Are Betting Sites Penalising Players for Winning?

We all know the old phrase “the house always wins”. What might be more accurate is to say that the house usually wins.

And they’re not happy about it.

Why are accounts being shut down?

For the lucky players who, through savvy, skill, knowledge, wisdom or even just through the grace of the gods, manage to not only win but win consistently, they may face being penalised by betting sites.

online poker

Some people who bet do it a little more seriously than most. For example, on betting sites that offer poker games and tournaments (of which PokerStars and PKR are some of the biggest), there are some particularly skilled players who make their living through playing poker exclusively online. Some successful poker players, such as Dan Bilzerian, even amass enough of a fortune to enter the betting industry themselves with offerings like BlitzFantasy.

This isn’t something we recommend. People who try to make a living through gambling and succeed are very rare. The focus for gambling should always be on fun and not (at least not exclusively) on profit. Never bet more than you are willing to lose. If you do think that you may have a problem, you should get in touch with the many institutions out. These can assist you if you have a problem with gambling.

However, someone wins fair and square should reap the rewards and be able to continue playing… right?

Restrictions and reasons

Some people are lucky enough to win consistently and some win more consistently than the sites deem acceptable. These people can sometimes face being locked out of their accounts for their fortunes. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that those being excluded from the sites due to being a financial liability are starting to fight back.

Locked player account

Restrictions on accounts are nothing new. If you’ve ever looked at customer feedback on any betting site, there will be people complaining that their accounts have been suspended unfairly.

Because it’s very hard to figure out which complaints are genuine and which are not, the issue of accounts being suspended simply for being successful has simply gone under the radar for quite some time.

Often it’s not a complete suspension. Some complain that higher bets are knocked back. They claim they have instead been offered a bet of a very small amount.

Do we know how many accounts are being shut down?

The actual number here is very hard to come by. This is further muddied by the fact that the sites will almost certainly claim there are different reasons for an account being limited or shut down. And of course, in some cases that very well may be the case.

However, the amount of complaints is now reaching a fever pitch. More gamblers are accusing some sites of essentially rigging the system. They claim that only players the operators think are likely to lose are allowed to play for decent money.

Online gambling

This is the online equivalent of holding a poker tournament and only allowing entry to people who you know are bad at the game and will likely bet recklessly. In the case of sites that offer poker (or other skills based card games) as part of their site or even as the main feature, this is an example that could be taken very literally.

Are you at risk?

So who is most likely to be targeted?

As we’ve mentioned, the main reason you’re likely to face issues is that you’re winning. That should come as no surprise. You also need to win consistently enough so you are deemed a threat in the long run. So if you win a big accumulator and don’t have much luck otherwise, you probably don’t have to worry.

You’ll also probably be fine if you do tend to win often but you’re betting with smaller amounts. We’ve seen little evidence to suggest betting sites are going after more casual players who are enjoying frequent success.

horse racing betting

There’s also been suggestions by Justice for Punters (more on them later) that horse racing betters are affected worse than any other in the sports betting market. The reasons for this are uncertain, but it is suggested that you’re far safer betting on the casino for example, than the race track.

Instead, we’re looking specifically at people who bet a lot and win often: often enough to make them significantly unprofitable for the site.

That means if you’re the average better, who bets less than four figure sums weekly and doesn’t have any superhuman skills, knowledge or instinct when it comes to sportsbook or casino betting, then you’ve probably got nothing to worry about. If you’re just in it for the fun, you’ll likely never be affected by these alleged issues. 

However, for the high rollers, things could be a little different. Professional gamblers have confessed to resorting to use multiple friends accounts just to be able to keep making money from a site.

Justice for Punters

Justice for Punters

In order to combat this unfairness, a group called Justice For Punters was formed. They aim to fight exactly this kind of stacking the decks against talented players and gamblers.

In an interview with Vice Sports, a representative of the company called Brian said:

“It’s the redefinition of gambling, in that gambling is no longer about winning or losing – it’s just about losing and, if you win, you will not be allowed to gamble”.

Viewed through this lens, It could be argued that any site proved to have engaged in these practices are not running a gambling operation at all, and are instead running a racket by which no one can, at least in any major way, win.

The main issue here is that the law is on their side. There is nothing illegal about shutting down someone’s account or limitations being imposed by bookmakers. Their right to do this is covered in their terms and conditions; if not outright, then by convoluted, difficult to understand and incredibly broad in scope terms. These mean that if a site wants to shut down your account for any reason, then they can. Since you’ve signed up to those terms and conditions, legally you have very little recourse.

In the UK at least, you don’t have any legal right to gamble and thus, any issues you may have are not covered by consumer rights. Put simply, a betting site has the right to take away or restrict your account however they may please.  

Brian, when talking to Vice Sports, claims that their guilt is evident by their response when confronted. He claims that sites approached with cases always pay out within 48 hours, and that’s the slowest he’s seen.

How else could you be affected?

online betting

Although sites are not required to give any reason for shutting down or limiting a customer account, as evidenced by their rather blunt retorts, many gamblers state that they instead penalise them by more roundabout methods.

All sites have in their terms and conditions the right to ask for identification in order to withdraw large (or even small) sums of money. While this is entirely reasonable on the face of it, this can be pushed to dizzying extremes when a site wants to punish a successful player. Months upon months worth of bank statements, alongside passport scans are commonly requested in order to halt withdrawals.

The counter argument and what you can do

There’s a few responses to this. One is simply that the sites are well within their legal rights to do so. In the eyes of the law, they have done nothing wrong.

While this is true, there’s a difference between something being wrong in the eyes in the law and being wrong from a consumer perspective. It’s unlikely that anyone could argue that behaving in this manner is a fair way to treat a consumer.

There’s also not enough evidence to suggest that this is happening anywhere near the scale that Justice for Punters suggest. They are an advocacy group. Therefore, they are unlikely to be particularly nuanced when looking at the scale of this issue.

In many cases, it may be that customer accounts are shut down for different reasons. Additionally, although the requests for information may be tedious, they are legitimate security measures and the more money that is being withdrawn and spent, the higher the security relative to those funds would need to be.

Our advice

SSL encryption

So what should you do, as someone who uses betting sites?

Well, if you’re the average gambler, or even somewhat above that, then you should have nothing to worry about. This is an issue that appears to be affecting almost exclusively high rollers.

But what about high rollers? We’d say that there’s not enough evidence here to condemn betting sites as a whole on this issue.

Our advice for both would be the same. Make sure you research your sites properly before signing up. This is the only way you can know that they’re trustworthy and ensure you won’t get burned in the long run.

As part of our series of reviews, we always cover the reliability, security and reputation of a site. So check them out if you want to find your ideal gambling home. 


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