How To Avoid Betting Account Restrictions


Why do bookmakers restrict or close betting accounts? What can you do if your betting account is restricted? How can you avoid having your account restricted by your bookmaker? In this article we discuss bookmaker betting account restrictions.

It is the all too common a cry among punters across the country, or at least any punter with a modicum of skill or discipline about their betting...

"I can't get a bet on"

” I was offered £3.22 when I wanted £25 each-way"

"They offered me SP only and then didn't move the price"

So what is behind this crackdown on punters that bookmakers view as so hot and lethal that they cannot even lay them a half decent bet at the advertised price?

Why Do Bookmakers Restrict Or Close Betting Accounts?

1 - The arrival of high margin products such as casino and games

Games and casino products online, or FOBT's (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) in betting shops, make a very high margin and it is absolutely guaranteed every single day. These new products are the dream for all people high up in bookmaking companies, as the more ingenious and attractive they are, the more money they rake in.

Why on earth try to grow horse racing turnover when you are stepping into a hornets nest of shrewdies and arbers, when you can happily and cheaply "win" 10-20% of your gaming turnover? No need for trading meetings, culling accounts, customer service confrontations or complex decision making, just pay the IT technicians to dream up another variation on roulette or poker to satisfy the ever-growing worldwide market in "recreational punters".

2 - The internet has made us all disloyal "price tarts"

With the advent of betting exchanges and the explosion in low margin bookmakers such as Pinnacle Sports or SBO, it has become possible for price savvy punters to have bets without any margin against them. They are basically getting Evens about a coin-toss and, at times by shopping around and trading.

Running a bookmaking business is amazingly expensive. As an example, a fledgling bookmaker in Malta had enormous wage bills/IT bills/customer service department etc etc. In relation to its small turnover on sport, it had no chance whatsoever of coming close to breaking even. The business model was completely reliant on the games to pay the bills. Putting up prices on well known price-comparison sites, merely locks in an army of "arbers" to swarm all over the site if a price ever slips over the "exchange" price. It was a recipe for one sided books on the wrong side of the market.

In short it is virtually impossible to survive as a genuine bookmaker unless one has a huge army of loyal, inelastic punters who just want a bet on what's on TV. Playing against a move on Betfair can only end one way, with the company losing money and the "winning" punters getting their accounts chopped to pieces at a fraught Monday morning trading meeting.

Cultivating a recreational punting base has become the aim of go-ahead firms such as Bet365 and Ladbrokes. Take a look at their adverts in the middle of every televised match. They are aggressively courting the 20 year old male, beer in hand, watching the game with his mates. He might think odds of 6.00 about Wayne Rooney scoring next is an attractive price for his £20 interest bet (it might be 9.00 on Betfair but then he hasn't heard of Betfair yet) and these are exactly the high profit, multi-sport betting punters that all companies love.

Put simply, a bookmaker would love to take a total £30,000 at 6.00 on Rooney scoring next when they know the correct price is much bigger, and furthermore, by having a bet of this nature, a punter is flagging himself up as exactly the type of player that the firms want. If this huge largely untapped market is out there and can be captured, why do firms such as Bet365 need to play the warm people at all? The truth is they don't.

3 - Accountants dominate traders

Before Betfair came along bookmakers and their in-house market traders had no general market guide to refer to. Every horse race or football match had to be priced up every day from a knowledge of the formbook, a feel for stables with runners and an idea of what races were ok to play strongly in and those that weren't. Bookmakers had access to an industry tissue, but in all truth it had been copied out of the Sporting Life with one or two minor adjustments, and while it gave a framework it was hardly a reliable guide to the actual chances of the runners.

Prices were put up and markets felt out. Traders got to know their punters (the hot ones were the best guide and markers were sculpted to "be with" their early bets), and moved the prices dramatically and often.

At weekly meetings, traders would demand winning accounts were kept open as they were vital to guide to markets. Occasionally the size of bets were limited if players began to get away too much, but it was always done after a discussion with the punter and acceptable terms were reached.

These days, the numbers men are firmly in charge. A winning bet, beating the price, or an arb is enough to have one's account immediately closed or factored to death. Short-termism has dominated the mindset of people who's hefty salaries are dependent on margins. Betting exchanges have removed the need to formulate prices or trade markets, the skill has been removed completely and now only proven "mugs" will be allowed the rope to hang themselves with. Anyone with half a clue is going to pop up on a weekly print out at some point, provoke discussion and see his stakes reduced immediately to 25% or less. This basically has the immediate affect of losing that punter. But in all truth that is exactly what the numbers men want.

4 - The standard of traders has declined rapidly

Once a skilled and highly valued profession, traders are now recruited for peanuts and in return the companies have by and large got the monkeys. "Betfair watcher" would be a better description of most young, fresh faced traders these days. Very little knowledge or skill is needed to go odds of 2.50 when it is 2.62 on Betfair, indeed many companies now have completely automated trading platforms that mirror the exchange led prices totally. It has wiped out the arbers, but it has also completely lost an entire generation of punters directly to the exchanges themselves.

