The competition watchdog has announced that it is taking enforcement action against several online gambling firms that it suspects are breaking consumer law.
The Competition and Markets Authority said it was ramping up its action as it believes "people aren't getting the deal they expect from sign-up promotions and operators are unfairly holding onto people's money".
Read more: Gambling firms face CMA investigation
Sign-up promotions are designed to attract players onto casino-esque gambling sites by offering bonus cash when they chip in with their own money. But, the CMA said it was concerned people often don't get what they expected as the promotions can come stuffed with an array of terms and conditions that are "often confusing and unclear and, in some cases, may be unfair".
Customers could have to play hundreds of times before they're allowed to withdraw any money, so don't have the chance to quit while they're ahead and back out with their winnings when they want to.
Nisha Arora, CMA senior director for consumer enforcement, said:
We know online gambling is always going to be risky, but firms must also play fair.
Sadly, we have heard this isn’t always the case. New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions only to find the dice are loaded against them. And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money.
That’s why we are today launching enforcement action where we think the law has been broken.
The development comes after a joint investigation between the CMA and the Gambling Commission over concerns that people are being treated unfairly by online gambling operators.
The CMA opened an investigation into the £4.5bn gambling sector's compliance with consumer protection law at the end of last year, after hearing a slew of concerns suggesting operators weren't treating their customers fairly.