Disclaimer: This is what we like to (politely) call a “heritage” blog. That means we haven’t updated the information here since publication (although we have tidied up the format). A full update would be too complicated and besides, it’s interesting to see how things used to be, right? What you read may or may not still be applicable today, and the details will almost certainly be out of date. So please check out more recent blogs, as we are keeping readers abreast of new developments ALL THE TIME!
Group-buying, cashback and voucher code websites have exploded in popularity during the recession, offering shoppers tempting discounts on jewellery, restaurant meals, even holidays.
Now, you don’t even have to scour such websites to find the biggest discounts, with many companies coming to you with a daily email, listing their latest bargains.
Vouchercloud is one such company, and I have been a subscriber for a few months, hoping a fantastic deal might come my way. What I didn’t expect was to be offered a shot at online gambling.
Last week, it offered a betting credit worth £30 for just £5 at William Hill. Once the voucher in question was redeemed, customers had to first make a deposit of at least £10 in order to withdraw any winnings. They would also have to supply their personal details, presumably so they could stay on William Hill’s contact book.
Many can partake in an innocent bet, poker game or quick run around the slot machines from time to time without any severe consequences. Gambling is legal in the UK, with William Hill among the more “established” in this often-criticised industry.
Yet online gambling can turn out to be addictive and financially devastating. It is much more accessible and convenient than any other form of gambling. A quick search online and a debit card is all you need to start inflicting some serious damage on your bank account.
The NHS Choices website reckons there may be a quarter of a million problem gamblers in the UK today, with a huge number now racking up their losses virtually, rather than down the betting shop. Many don’t seek professional help until they face bankruptcy. That’s because the problem is being hid away, behind closed doors, at home, on our computers.
Vouchercloud runs the risk of introducing a vice to people who may never have been tempted to gamble before now. Many young customers might not know enough about the hazards of online gambling to make an informed choice. As we are now discovering with payday loans, it is not enough to say that people can be trusted to take the right decision to suit their financial needs. The Consumer Credit Counselling Service has received five times as many calls to its helpline from people with multiple payday loans than three years ago. Many of these are well-heeled, professional workers who have underestimated the addictive nature of easy loans.
This gambling offer is so far from the essential ethos of these sites – to save people money – it’s laughable. They are supposed to make our lives easier by offering us discounts on products and services that may otherwise seem too expensive. But a cynical tie-up, with little thought for whether the customers would want or need it, has allowed William Hill to grab a new clutch of customers, plus all their contact details. By offering a certain amount of credit on a first gamble, Vouchercloud is endorsing the acceptability of gambling in harsh economic times, when consumers may be more susceptible to the lure of quick riches.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.