Horse racing

Bookies’ woes spark debate on future of matched betting

More than a few students have turned to something called “matched betting” to exploit the generous welcome offers to varying betting sites to supplement their student loans, and bookies have started to complain about some of those taking advantage.

To put it simply, matched betting involves reducing or removing the risk from gambling, by placing bets on both sides – for example both Manchester United winning the FA Cup (the back bet) and not winning the tournament (the lay bet). This way one of the results will be correct, and by playing the odds between different betting firms and using their free bets bonuses, the punter can come out on top.

You’re unlikely to get rich playing these odds off against each other, and players must be careful to also take into account any fees involved to make sure they won’t lose, but people have been known to make a few hundred pounds for free before they run out of free bet promo offers.
Bookies have traditionally put up with people exploiting this loophole, as many people make mistakes with their bets or just end up betting on their favourite teams anyway. However, now some firms have become concerned about some players taking matched betting too far by signing up with multiple accounts, breaching their terms of service.

Last month, Geoff Banks, a second generation bookmaker and prominent figure within the industry, said that he has lodged a complaint with the Gambling Commission over the activities of one matched betting website, which recently flooded his own website with punters hoping to exploit a promotion to make guaranteed profits.

He told the Guardian:

“There is nothing illegal or wrong in people taking advantage of bookmakers if they are silly enough to make free bet offers. One person can take up as many offers as they like and bookmakers should not expect loyalty or anything else.

“But what is happening here is people are opening multiple accounts with the same bookmaker using what they call ‘friends’ or ‘family’ accounts, and setting up bank accounts on behalf of them, with things like Ffrees, Skrill and pre-paid Mastercards, which have much lower verification requirements.”

Banks’ complaint may have merit, but for bookies looking to attract long-term customers for the future there is no better recruiting tool than free bets, and over the long term bookies are likely to make profits on the customers they attract through the promotions. However, we may soon start to see some bookmakers make more of an effort to stop people signing up for multiple accounts with various emails addresses, credit cards, and physical locations as the industry continues to mature.

Photograph by Jessica Cross

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