by Renee Israel
After growing criticism was expressed by MPs and anti-gambling
groups, many of the UK's top stores are considering pulling out of a
controversial online shopping promotion, which encourages shoppers to gamble on
Around 150 retailers, including Boots, Sainsbury's and Asda, are
part of the scheme where their online shoppers are encouraged to place £1 stake
on roulette wheel and play for an item on their shopping list.
To join in this promotion, shoppers are being asked to open an
account with an unlicensed gaming company - one which is not regulated by the UK
Gambling Commission - and top up their account. They are then offered a
catalogue of all the participating stores and when they find an item they are
interested in obtaining, they play for it or shop of it.
'Playing' for the item means that shoppers have the £1 deducted
from their deposited funds and they get a spin of the roulette wheel. Should
players win, the item is theirs, but if not, they don't have to buy the item.
The Daily Mail, which first reported on this story,
performed a test on the scheme, to see whether the company's claim that 85p of
every £1 spent was returned to the player was true.
After wagering £162, the writer of the article had won once out
of the 162 roulette wheel spins. The newspaper calculated that shoppers lose
around £15 on every £100 they gamble.
While this is not a scientific test on the gambling company's
odd, it seems that their claims are not quite what they say. Customers are also
enticed to stay longer at the site through promises of free entry into online
competitions and extra spins.
Top Stores Withdrawing from Scheme
After being accused by MPs and social groups that they were encouraging
problem gambling among cash-strapped shoppers through UK stores casino
marketing tactics, a number of top stores such as Marks and Spencers and
Asda, as well as Boots, Selfridges, Comet and Debenhams, reported that they were
withdrawing from the scheme.
"Gambling is quite rightly highly regulated because of the damage it can
cause, and it's clearly unacceptable to blur the boundaries between gambling and
retail shopping," said UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable. "I am pleased to hear
that responsible retailers are moving away from this."
The UK Gambling Commission admitted that its hands were tied when dealing
with the unlicensed company. "You do not need a license from us to run a remote
gambling service if all your remote gambling equipment is located outide
Britain," the group said in a statement.