A UK horserace bettors’ group is criticizing bookmakers for closing the accounts of winning punters, a practice the group claims is contributing to the sport’s decline.
The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) was established one year ago by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to provide a platform via which racing punters could air their concerns. On Monday, the HBF released the results of a survey that suggests bookmakers are too eager to close betting accounts linked to above average win rates.
The survey, conducted in April, found that 878 respondents reported having over 1k accounts closed while a further 4k accounts had limits put on betting activity. Given punters’ practice of having accounts with more than one bookie, the HBF claimed that discussions with an unidentified bookie estimated the total number of accounts affected industry-wide at around 20k.
The HBF says 59% of the 878 bettors queried via the survey reported that the bookies’ risk-averse strategy had decreased these punters’ interest in betting on racing. The HBF extrapolated this number to conclude that, nationwide, over 4k bettors lose interest in race betting every six months.
HBF chairman Simon Rowlands said the scope of the problem had exceeded the BHA’s expectations and warned that racing would be permanently damaged if bookies are “using racing as a loss-leader and weeding out punters who happen to be profitable or, in some cases, appear that they may become profitable at some point in the future.”
One bookie representative told The Guardian that the BHA’s concerns were overblown and that “the vast majority of customers” were unaffected by account closure or restriction.
The HBF survey is but the latest skirmish in the ongoing war between racing and betting. The BHA has been struggling to convince bookies to sign up for its Authorized Betting Partner scheme, which restricts sponsorships and on-course activities to operators that have agreed to kick back a certain portion of their online revenue to racing. While 10 companies have so far earned their ABP tags, major online/retail firms like WIlliam Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral have proven tougher to convert.