Now, I’ve included the bracketed word ‘potentially’ in the title, because the piece of journalism this blog is based on comes from the Daily Mail. Which, is not always known for its journalistic integrity. But based on the contents of the article and my long-standing experience with bookmakers, this does ‘seem’ like it has a ring of truth to it.
Let’s first start with the story. Bet365, fresh off announcing record profits, appears to have found itself in a spot of bother at the hands of some undercover journalism. Said undercover reporter for the Daily Mail, was reportedly told by a Bet365 worker that:
“If they’ve [the Customer] lost, say, £15,000 in that week, then we’ll give them a weekly rebate, normally on a Tuesday, and we’ll give them maybe 10 per cent of that back.”
This was then followed up by a top gambling lawyer, stating that the industry is rife with cashback incentives, with some firms offer returns as high as 25% on losses. One assumes this lawyer is referring to net losses over a period of time, rather than individual offers (such as Sky Bets, money back up to £20 (cash) if your horse comes second.
Of course, this has resulted in the usual outpouring of vaguely genuine rage from various MP’s, all looking for their moment in the sun. Don’t mistake this for me defending Bet365, they are completely in the wrong and any attempt for them to describe this as ‘rewarding loyalty’ should be called out for the lie that it is. However, it is just becoming quite tiresome, listening to politicians trot out statements like the one below and follow up with absolutely zero legislation for customer protection:
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the APPG, said: ‘Bet365 appear to be deliberately preying on vulnerable people and encouraging customers to rack up huge losses to boost their own profits.’
I mean, if there was a prize for the single most obvious statement, this would be in the running. Bookmakers put profits ahead of consumer well-being?! Noooo…..really?!
On this rare occasion though, we, as matched bettors, should be hoping that this is yet another case of hot air blowing by our rather hapless politicians. Because, the target of this (potential) legislative attack could be rebates….of any kind. Government legislation is not known for its finesse, which means that the word ‘rebates’ could include free bet incentives of any kind. Which, of course, would be terrible news for matched bettors who rely on these for the bulk of our profit.
Once again, I don’t want this to come across as callous. Problem gamblers should come before the interests of the matched betting community. My fear is that legislators will take this opportunity and attempt ‘broad stroke’ reform, rather than focusing in on ‘net loss rebates’ to problem gamblers. If they do that, I guarantee, no one will win. The legislation will not be hard hitting enough to truly help problem gamblers, but just damaging enough to seriously cut the effectiveness of matched betting as a risk-free method of making money. All of which would ironically not help the people that need it, and hinder the only ‘actual’ method of beating the bookies at their own game.
But let’s put that future-predicting rant to one-side and get back on track. The heart of the rebate controversy seems to be coming from Live Casino rooms. You know the ones – scantly clad women spinning a roulette wheel in a darkened room (in Lativa or the Philippines no doubt). Here, bookmakers like Bet365 can make live judgements on players, to decide whether the rebate will be a worthy investment. If the focus of any legal follow up is on the Casinos, then this could be a good thing. Not only for problem gamblers, but also for having a magnifying glass shone on this sector. One which is plagued with completely ridiculous wagering requirements that tie up customers funds. Legislation in this area could work for everyone.
So, yes, Bet365 have apparently been caught demonstrating how they take advantage of the venerable to squeeze more cash out of them. Whether anything is done about it remains to be seen. This blog and Heads&Heads as a whole have always looked on Bet365 rather favourably, due to the quality of their New and existing customer offers, which are some of the best out there. However, we should not lose sight of the beast with which we are dealing. I will leave you with the rather sad finale to the Dail Mail article, as a reminder to spare a thought for those caught in the grips of addiction:
“But such wealth comes at a price. At one point, I ask our trainer if desperate customers are ever allowed to reclaim their losses.
Describing ‘one of the worst conversations she ever had’, she recalls: ‘A person sent an email and it was pages and pages long – about how he’d spent his wedding fund on gambling and he needed to have these bets voided for him, otherwise he’d lose his future wife. It was horrendous to read. And you think, “you are at rock bottom – I would love to be able to just give you your money, but you’re probably going to do exactly the same thing in an hour’s time”.’
We were told he was not given his money back.”