customers to reverse withdrawal requests.
In a letter published this week, the DGE said that it had investigated this aspect of performance among New Jersey sports betting operators after receiving a high number of complaints from customers. As a result of the investigation, the DGE says that they found that operators were often delaying customer withdrawals unnecessarily, as well as offering bonuses for players to cancel their registered withdrawals and to continue gambling on the site.
Both of these practices are in contravention of state’s gaming laws, and the DGE was insistent on the duties of operators, underlining their willingness to take regulatory enforcement action:
“Operators should clearly understand the Division will take regulatory action and impose civil penalties whenever patrons are improperly encouraged or incentivized to rescind their withdrawal requests to resume gaming activity.”
Reverse withdrawals have long been regarded as a potential signal of problem gambling among sports betting customers. Under New Jersey gaming law, players are still permitted to cancel their withdrawal request, as long as this is done without any inducement from the operator.
Even that caveat is widely considered to be controversial among responsible gambling bodies and many regulators. For example, the UK Gambling Commission has recently informed UK operators that they had to end the practice of offering ‘reverse withdrawals’.
In their statement, the UKGC had said that reverse withdrawals should be regarded as a red flag for potential gambling problems. They added that this opinion is clearly supported by expert advice and academic research, as well as the testimony of those affected by gambling addiction.
The DGE reiterated to operators that players were entitled to withdraw their funds without any further delay than was needed to carry out the mandatory fraud or money laundering checks.
Although the regulator did not specify what would be an acceptable timeframe for these checks, they revealed that some customers had been waiting up to two weeks to get hold of their money. The regulator said that some operators were purposefully delaying the withdrawal process, with the aim of encouraging players to cancel the withdrawal and re-wager the money, a practice that the regulator said was inconsistent with the intention of the state’s gambling rules.
The letter from the DGE was published in the same week that the state of New Jersey posted a record figure for sports betting revenue during the month of December, but the findings by the DGE suggest that the growth may have some unhealthy elements.
One group that focuses on problem gambling, the National Council on Problem Gambling said that the DGE should publicize the names of the offending betting companies, something that the regulator has so far refused to do. Executive Director Keith Whyte said that the information raised some serious concerns about responsible gambling and confirmed that the Council would be updating their standards on internet gambling to reflect the risk.
Whyte also suggested that a form of self-exclusion for reverse withdrawals could be imposed, allowing a customer to confirm that they do not want a withdrawal to be reversed at the time when they request it. As gambling operators in the UK have found, it is often better to accept such measures voluntarily, before they are imposed, something that New Jersey betting companies may have to bear in mind.
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