Talking Horses: new data suggests 4% of punters have accounts restricted

A survey analysed by Justice For Punters offers one of the few data-based insights into extent of the issue

Betting firms have a habit of restricting the ability of some customers to bet, but how many people are affected?
 Betting firms have a habit of restricting the ability of some customers to bet, but how many people are affected? Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Monday’s best bets, by Chris Cook

One of the more vexed questions in modern betting concerns how often bookmakers are willing to restrict winning customers or close down their accounts altogether. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is happening more and more often, to the point that you often hear punters complaining that firms are trying to make it impossible to be a long-term winner, while betting companies insist that only a tiny percentage of punters are affected.

The campaigners at Justice For Punters have now published data which offers some sort of insight into the extent of the problem. Evidently, it was gathered by the market research company Pollfish for a third party who handed the raw data on to JFP.

The sample size is measured in hundreds and there are other imperfections in the data available but this remains one of the very few insights available about the extent of the problem for your average sports bettors. The conclusion reached is that 4% of customers have had experience of a closed account or restrictions being placed on their access to bookmaker promotions, rising to 9% or 10% for more experienced punters.

Any betting industry insider is likely to say that those figures should not be relied upon and overstate the problem. Sky Bet’s chief executive said in January that his firm restricts only 3% of its customers and only closes accounts for reasons of social responsibility or fraud. Another stab at getting a grip on the extent of this problem was made by the Horserace Bettors Forum in 2016, when it estimated that 20,000 accounts of British punters had been closed in six months.

Justice For Punters’ analysis is here, for those who are interested. Until a more wide-ranging survey is undertaken by, say, the Gambling Commission, this is one of the few insights we’re likely to get.

So it’s heavy going at Ffos Las in December. What else is new? Among those who can cope with that ground is Steel Native (3.20), who I fancied at the same track last month when he ran into a handicap blot but finished miles clear of the third.

He gets another go from just 3lb higher with Tom Scudamore aboard once more and I’ll go in again at 5-2. I find the opposition unthreatening but it’s the sort of race in which one of them might run way above its recent form.

I see plenty of potential improvement for Carole’s Vigilante (1.45) as he makes his first start for Harry Whittington, having had a wind operation in the summer. The chestnut has looked a chaser from the outset and can prove well handicapped in this sphere, having won one from three over hurdles last winter. We are offered 5-1 in this eight-runner field.

Pick of the card at Plumpton could be Chivers (3.05), available at 2-1 having opened at double that with at least one firm. He was out of place in the novice chase won by Kalashnikov here a fortnight ago but handicap chasing could be for him and an extra half-mile will help. He has joined Gary Moore on a mark that ought to be beatable, in view of his Flat form, although he was winless over obstacles for his former trainer, Daniel Steele, who still owns him.

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