British bookmaker Geoff Banks has never had much love for what he calls the “bonus culture” that is so prevalent in the UK betting industry. The 20-year industry veteran has often railed against unfair practices in the industry and called on the UK Gambling Commission to take a more proactive stance in regulating bookmakers on all manner of issues ranging from gambling adverts to money-back offers.
Funnily enough, a recent incident involving a bonus offer posted on his own bookmaking website has confirmed his misgivings in an unexpected and costly manner. Mr. Banks has since filed a formal complaint with the UK Gambling Commission and is once again calling for an end to predatory bonuses.
Mr. Banks explained to the Guardian that a third-party website which focuses on taking advantage of bonus offers sent an influx of punters to Mr. Banks’ online betting site. All of a sudden, he found people opening multiple accounts in the names of friends and family members just to claim the bonus and cash it out.
How Bonus Hunters Raised the Ire of Mr. Banks
As Geoff Banks explained to the Guardian, his betting site ran a typical free bet offer for a time. The offer was your run-of-the-mill “get £30 when you bet £10” promotion that we’ve all seen quite frequently over the years.
He said for the first 45 days or so, everything ran like normal. Mr. Banks’ website saw 10 or 20 new customer account applications each day as per norm. Then, one day his betting website saw a massive uptick in new signups – more than 400 in a single day.
Mr. Banks and his team checked their Google Analytics account (which is just a tool that website owners use to track traffic stats) to see what was going on. They found that nearly all of those new signups were being referred from one specific website devoted to matched betting.
The term “matched betting” refers to a tactic by which punters take advantage of free bet offers or other promotions at one bookmaker and then lay off the risk at a betting exchange such as Betfair. The idea is to lock in a guaranteed profit by backing one side of an event at the bookmaker, claim the bonus and then “lay” the opposite outcome at an exchange for a guaranteed profit.
However, the recent incident went far beyond a simple bonus offer gone wrong. Mr. Banks says people were signing up for multiple accounts with his website using the names of friends, spouses and other family members in order to claim the same offer multiple times in breach of the site’s terms and conditions.
The Guardian did not name the matched betting site at the center of this particular incident, but said the site charges members £115 for complete information about matched betting opportunities and current promotions at online bookmakers.
Geoff Banks also explains that there is “coaching on the website on how to do it and they are knowingly and deliberately falsifying registrations to get multiple accounts and gain as much as possible.”
Banks says he has passed on all information he has of the website to regulators at the UK Gambling Commission. He is asking them to investigate whether the site or its users are acting in an illegal or fraudulent manner.
Geoff Banks’ suspicions were partially confirmed when one punter accidentally uploaded an Excel file while speaking with one of his site’s customer support agents via live chat. The Excel file listed dozens of online betting sites along with what looked like personal information such as names and dates of birth, which would typically be easily remembered by a legitimate customer signing up in his or her own name.
The Guardian reached out to both the UK Gambling Commission and the matched betting site in question. The UK Gambling Commission responded with a normal disclaimer that it does not confirm whether or not a specific investigation is taking place. Whoever runs the matched betting site did not respond.
Geoff Banks Offers Welcome Bonuses, But Only Out of Necessity
Geoff Banks may dislike betting bonuses, but even his own bookmaking service offers such incentives to customers. As he explains, there is simply no way to compete in online bookmaking without offering welcome bonuses just like every other betting site does. If he could have it his way, all bookmakers would be prohibited from offering betting bonuses.
Banks puts it best himself in this recent blog post:
“But to begin to compete, I also have to bet to similar minimal margins, offer similar deals, if I am to attract customers in an online market place. There’s little point being 3/1 something if everyone else is 4/1, I’d be as well shutting up shop and joining the 15% decline.”
Even we here at BettingBonuses.com must admit he makes some good points. Online betting can indeed be a cut-throat industry where both bookmakers and punters alike have been known to employ questionable methods in the quest to gain an advantage over the other.
For now, the fact is betting bonuses play a key role in a large industry. Our stance on the issue is simple: we will continue detailing betting offers and provide all the details you need to be informed.
We also urge all readers to treat gambling as a fun diversion and to always read the fine print. There’s no quicker way to suck the fun out of the game than to turn it into a business or, even worse, a compulsion.
Wes Burns co-founded BettingBonuses.com to help bettors clearly understand offers and promotions at legal online sportsbooks and betting sites. Wes has worked in the regulated online betting industry since 2008.