Restrict Bookmaker Selective Restrictions & False Advertising

Restrict Bookmaker Selective Restrictions & False Advertising

5 August 2022
Signatures: 158Next Goal: 200
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Why this petition matters

Started by Mark T

Should bookmakers be a law unto themselves?

Their adverts promise great offers, bonuses, free games and the potential for big wins. But the truth is, they use the current rules and legislation to pad their profits, ensure you can never win big and to invade your privacy.

Signing up and making a deposit is easy, but if you happen to win, then the issues begin.

You can “Click to Deposit” but upon withdrawal, especially if you win big, you may suddenly be subject to “affordability checks”.

Checks and limitations should be used to prevent crime and gambling harm only. Not to enhance corporate profit.

The UK Gambling Commission states "players must not be asked for information at the point they request a withdrawal from their account if the operator could reasonably have asked for this information at an earlier time." This rule is not enforced, affecting thousands of ordinary consumers.

They knowingly advertise products they do not offer.

They already have the ability to choose the products and prices they offer (and as outlined below, they are always in their favour, even if it seems otherwise); government regulation should not be abused in this manner. 

The Bookmaker Always Wins (eventually)

Yet, despite the odds being in their favour, they use loopholes and practices that are there for the protection of the public to pad their profits and ensure no one can win more than a handful of times.

They Set the Odds

Bookmakers have the luxury of setting the odds. They offer those odds to the public and the public can choose to accept them (well sometimes) or decline them. And the odds are always in their favour.

If you were to add up the odds of any football match, tennis match, horse race or any other sport, as a percentage, in order for it to be an even chance (the equivalent of a coin flip) between the public and the bookmaker, the result would have to equal 100%.

In most cases, the bookmaker sets the odds to at least 110% and in many cases much higher.

So even if some people back the winner, the bookmaker still wins.

They Adjust the Odds

Once the odds are set, if too much money is going on one team, player or horse, they can lower the odds to ensure a smaller payout or to put people off (and spread the bets through the field). Again, ensuring things end in their favour.

Betting Exchanges & False Advertising

For years Bookmakers had no competition and could be extravagant with their odds. But with the rise of Betting Exchanges (such as Betfair) where there is no bookmaker and you are betting against other people, thus causing an almost 100% book (as above), they have had to give people a reason to choose the weaker odds they are offering over the exchange.

To entice customers they use promotions, deals and perceived value.

Some Examples:

  • Bet £10 Get £30 - Sounds like an amazing deal. But remember, the odds are in their favour. With the £10 bet part of your return (if it wins) is your £10. With the £30 bet, if it loses you get nothing and if it wins they take the £30 back, so you only get the profit. So whilst this is a good deal, it's not as good as it sounds. Plus this is a one-time deal (to get you in the door and get your contact details). 

  • Bet £20 Get £5 - This is more akin to the type of deal you might be offered further down the line. The same rules apply and it's better than nothing, but remember this is to keep you there rather than on the exchange, so you are using both bets with poor odds.

  • Best Odds Guaranteed - This actually is a good deal, when you get it. If you place a bet at, say, 5/1 and by the time the match or race starts the odds have drifted to 10/1 and you win, you get paid at the higher rate. The thing here is, that the odds go that way when the betting public has little faith in that prospect winning. Where something that looks good for the win will end up with shorter odds. So this is going to pay out in situations where few people have backed it (meaning the bookmaker has won more on something that lost). So it's not the big risk to the bookmaker it may seem.

  • Extra Places - In sports, with a large field (horse racing & golf in particular) a bookmaker may offer an Extra Place bet (as does the exchange). As these are commonly for 3 places but you receive 1/5 of the odds price, things are even more in the bookie's favour.

    To show more value a bookmaker will sometimes offer to cover additional places. This might be 4 places (so the 1/5 odds is still in their favour) but could go up to 5, 6, 7 or even 8 places in very large fields. So it feels like you are getting a good deal.

    But a bookie offering 8 places will also be offering lower odds than one offering 4 places. So a customer may bet with them feeling they have chosen a potential winner, but they are less likely to lose much.

    The result is that the odds skew even further in the bookie's favour because the biggest risk (to the bookie) is from the winning bets, which are now at lower odds and part of that extra place bet is on the win too, so it's now 1/5 of lower odds on half your bet.

  • Free Games & Prizes - these do offer some value. But the wins are going to be small or zero in nearly all cases. If you happen to get 5 free spins on a slot machine and win big, the hope (from the casino) is you will keep playing, looking for more of the same. And ultimately, as the games are designed to pay out less than they take in, they have really only lost the cost of the free spins (say 50p) because the game will balance out the rest. And for the time taken, versus the return, on average it will never be a significant amount of money on its own.

These are the kind of offers you see advertised on TV, Streaming Services and in Newspapers.

They are what Bookmakers use to stand out from the crowd (from the exchanges and the other bookmakers).

And that is perfectly valid & understandably enticing.

So is it fair that they can advertise these promotions, but not provide them?

Isn't that False Advertising?

Imagine a Supermarket with a "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" offer.

It's on TV, in the shop window and on posters in stores.

Would it be acceptable for them to tell individual customers they couldn't have that deal, while others were still being offered it? Or would that be considered misleading or false advertising?

In fact, imagine that same store telling you that you were welcome to shop there, but you were not entitled to ANY of the deals they have advertised around the store or on products. The offers are still there and still available, it's just that you can't have them.

That's exactly what bookmakers do to many of their customers.

You Can Lose, But Winning is Prohibited

There have been calls to protect problem gamblers from overcommitting themselves or getting into too much debt. And that makes sense.

