Maltese-licensed online operator Yipiii Gaming, which dubs itself as the “World’s No. 1 Winmarket,” is coming under fire for partnering with major UK retail chains in a scheme that allows online shoppers to pay £1 for a chance to win, rather than pay for, their purchases. Among the estimated 150 retailers participating in the scheme are familiar names like Sainsbury’s, Asda, Boots, Marks and Spencer, Dixons, Selfridges, Debenham and Comet. The Daily Mail quoted Business Secretary Vince Cable as being “disturbed” by the practice, saying it was ‘clearly unacceptable to blur the boundaries between gambling and retail shopping” in this fashion.
The scheme works like this: visitors to the retail operations’ websites are greeted with the Yipiii roulette wheel, and asked to register with Yipiii by providing credit card info and asserting that they’re over 18. After that, once they identify a product they’d like to purchase, they have the option of clicking the Yipiii wheel, at a cost of £1 per spin, for a chance to win the product rather than pay for it. Losing spins result in ‘players’ being awarded with one of several consolation prizes, including entry into prize draws, free spins or a “+1” discount on future purchases. Putting Yipiii to the test, the Mail spun the wheel 162 times, winning just once (a £20 fishbowl toy).
Yipiii has been offering its service via UK retailers since late 2011, but many of the retailers contacted by the Mail expressed (or feigned) surprise that their brands were connected with the scheme. Others expressed alarm at the knowledge that the Yipiii roulette wheel was automatically appearing whenever customers logged on to the retailers’ sites. Yipiii founder Christoph Klingler admits that he never dealt directly with the retailers, despite his website’s description of them as “trusted partners.” Many retailers – including M&S, Boots, Asda and Selfridges – have already begun severing ties with the firm and demanding that their logos be scrubbed from Yipiii’s website. Klingler maintains that Yipiii was designed “to benefit British consumers, not mislead them in any way.”