I am looking forward to the day that can write something positive on the actions of bookmakers, but sadly, it looks like we will be waiting for at least another week.
Gambling addiction is no joke and a real problem in the UK. It is an issue that wrecks lives and should never be taken lightly. There are plenty of rules in place to protect problem gamblers from damaging their own lives and the majority of bookmakers follow these rules. However, there are some who purposefully manipulate and undermine the rules to increase their profits at the expense of high risk individuals.
One such bookmaker is Ladbrokes and Coral. A former Ladbrokes and Coral employee has exposed tactics that the company used to encourage customers to increase betting on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). Fortunately, if you are a matched bettor you may never have seen these terminals, as they reside within the bookmaker’s shops. They are, however, the very definition of addiction, allowing customers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. To give you an idea of what this creates, last year, many bookmakers requested that the makers of such machines reinforce the plastic screens to reduce damage caused by punters who had lost all of their money.
Ladbrokes and Coral created an environment where staff were rewarded for getting punters to bet more. For example, if a punter was limiting their stakes to £50, staff would encourage or incentivise them to bet up to £100.
As if this was not bad enough, the relaxing of the checks and rules by these bookmakers has opened the backdoor for criminal gangs using FOBTs to launder money. Criminals use FOTBs because roulette can be played to minimise losses. But most importantly, the machines print out a ticket that state the winnings have been obtained legally, thus cleaning the money. Last year, Coral shops required managers to check where customers got their cash if they lost more than £30,000. However, it has been revealed that the threshold was increased to £50,000 to increase profits. The result, addicts could lose more before being questioned and criminal gangs could launder more money.
Ladbrokes and Coral have defended their processes by stating: “We have multiple thresholds for spend and player behaviour which trigger interactions and we make no apology for tailoring our approach to ensure that individual customers receive the right interaction. We are constantly updating our processes”. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt, this explanation seems somewhat flimsy.
So does this mean the matched betting community should be outraged enough to boycott Ladbrokes and Coral? No, absolutely not, in fact what ‘we’ do is probably the best way to move forward. Whilst Heads&Heads is connected to the gambling industry through our use of bookmaker offers, we truly believe matched betting offers a way of combating that addiction. That said, if anyone feels they have a problem, regardless of whether you match bet or not, you should get in touch with “Gamble Aware” immediately. If nothing else, this latest development in the world of bookmakers proves that if there is money to be made, rules will be relaxed.