But bookmakers are using these implied restrictions to do exactly the opposite.

Because they have the authority to restrict customers (allegedly to prevent them from overspending) they invariably enforce these actions on WINNING customers.

In other words, it's to protect their profits rather than protecting the customer.

I have seen this personally, but the accounts of this happening make it beyond refute.

You can lose as often as you like, but if you win a couple of times in a short period, the bookmaker can (and will) restrict your account, ensuring, firstly, you lose access to all the advertised benefits mentioned above. But also restricting the amount you are allowed to bet.

Commonly it is not the size of the bet that determines the restriction size, but the size of the potential win.

A good example of this is Sky Bet, who commonly restricts bets to ensure you can't win more than £10-15 in a single bet. Especially if that bet is on something at high odds. So you may be able to place a bet of £5 on the favourite, but if you try to bet on a 50/1 outsider, you are restricted to 30p

Meaning it's not the amount it's costing you that they are worried about, it's how much it might cost them if the high-odds horse or player has a good day.

Invasion of Privacy

To further boost protection for problem gamblers, bookmakers have been given reign to request personal information.

In part, this is to ensure fraudulent acts (such as money laundering) does not occur and in part it is to ensure problem gamblers don't 'get around' the restrictions by using someone else's identity.

This makes sense - in theory!

But as with the restrictions, it is being abused by the bookmakers.

I know, from personal experience, when signing up to William Hill, in order to have an account to back a horse at Cheltenham, I was asked for a copy of my passport, a utility bill and a copy of my bank statement (plus photos of me holding each of them).

This was AFTER signing up (through their promotion of Bet £10 get £20). I deposited £20 (to have £10 left for Cheltenham if I lost) and placed a £10 bet. It was only then (after I lost the first bet and was due the free bet) that I had my account suspended pending these documents.

When I obliged, but with a redacted bank statement (other than the transaction showing my deposit with them) I was told I must provide a fully unredacted version. This is an unnecessary invasion of privacy (given the reason given for this request was for proof of address, which was covered by the utility bill).

I then received a further email (clearly automated) stating they now needed proof of the source of funds to that bank statement. So a copy of any statement from a bank that had transferred funds into it, payslips and the like.

I have since found several accounts of others who have had the same treatment and when providing these things (which I refused as it was clearly unnecessary and I could use another bookmaker happily, so they closed my account, returned my residual £10 and never provided the advertised free bet), they were asked for more and more personal information. This seems especially true when the initial bet wins.

As mentioned at the start, bookmakers should not be requesting this information at the point of withdrawal. If they must do so, then it should be prior to deposit and within the confines of reasonable requests.

A utility bill should be more than suitable as proof of address. There should be no situation when a bookmaker should be requesting unredacted bank statements.

Banks carry out their own money laundering checks, so if you have a bank account, there is no need for further checks in that area.

Though if they insist that there must be further checks to gamble, then a centralised checking system could be a solution (see below).

The Solution

Through signing this petition, it is requested that the Government intervene to make the following changes to legislation:

  1. Enforce bookmakers to honour their advertised promotions to all customers. If a promotion is removed from one customer it must be removed from all. This could exclude 'loyalty' bonuses (an occasional free bet to a longstanding customer etc), but anything advertised publicly or on banners on their site, should be available to everyone unless there are specific qualifying terms clearly stated on the advertising.

  2. Enforce bookmakers to accept a minimum bet size. Restrictions can be enforced through time-outs, self-restrictions, limited deposit sizes or a centralised check (see below). But once bookmakers set a price and offer it to the public, it should not be restricted to customers who have a winning record and only offered fully to those who habitually lose.

    This is profiteering from a system in a manner that was never intended.

    Maximum bet sizes could be used to protect the bookmaker, but these should be for all, not for individuals.

    But without concrete justifiable reason (provided to the customer and open to independent appeal) a bookmaker should be enforced to accept all individual bets without individual restrictions.

  3. Use an Independent Centralised Checking System. Rather than bookmakers requesting documents as they see fit (and using that information to discriminate against specific customers or for market research - ie through unredacted bank statements) customers should be able to submit their corroborating documentation to an independent body once.

    This could also be the source of depositing and withdrawals, ensuring that no individual customer is over-stretching themselves.

    Checks to avoid fraudulent activity (money laundering, identity theft etc) should be carried out by this central, independent, body and accepted by all bookmakers as part of their regulation. (Though again, banks already do this).

    Source of wealth checks should not be required until losses hit a pre-set level. But if they are required, they should be provided to the independent body only. If a customer appears to be causing themselves financial difficulty, they could then be restricted from using ALL bookmakers and exchanges or have their deposit level limited (which would limit their funds available across all bookmakers).

    But the individual bookmakers would not be in a position to restrict winning customers, nor could they restrict a customer on the basis that they lost a large sum with them if that loss came after a substantial win with another bookmaker and so their central account was not severely impacted causing themselves financial strain. 
  4. Ban All Affordability Checks at the Point of Withdrawal. This is already legislation, but it is not being enforced. Therefore, bookmakers should be subject to impactful fines if they continue to enforce this practice.

Changing the setup and legislation as outlined here, would help protect customer details and privacy. It would give greater security to 'problem gambling' and it would ensure bookmakers are unable to fleece customers, giving the perception that big wins are possible when the reality is that big winners are restricted and it's those who habitually lose who get the shiny offers and deals, to keep them on the hook.

We, the undersigned, request that this be considered by parliament and the suggested proposals enforced within the gambling industry for the protection of all.



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Signatures: 158Next Goal: 200
Support now