For the result of this consultation see the “Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board" feedback results blog.
The "Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes" board was originally set up to allow discussion on risk-free introductory loopholes.
E.g. "Free £20 to play at an online casino". So you put £9.50 on red, £9.50 on black, £1 on zero and then took your money out.
This soon evolved, firstly into the relatively simple area of matched betting. This followed strict rules against encouraging gambling itself. With a careful and accurate approach, it allowed users to make risk-free money by following a clearly-defined method. It was a typical MoneySaving loophole and many members supplemented their incomes with this.
Then companies began to wise up. They presented more hoops to jump through to achieve the same results. Undeterred, our forumites – being the canny operators that they are – adapted their methods and broadened their horizons to maximise profits.
It’s now so complex we have serious concerns
The systems are now incredibly complex and have strayed far from the original remit. My senior forum team members tell me:
When people report a supposed breach of the rules, it is incredibly difficult to understand – never mind assess – if it’s breaking our guidelines by not being risk-free."
We also receive contradictory reports from our regular users, who live and breathe this sort of thing, about what is risky or not.
Of course complexity is nothing new on MSE forums. But when this happens in other areas, my forum staff can ask my specialist editorial team to help.
Yet we don’t cover gambling, nor is gambling itself MoneySaving. The level of expertise now required to police this forum is causing us concern that we no longer have the ability to do so on a day-to-day basis.
I’m not convinced we can risk keeping the board going
My biggest concern is that people could find incorrect info on there, and they’ll think that because it’s on MSE it must be OK – and may then damage their finances on the back of it.
Of course we have the risk of that elsewhere. But gambling can be particularly predatory and is outside our main stable. One user may mistakenly suggest incorrect credit card info to another in our forum – that isn’t against our rules. Promoting risky gambling is, though – so the fact we are now struggling to differentiate between risky and risk-free is a concern.
This leaves me torn. I don’t want to take away a helpful discussion forum that people rely on, yet I don’t know how to keep it safe for people. I don’t want to risk the board damaging the work MSE does elsewhere.
My thoughts and options include:
- A phased shutdown – giving a few months to allow people who want to discuss this to go elsewhere.
- If we do shut the board down, we are left with the question of what to do with the existing content.
- We could hide the board so only registered users can see it – although I’m concerned that wouldn’t help.
So it seemed logical to me to consult with those who know best about how people view this board and what we should do from here. I’m open to a wide range of suggestions – please let me know your thoughts below.