It’s long been known that bookies don’t operate the way they used to; while all UK bookmakers are regulated by the Gambling Commission, current UK regulations let bookies get away with a lot. To increase profit margins and decrease risk, these days almost all bookmakers stack the odds in their favour by limiting winning accounts and sometimes even banning successful punters. While there are some ways you can ‘play the game’ to make the most of your bets anyway, such as using betting exchanges and spreading your bets around multiple bookies, more and more gamblers are beginning to feel cheated and disillusioned by this system; why play a game that you’re not allowed to win?
Essentially, bookies retain the right to limit how much money you’re allowed to stake on a bet. They can’t make you lose a bet, but they can ensure that you can’t place high stakes on any bets that you’re likely to be successful in. Got a good track record on the horses? Might as well get used to winning just pennies. Conversely, bookmakers often don’t limit you in sports or categories that you don’t do well in, allowing you to lose all your money on a high stakes bet on the footie if you’ve shown you don’t know the net from the goalposts.
Some successful gamblers log in to their bookie accounts only to find that they’ve been banned altogether. If a bookie decides they’re never going to make anything out of you, why keep your custom? They don’t want it. This ruthless culling maybe makes sense from a businessman’s perspective in terms of increasing profit margins for the bookies, but it flies in the face of customer rights and is ethically dubious at best. While other commercial sectors in the UK are heavily regulated to protect customers and ensure fair rules of trade, the UK’s gambling industry seems to fall woefully short of this standard.
Got lucky? Don’t Count Your Chickens
If limiting accounts isn’t bad enough, we’re also starting to see cases of bookies simply refusing to pay out. In April of this year, a number of punters told the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3519581/Angry-punters-say-online-bookmakers-refusing-pay-Cheltenham-race-winnings-closing-accounts.html) that their accounts were closed when they won up to £1600 on races at Cheltenham Festival. Just a few months later, one ‘lucky’ Belfast punter was denied £14K (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-punter-fumes-as-bookie-refuses-to-payout-14k-euro-2016-winning-bets-and-instead-offers-70-34804842.html) based on a system error.
At least not all the stories of bookies refusing to pay out have unhappy endings, though. In March this year student nurse Julius Ndlovu sued William Hill (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/punter-wins-again-after-suing-7549724) for refusing to pay out £1,000 on a tennis bet, claiming that the odds they set were a mistake. The court ruled in Ndlovu’s favour and awarded him his winnings plus £209 in costs. It is just one case, but it hopefully highlights to other punters out there that as customers just like any others, we do still have rights in the eyes of the law.
What About Betting Exchanges?
Yes, betting exchanges are an option. If you gamble via a betting exchange, rather than betting against a bookie, you’re betting against another punter. You can think of it as a kind of OKCupid for gamblers. The benefit of the betting exchange model is that the betting exchange themselves have no interest in whether you win or lose, and therefore absolutely no reason to limit or ban your account. They make their profits by taking a small commission fee, usually from winning bets; in the eyes of an exchange, the more customers they have, the better.
Betting exchanges are becoming the platform of choice for regular gamblers and professionals who are sick of seeing their stakes limited to pennies by major bookies. They do offer a decent alternative and shouldn’t be overlooked, but a commission of 2-5% is still a good chunk of anyone’s gambling income, and many punters simply prefer to use high street bookmakers rather than betting online through exchanges.
At the moment, using betting exchanges more often than not is the best anyone can do to avoid bookies and win regardless; but why should this be the case? Customer rights should be protected, and current UK regulations fail to prevent customers from being taken advantage of by millionaire bookmakers. It’s high time that punters took a stand against bookies with unfair trading policies.
A New Kind Of Bookie
It’s not like bookies can’t survive without limiting customers; after all, if that were the case, restrictions on bookmakers’ rights to limit and ban accounts would be no good for punters either, who would soon run out of bookies to turn to. BlackType, who can be found online at www.blacktype.bet, are by all accounts the new kid on the block in the world of online bookmakers. However, they’ve already made a name for themselves with their policy of laying any price to lose at least £500.
BlackType’s secret is doing away with ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ promotions and other offers in order to afford more flexibility in the losses they make on punts. We all love these promotions, but they don’t make or break a bookie; I’d bet that compromising on offers in exchange for the security that BlackType is offering its customers is a concession that most of us would be very happy to make. With good odds and a customer-centred business model, BlackType are definitely a bookmaker that more punters should be using.
Australia also has the right kind of idea. In New South Wales, online bookies are now banned from limiting successful betters beyond a certain minimum, thanks to new racing industry guidelines that were backed by the state government and implemented in September 2014. These guidelines oblige all bookies to accept any bets that pay out $1000 or less, and in the case of larger bookies, $2000 or less. This restriction protects bookies’ rights to limit bets to a reasonable degree and so keep their losses under control, while giving punters the freedom to be successful without fear of losing their ability place any meaningful bets at all.
Exercise Your Rights
The emergence of bookies like BlackType and the improvements in regulations that we’re seeing happening elsewhere is a positive sign that, perhaps, things are changing for the better. That being said, mountains don’t move themselves. As a punter, the best thing you can do is exercise your rights – don’t let the bookies walk all over you. If you’ve had a dispute with a bookie and you think they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, you should get in touch with IBAS, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (www.ibas-uk.com)
IBAS should be your first port of call if you’ve already tried to settle things directly with your bookie. While IBAS do publish major cases, most bookies will settle issues within days to avoid bad press. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a little pressure from the right people. At Betting Gods, we’ve already heard numerous stories of Betting Gods customers who have managed to recoup their winnings from bookies after contacting IBAS, and the more punters who do this, the more bookies will take notice.
Things are only going to change here in the UK if we, the punters, exercise our rights and get proactive about change. There’s currently a petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125456) running on the UK government website to encourage MPs to debate new regulations forcing bookmakers to accept all legitimate bets up to £25; a comparatively tiny amount compared to what’s being offered by BlackType and in New South Wales, but a step in the right direction nonetheless. The petition’s only running for another couple of weeks, and it’s a shame that it never gained the traction it clearly deserves, but signing it and sharing it now to your social media pages can only help its case.
We need more of this positive activity in the gambling community. Certainly it seems that more and more gamblers are becoming unhappy with bookmakers’ practices, but this alone will never be enough to incite the change we need. Sign and share every petition which might help. Support the bookies like BlackType who do stand for better, fairer regulations; simply by giving more custom to these bookies, you can send a clear message to the industry that change is needed. Get in touch with IBAS if you’ve been cheated out of your winnings. Above all, don’t just accept the status quo: know your rights, and protect them.