This is seen best by the demise of the on-course betting industry, who have for the past decade shot themselves completely in the foot by embracing exchanges, hedging into them and getting their entire market prices directly from them. Unsurprisingly punters have voted with their feet. Why on earth would any astute backer give himself two hours in the car, all the expense involved just to secure a price that he could beat by sitting at home on Betfair?

Basically bookmakers have been trying to sell apples at the racetrack for £1 each, when Betfair will do home delivery for 90p. No wonder the on-course game is completely on it's knees. As Barry Dennis recently admitted on twitter: "I was one of the first to embrace exchanges but I now realise it was a mistake".

Quite an admission from the man who probably did more to promote Betfair than anyone in the early years.

5 - The punter has never had it so good

The flip side to all these complaints about restriction and closure is that there is now a growing and vocal army of "professional punters" who make their living from betting. The huge competition for turnover has meant that the value available is unbelievable. At the Cheltenham festival the prices offered are frequently over-broke, and while gimmicky bookmaker offers often cause more anger than goodwill, it has to be said that overall it has to be good for the punter.

The modern punter has to adapt, accept that he will be factored and closed on a regular basis, and find other avenues to secure the price which he desires. It is pointless moaning about it (indeed some pro's almost take pleasure in telling the world about it in an ego-boosting way).

The bookmakers are not there for anyone’s benefit other than their own. Once realising that and the type of punter they are after, then the pro-backer can adjust accordingly and find ways around it.

10 Things Bookmakers Do That They Don't Want You To Know

1 - IP addresses and tracking of linked accounts

Many firms employ a very expensive IT department to find out exactly who is betting with them, and to crack down immediately on multiple accounts that many professionals try to hold. They can now track where each bet is placed from, and close or restrict anyone who they suspect of having multiple identities to try and place their bets in the desired stake. Patterns are quickly tracked, while home addresses can also be checked out using Google earth to seek out the truth of them (or even see the net "worth" of a potential genuine punter). The days of getting Great Aunt Maud to bet a 600/400 on the favourite at Fontwell are long gone.

2- The monthly cull

Traders have become Betfair trackers, but to justify their salaries they now spend plenty of time discussing and factoring down any accounts that have caught their attention. Typically a monthly meeting will take place based on a printout of the top 100 winners/loser/highest turnover. Questions will be asked about anyone who comes up. Are they arbing? Is it a tipping line account? Are they beating the SP? Do they bet on a wide range of sports or specialise? All these will be considered and anyone falling into these categories is likely to be severely restricted.

The vast majority of firms now have the accountant driven mentality and try to trade punters rather than individual markets. It is very easy to take the scissors out and make someone a 10% account (so they can back things to win 1/10th of the liability of the chosen market), or even more commonly in the case of arbers 1% (basically closing the account for all intents and purposes).

3- Luring you towards high margin products

The industry now is about high margin products, marketing them and getting gullible people to bet on them in size. It is far easier to pay a software firm 200k to develop a popular brand of roulette, than it is to hire and maintain a team of racing traders to try and grind out 4% profit by sheeping mythical Betfair prices on low grade racing. Why bother taking on shrewdies who are betting to win, when you can win a guaranteed margin by flogging games and online roulette etc where the profit is guaranteed and extremely high. The entire basis of bookmaking has changed and firms try to exploit it while they can (before taxation and jurisdiction regulation erodes the bottom line).

4 - Factoring stakes in areas where you are profitable

As punters have become more sophisticated, so have the firms entertaining them. The astute racing punter may find his morning racing bets limited to a few pounds at an early price, but in the afternoon off the "shows" he can bet things to win much more (when the market has been established and Betfair has arrived at the "right" prices). Firms who are paying 22k for a trader fresh out of college are unlikely to have much confidence in the prices they come up with (by copying Betfair with a hangover at 8.30 am in the morning) when the markets are illiquid and the prices easily manipulated. Later on when the cards have been shown, they have far more confidence and stakes can be upped accordingly.

On a similar note, the long term winner at racing may find he can bet 20% stakes on the horses, but bet virtually unlimited stakes available to him on Premier League football (again where the market has strength and the prices clearly defined by pure market forces). The bigger firms have become very good at this, channelling turnover where they make the most money and using other minor sports as a shop window. Bet365 for example have pioneered this approach, offering up racing as something of a loss leader with attractive prices (available in small size to all but a few select VIP clients).

5 - Industry phone calls and intelligence exchanging via Social Media

It is no longer the small world that it once was, with firms scattered for tax purposes from Malta to Guernsey to Costa Rica to Gibraltar to Stratford, but the tight network of traders often know each other and exchange information about certain clients:

"We have a Goffy here winning 15k on non league football, has he got lucky or is he arbing?"

