Insight: How safe is the money you deposit with each bookmaker?

How safe is the money you deposit with each bookmaker? 

Thoroughly inspired by an initial email penned by Paul Ruffy of the Matchday Profits service, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on the different levels of protection bookmakers offer and what you as a punter need to be aware of.

No two bookmakers operate the same and as we have seen with the likes of Betbright, Sunbets and others, there is a level of risk when dealing with certain firms and leaving large balances with them and/or getting paid out on the bets we strike.

Whilst it has been a while since we saw a major firm go to the wall without paying out all balances to customers, the highly competitive nature of bookmaking these days has seen smaller and inefficient firms struggle or be swallowed up by bigger fish on a semi-regular basis.

Perhaps the biggest issue of early 2019 on this topic came with with Betbright’s announcement that they were ceasing trading and the furore over their decision to not pay out on ante-post bets – something only resolved following swathes of negative press and the personal intervention of Betbright’s former executive chairman, Rich Ricci.

It is well worth noting that the Gambling Commission did not step in to demand these liabilities were met in full – perhaps an indication of the struggles the regulator has and the limits of their current powers – plus as I will go onto discuss, the fact that Bet Bright only offered a ‘Basic’ level of protection to their customers.

The reality is that if you bet regularly, it is vitally important to be aware of the security of your funds as placed with each firm.

As much as we would like to think our money is protected and safe, it might not be for all the firms you bet with and the last thing anyone wants is for your hard-earned betting winnings to disappear overnight.

Protection of Customer Funds

Each bookmaker is obliged by the Gambling Commission to declare the level of protection that your funds deposited with them have.

The level itself is self declared but the Gambling Commission is able to check the accuracy – although no outline is given how often this is done.

A really useful resource as part of this is the Register of Protection of Funds put together by the Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) and published in December 2017 as part of their Betting Charter.

This register provides a simple ranking for each firm based on their own audit – either Basic, Medium or High.

Below are the descriptions provided for each level of protection as per the HBF site

BasicNo extra protection. Money in these accounts would still be seen as part of the business if it went bust.
MediumThere are arrangements (eg insurance) to make sure that the money in separate accounts is given to customers if the company goes bust.
HighCustomers’ money is held in an account which is legally and in practice separate from the rest of the company. This account is controlled by an independent person or external auditor.

For each major bookmaker, HBF have published the current ranking applicable (understood to be correct as per December 2017) and it makes for interesting reading.

For example this table claims that the likes of Betfred, William Hill, Betway, Black Type & William Hill all only offer a Basic level of protection.

Big name firms such as Bet365, Ladbrokes, Bet Victor & Skybet are Medium, whilst only a few big names – Betfair, Coral & Paddy Power have a High rating.

Of the 35 firms audited by HBF, it has to be a concern that only 5 had a High rating with 13 Medium and the majority – 17, all rated as just Basic.

It is worth pointing out that this study was first published in December 2017 and some ratings may have changed since then, just as a few firms listed are no more. A warning sign if we needed one how quickly things change in the bookmaking world.

You can view the full table here.

Ante-post Caution & Regular Withdrawals

If you have funds in an account with a bookmaker with just a basic level of protection and if that firm went bust, in theory you wouldn’t likely see much, if any of that money again. The likelihood is that for those bigger name firms this won’t happen, albeit it may, but for the smaller outfits it should be a concern

It might be more likely that we see further examples as per Betbright whereby unsettled Antepost bets are not settled or paid up (at least not settled without a major PR storm to compel them), especially given the precedent their closure set earlier this year. Other firms will know they can get away with this in the future.

Therefore – one simple bet of advice is to be very careful where you place your Antepost bets – and focus on placing them with more established names or those with at least a Medium or High rating.

It is also good practice to keep your balances with those firms with a Basic rating to a relative minimum, because quite simply your money is not protected.

The same goes in general for all bookmakers – because if you have large sums of money sitting in a bookmaker account that you don’t need to have in there – it’s far better to have it securely tucked away in your bank account earning interest. It is just good general practice.

Do Bookies Monitor Withdrawals?

One of the other questions that this all throws up is whether or not bookmakers monitor withdrawals and red flag punters who regularly take out winnings from their accounts. As we all know by now – bookmakers go to extraordinary lengths to profile punters for account restrictions and withdrawal frequency and the amounts taken out is something they could monitor.

I put this question to our bookmaker insider ‘The Poacher’ and his thoughts are that its wise to leave your account funded at all times, even if just a small amount..

“Generally speaking, if withdrawing winnings you should always leave some money in your betting account – at least a fighting fund of a few hundred quid. Punters who withdraw their entire balance can be viewed as ‘savvy’ as bookmakers know that customers who leave money in their account, usually end up losing it.

He then went onto share his own ‘withdrawal strategy’:

“What I do is to withdraw slightly more than I plan to, then a few minutes later, place a few more bets and deposit again. This makes you look like you can’t hang onto your winnings – which is of course exactly the type of punter a bookmaker wants”

As ever, it’s not an exact science, so simply do your best and use logic and sense when it comes to withdrawals and their frequency.

As and when further news or developments on bookmakers and their ‘protection’ ratings come to light, I will of course share this with you. Until then be careful with whom and how much you deposit.

This article was first published on the 21st May 2019 – all information correct as of that date.