Gambling companies see huge rise in complaints
The number of gamblers complaining about British betting firms has risen almost 5,000% in the past five years.
There were a record 8,266 complaints last year, Gambling Commission figures obtained by BBC Panorama. That compares to just 169 in 2013.
Most of them were about firms refusing to pay out on winning bets or failing to operate in a socially responsible way.
The rise follows a sharp increase in UK gambling over the past decade.
The big betting firms have already promised £60m a year to help problem gamblers and say they are working on a plan to reduce gambling-related harm.
Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said there were complex reasons for the rise in complaints.
“We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it’s suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that,” he said.
The industry has expanded rapidly since the government relaxed restrictions on betting and advertising in 2007.
Gamblers are now losing almost twice as much to the betting companies as they were a decade ago. Last year, punters lost a record £14.5bn.
The biggest rise has been in online gambling, where new games and products have attracted new customers.
The Gambling Commission said it had no plans to introduce maximum stakes online because operators already have enough information to keep players safe and to ensure they are playing with money they can afford to lose.