"Yes he is up 18k here and we have reduced him to a 0.1, handy mark to have though and we move the prices on the back of it".

Or the warm racing account connected to certain stables:

"Yes every time he backs an Easterby horse they crash, very warm on that, possibly Veitch connections, 0.1 on racing or has to ring up to get a bet....mind you he has done 30k on live Sky football in the past year so possibly putting on for someone".

All these conversations, ethically dubious to put them politely, form the backdrop of account management at many firms, while the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In are also widely used to assess the nature of many accounts (and to check their validity).

6 - Arbing/Pricewise/Beat the are dead

When I first worked in the industry for a major spread betting firm, the cut off point for winners used to be 30k before they were chopped or restricted (or even discussed). This was considered fair, and a long enough time to judge whether they were a genuine punter on a roll or a very astute punter doing the right things and playing only on wrong prices. Those days are long long gone. Winners are simply not tolerated by almost all the firms (although Betfred do still entertain some warm early racing accounts to win a grand at early a firm marker to trade up against).

Generally the firms are not there for you anymore, they are there to win the highest possible margin in the most efficient way possible. Whether you are a winner or not is a secondary consideration, with a zealous paranoia gripping the firms about the dreaded "Arber"...who will be cut immediately regardless of P and L....or just the pricewise follower (viewed by traders with similar disgust as he pops up on the scroller with 1000 other geniuses every Saturday taking 25/1 (26.0) about something which is now 16/1 (17.0) on Betfair).

Traders are jumped on by accountants on high if anyone is allowed to get away unchecked and anyone bar the most obvious proven mug is viewed with suspicion. They are judged quickly and harshly, with leniency (and a long run view of the ebbs and flows of punting) a thing of the past.

7 - Recreational punters are the new Gold

Finding non-price sensitive punters is the aim of all the major players in the industry now. The punt on live sport guesser who just wants an interest on the televised match (and to tell his mates he had five score Aguero to score first and City to win), or the ever growing "accumulator on a Saturday" brigade that are the bread and butter for any online bookmaker. These recreational punters can be seduced by enhanced prices, free bets, or moneyback offers, and a huge amount of expense is now devoted to attracting them and keeping them loyal losers. Paddy Power and Bet365 have pulled this off better than anyone else, hence why they have left behind the floundering former giants such as Ladbrokes and Coral, with a PR budget that deliberately targets the younger punters anxious for a quick fix or a big win.

8- Prices linked directly to exchanges

One major firm now employs no "traders" in the old fashioned sense at all, merely using technology to map Betfair and constantly offer up automated prices underneath the Betfair price. This now leads to a thousand price changes on a race or event (as the bots pull the prices in and out without a sixpence changing hands with the actual bookmaker). Arbers are of course now completely avoided which is the intention, but it also makes it impossible to strike a bet at a competitive price with a layer with an actual opinion (and has no doubt alienated numerous genuine punters who have their bet declined as it has just ducked a tick under on Betfair, or their stake size severely limited).

Automation has the advantage of saving money, and for in-running fast changing sports such as tennis or football, it can be an excellent way of offering up 100s of markets that would not be humanly possible otherwise. Again Bet365 have led the way on this, generating turnover from "new" markets in running that have triggered interest from new punters attracted by seemingly big prices about "likely" events happening, i.e a player to score the next goal, or Liverpool to win 6-0 when they are winning 4-0 at halftime. It is all about attracting the leisure pound at the right price for the layer, with minimal risk and maximum margin.

9- The death of the trader

With this automation has come the death of the skilled trader. 20 years ago you needed an experienced, honed opinion and a good understanding of your chosen sport and the customer base. You needed to know what races or sports to play strongly into, and more pertinently where to tread carefully and play small for the company (who rewarded you with a decent salary and a 20k bonus once a year if targets were met). These days the firms offer failed students 20k to flat share in Gibraltar for 5 years before they limp back to the UK with their tales between their legs, they are merely exchange price followers now, updating prices directly from the machine and quickly restricting anyone who beats the Betfair price and marking him up as an "arber". There are still some excellent head traders about, the loyal company men with 20 years experience behind them and with a deep understanding of the game, but they are increasingly marginalised and forced to toe the company line if they wish to stay in the role. Taking a view, or standing out from the crowd (or heaven forbid taking on the "Betfair price") has been crushed out of them and they cannot compete with the guaranteed profits made by the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and games that their own results are now unfairly compared with.

