With all European racing and most global racing and sport likely to be suspended for many weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Horseracing Bettors Forum, an independent body representing punters’ interests, has warned bookmakers’ customers to make sure that any money they have deposited with online bookies will be protected if the firm goes under.
HBF issued an updated version of its Register of Protection of Funds on Thursday, which highlights the surprising degree to which internet gambling firms vary in the approach to ring-fencing deposits from customers. Using the different companies’ own Terms & Conditions (T&Cs), HBF highlights 23 where deposits are “Not Protected” according to a definition supplied by the Gambling Commission, which regulates all UK gambling operators.
BetFred, one of the most familiar brands in UK betting, is typical of these. In its Terms & Conditions regarding “Segregation of Funds”, the firm notes that “our licence from the Gambling Commission … requires that we inform customers about what happens to money that we hold on account for you in the event of insolvency”.
It continues: “Under the current Gambling Commission’s insolvency rating system your funds are not protected. Customer funds are kept in accounts separate from company accounts, but they would form part of the assets of the business in the event of insolvency.”
Other firms where funds are defined as “Not Protected” include the Tote, Marathon Bet, SportNation and BetHard, whose prices often feature on the popular odds-comparison site Oddschecker.
While many punters may be astonished to discover that the Gambling Commission allows deposits to be seen as part of a bookmakers’ assets for insolvency purposes, HBF also points out that eight firms fulfil the GC’s definition of a “High” level of protection for funds: Betfair (Sportsbook and Exchange), BetStars, BetVictor, Betway, Coral, Paddy Power and Smarkets, a betting exchange. As Betfair’s T&Cs confirm, “in the unlikely event that Betfair … becomes subject to any insolvency proceedings, then your money will not be available to administrators/liquidators and so you will be able to withdraw your money from your account as normal”.
The remaining 33 firms on HBF’s list meet the Gambling Commission’s definition of “Medium” protection for funds, under which deposits are held in a separate account but the company offers “no absolute guarantee that all funds will be repaid”.
“In these extraordinary times, each day the coronavirus crisis continues, the likelihood of bookmakers going bust increases,” Colin Hord, the HBF’s chair, said on Thursday.
“For some bettors, this could mean that their hard-earned money is lost for good. While we can do all we can to urge bettors to reduce or move their funds to an account that offers “High Protection”, we believe that in this day, bookmakers should no longer be stating on their terms and conditions that there is no guarantee their funds will be returned.”