Could a gambling company steal your winnings?

8 min read
July 09, 2024

We recently spoke with the Gambling Commission to get their view on the biggest issues for those who use gambling websites and online casinos. They informed us that the fastest growing area of complaints they receive is problems withdrawing winnings.

That’s right – gambling companies will happily let you pay to play but when the time comes to withdraw your winnings all kinds of problems arise. 

Unfortunately, we were not surprised by this. 

Over the years we’ve heard from hundreds of consumers reporting a whole range of gambling companies, from obscure online casinos to huge high-street brands, for exactly the same issue: when they went to withdraw their winnings, suddenly the company was “unable to find” the details of their account, or the balance simply disappeared due to some mysterious technical issue. 

These are some seriously underhand tactics – that are far more common than people might guess. 

In this article, we don’t just want to raise the alarm about these practices but explain how to avoid any confusion about your rights when you gamble, how your account balance works, and what you can do to protect any money you win. 

The “right to withdrawal” 

The Gambling Commission was set up as a regulatory body for the gambling industry. They licence, regulate, and provide guidance to companies and consumers in Great Britain. 

According to the GC’s rules, “Players must be allowed to withdraw without restriction, except as necessary to comply with any General Regulatory Obligations.” 

In other words, anyone who signs up to a gambling site must be informed that they can withdraw their deposit balance at any time. Moreover, your account balance must always be clearly displayed in your account. 

The right to withdraw your deposit money at any time includes when a bonus is pending or active on the account. 

Rules and restrictions 

The “right to withdraw” must be clearly stated during the sign-up process for a gambling site, on your account page, and on any additional promotions, such as bonuses. 

However, there are some rules and restrictions on winnings and account balances that may not be immediately obvious and can cause confusion about how much you’ve actually won. 

Charging a fee for withdrawals 

First, the operator can deduct a fee from any withdrawal to cover the cost of processing it. The fee applied shouldn’t exceed a “reasonable estimate” of the cost incurred by an operator for processing the withdrawal.

This ability to charge a fee is also used to discourage consumers from making lots of separate smaller withdrawals, which can be costly to the operator. For the same reason, as well as to discourage money laundering, the operator can “reasonably limit” the size or number of separate withdrawals that a consumer may make. 

The key word here is “reasonably”: any restrictions on the size of withdrawal must be done in accordance with fair and transparent terms in the contract that the consumer has agreed to.

They cannot impose a maximum withdrawal limit.

Promotional Play Restrictions and Wagering Requirements

Gambling companies tempt people into signing up and playing by offering all kinds of special bonuses and promotions. These include things like “free spins”, “free bets” or cash bonuses.

But remember, there is no such thing as free money! Offers like these will come with a “wagering requirement” – a multiplier that represents the number of times you have to play through a bonus before you are able to withdraw any winnings.

For example: I’m given a £30 Casino bonus with a 10x wagering requirement. This means that I’ll have to spend £300 on eligible games before I can withdraw a penny.  

So any money you win on these kinds of offers will only ever be stored in a “pending balance”. You cannot withdraw cash from your pending balance, only spend the funds to work down the wagering requirement – on more bets!

Only once you have met the wagering requirement for the applicable bonus or promotion, will the pending funds be released into your “main wallet”.

Verification checks or unusual activity 

Gambling companies have legal obligations to ensure that they are not in receipt of proceeds of crime. This means that on some occasions they may prevent a withdrawal whilst they run checks.

Almost all online casinos require age, ID and financial verification before allowing you to make a withdrawal. This means you’ll need to upload scans of certain documents to confirm your identity – usually a government-issued ID or proof of address.

Account verification applies even to casinos with “quick withdrawals.” So if you have not provided documentation when signing up, this can slow down or obstruct the process of withdrawing winnings. 

You may also be held up or stopped from withdrawing money if unusual activity has been spotted in your account that could indicate money laundering. This can be lots of smaller withdrawals, a spike in the number of bets you’re placing, or higher staking amounts than usual.  

What if you can’t withdraw your winnings?

If you think you are being prevented from withdrawing money that is yours the first thing to do is double-check: see if the deposit balance and the bonus balance are clearly displayed separately to avoid any confusion.

Take screenshots and gather any other forms of evidence to help you keep a record of the amounts in your account. (If you take your complaint to the regulator later on they will not have access to customer accounts, so will not be able to see what has happened.) 

If there really is a problem, your first step is to report it directly to the company. They will have a process laid out in the terms and conditions on their website, or an in-app process you must follow. 

Provide the gambling business with as much information as you can, including dates, times and amounts of money. Share any evidence you have to support your complaint. Make sure you keep a copy of everything that you tell them.

The gambling business has 8 weeks to resolve your complaint from when they receive it. When the investigation is complete, they will tell you the result of your complaint and what happens next.

If you aren’t satisfied with the result of their investigation, you can then escalate your complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider. (Remember – you cannot take your complaint to an ADR without going through the gambling company’s complaints process first). 

Raise a gambling complaint with Resolver

Top tips for protecting your winnings 

This is a murky issue. In many cases, consumers find it extremely difficult to prove when something suspicious has happened to their money. 

However, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your winnings. 

  • Get verified before you play. Complete all verification processes before you start playing – so they cannot suddenly decide to exclude you later on. 
  • Keep track of your winnings. We have heard from people whose balances have mysteriously ‘disappeared’ – so make sure you are keeping track of what’s in your account, especially as you approach the threshold of wagering requirements – which would allow you to withdraw winnings from bonuses or promotional offers. 
  • Be cautious and have reasonable expectations. Remember that gambling companies registered with the GC will be bound by UK consumer law. But those many companies and online casinos which are not registered or operate from overseas have nothing to stop them from exploiting UK consumers. If you are using a company or app that doesn’t have a good reputation, or is based elsewhere in the world, you may be in for a very nasty surprise when it comes to their transparency and customer care. Do some research on the company before you play – so you can set reasonable expectations of how you will be treated and how any problems that arise will be handled.

Why risk it?

We’ve written before on how the gambling sector can be a particularly problematic one for consumers. 

There are thousands of unregulated gambling companies out there. And even the supposedly “reputable” ones still rely on all kinds of manipulative techniques to encourage consumers to accrue debts that can leave them in a terrible financial situation.

Gambling plays a role in hundreds of deaths per year. Organisations like Gambling With Lives and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute have demanded more protections for those vulnerable to gambling addiction. 

We’ve noticed an increase in gambling complaints: like William Hill and Bet365 are getting more complaints via our service than ever before! 

Current estimates are that 1 in 10 people in the UK are regular gamblers. But this number is rising due to the cost-of-living crisis. 

Study after study has shown that people are far more likely to take up gambling when they are in a financially precarious situation. This may seem like a contradiction – but the more precarious you are the more appealing the idea of a big win becomes. 

In a world of smartphones, aggressive social media marketing and increased financial precarity, more and more people have inflated hopes of a big win and are willing to take serious financial risks. 

If you, or someone you love, is turning to gambling in times of stress, it’s time to seek help. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling-related problems, contact the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133. It is Free of charge, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


If you have any thoughts on this topic, or any other consumer issues you would like us to cover, feel free to get in touch with us at 

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