10- The rise of the Super Bookie and the end of competition

All of these factors and more are leading to the creation of Super Bookmakers, as the bigger firms are forced (for taxation and expense reasons) to merge together. 2016 is likely to see Coral and Ladbrokes merge (if the proposed deal gets past Monopolies and Mergers), the Tote come up for sale from Betfred, Stan James and BetVictor to possibly get taken over to name but a few and the pressures to create these betting giants is growing stronger and stronger. Hundreds if not thousands of shops are certain to close, with all the real action now taking place online in an increasingly cashless society and there is sure to be a tightening of margins as the competition diminishes.

In the long run this cannot be good for punters and is certainly one of the most important ten things bookmakers do not want you to know. 

How To Avoid Being Restricted By Your Bookmaker

Sadly, it is a fact of life that every successful punter will eventually face restrictions by recreational bookies. Winning does that to you, so some a certain perspective, it’s actually a great problem to have. Betting too big, getting caught up in big flows of smart money (where bookies are slashing aggressively after the tip comes out and when you’re still trying to land a big stake on), and behaviour that does not appear to be erratic and disorganised may speed that process up.

All punters with a degree of success in their betting will no doubt value the ability to keep making hay while the sun is shining for as long as possible, especially as it gets much harder to do quite so well after losing some of your key accounts, which sadly happens for the first time when you are less experienced. Ideally we would wish to learn first and then get restricted as late as possible, not vice versa, as happens in reality. Hopefully learning from what others can teach you earlier on can help sharpen things up.

Use Pseudo Accounts

The obvious disclaimer here is that you need to check how doing this affects the legal status of your betting accounts. A pseudo account essentially involves getting other people to open betting accounts for you in their name, which strictly speaking is against the bookies’ rules.

The person would then win in the new accounts long after their own accounts have been restricted or closed. Although the obvious kicker is to make sure there is no trail or way for the bookies to link these new and old accounts together.

You can do this through something called remote desktops or by using 'clean' PC's where the bookies have no record of you winning (or ability to link you as a winner straight away). Similarly you might even do it these days using an iPad and a mobile broadband connection or 3G access.

And then people may choose to repeat the above exercise again and again...

Of course, can we endorse such things? The answer is clearly ‘no’. However, we are able to report on what others do, for knowledge purposes.

How To Avoid Account Restrictions For As Long As Possible

If you're worried about restrictions, that's a good sign as it is likely you will be making money, but you do need to learn how to postpone any stake restrictions for as long as possible. The best way to do this is to learn from others. You can of course use your own research, discussing the issue with other punters/tipsters and reading up on it via the various betting forums. Be wary though as there is a lot of misinformation out there, often peddled itself by the bookmakers deliberately looking to confuse matters.

One way to avoid restrictions for as long as possible is to occasionally place a lazy acca with your bookmaker. A simple £10 acca on eight Premier League matches that weekend might help you from seeing your winning account flagged by your bookmaker. Likewise, place a couple of lazy £20 bets on markets such as First Goalscorer for that weekend's big Premier League match. These kinds of bets will help from having your account flagged as a potential long term winner.

Similarly, betting only short priced favourites with your bookmaker and in reasonable bet size. Save betting underdogs for bookmakers such as Pinnacle Sports or SBO. By only betting short priced favourites with your bookmaker, you will look more like a regular mug punter looking to lump on a sure thing than a shrewd professional looking to get the best of the odds.

Your bet profile is also another thing to consider. Do not bet in precise amounts with a recreational bookmaker. For example, if you are regularly betting amounts like £137 or £285, you are likely to be flagged as a shrewd punter or someone looking to take advantage of an arbitrage opportunity. So rather than betting £137, bet £150 instead. Rather than betting £285, bet £300. It may seem like a small thing, but it can certainly save you from seeing your account restricted sooner rather than later.

Another aspect to consider is the profile of the market you are betting into. For example, if you're betting £2,000 into a market that may only see £10,000 in total taken (for example, total corners in an English League Two match), you're betting 20% of that market. This action is very likely to see your account monitored and likely soon after restricted. On the other hand, if you're betting £1,000 on Manchester United to defeat a relegation battler, even though this is a considerable bet, it's likely to be a very small percentage on the total taken in bets for that match and market.

Keep Using Your Restricted Account

If you have been restricted and you can still use your account, albeit partially, and our advice is to play around, see what bets you get accepted. You might be surprised. Sure, you’ll lose a bit of time at worst, but you might learn a thing or two, as we found out with being able to bet on Premier League games to a decent size, even when restricted with a popular recreational bookie. A restricted account is not the end if you play it right.

For someone who has had accounts closed, well there is nothing you can do as those accounts are already gone, barring of course starting out 'afresh' as some people do with the pseudos (acknowledging that technically speaking the bookie may not permit it). It's one reason why prevention is so much better than cure and the longer you leave it, the less you can do something about it.

Even when your account is restricted, it's still useful. We have learned from experience when you can still get £100 bets on in restricted accounts with bookies that not normally taken very seriously in professional circles.

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Head of Localisation at bettingexpert