How Do Betting Companies Spot Potential Gambling Harm?

Gambling AddictionThe true downside of online betting’s proliferation is the extent to which it has resulted in some people developing unhealthy relationships with gambling. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission takes its role as a body responsible for protecting the most vulnerable very seriously, dishing out fines to companies that fail in their duty to identify problem bettors early. The question is, how do they actually do this? What are the processes that are in place for betting companies in order to allow them to identify problem gamblers and then respond to how they’re using their accounts?

Most people will understand the Know Your Customer rules that are put in place for gambling sites, which are mainly about ensuring there no money laundering taking place on betting accounts. Companies are also expected to know the habits and processes of their customers, so if they display strange behaviours then these will be flagged up. It goes without saying that people are responsible for their own behaviour, but there are certainly things that betting companies can do in order to stop things from getting out of hand, even if they might feel excessive to some users.

Systems Can Be Triggered

monitoringIn the vast majority of cases, gambling companies have an automated system in place which is specifically programmed in order to look out for certain triggers. These programmes scan betting accounts that use the company’s services and will flag up any that seem to obey certain rules.

That is to say, the betting accounts in question meet certain criteria that mean that a human will take a closer look at what is happening and try to identify whether the user is a problem gambler. The question is, what are these criteria and why do they trigger investigation?

Uncharacteristic Bets

Sports EquipmentWhether we like to admit it or not, we’re all generally quite predictable people. When it comes to betting, most people have their specialities that they like to bet on, whether that be Championship football, bandy or the Indian Premier League cricket. We all tend to try to stick to the things that we know the best, largely because doing so makes complete sense from the point of view of trying to win money. The more that you stick to what you know, the more chance there is that you’ll end up on the winning side of bets.

As a consequence, the programmes used by bookies tend to identify the things that we bet on the most often and associate them with our account. If you begin to stray out of your lane on that front, this will be flagged up as a cause for concern. Imagine, for example, that you’ve only ever bet on English football matches across a year or so of having your betting account. All of a sudden, you begin spending large sums of money on ice hockey matches that are taking place in Canada, or you stump up cash to bet on the Serbian second division football league out of nowhere.

These things will obviously be flagged up to the system as being reasons for the gambling company to be concerned. It might be that when they do further investigation, it is discovered that you’ve actually maintained a keen interest in ice hockey and have regularly placed smaller bets on them whilst you tried to understand the betting market. Generally speaking, though, it is a cause for concern when people begin bet heavily on things that they’ve shown little inclination to bet on in the past, suggesting that they’re developing a problem.

Betting At Strange or Random Times

timeWhilst uncharacteristic bets will be one of the main things that bookmakers look out for, any people that suddenly start betting at random times will be a cause for concern. Again, most people are creatures of habit, meaning that they’ll only tend to place bets at the same sorts of time, regardless of whether that is in the day or in the night. Bookmakers know when the peak times are for wagers to be placed, so if you usually bet in the middle of the night and then suddenly start to login and get some bets going just before the football kicks off, that won’t be an issue.

The times that you’re placing your bets will start to be noticed if they become decidedly different from what you’ve done in the past in an inexplicable manner. Again, imagine a world in which you always place your bets during the day, then suddenly you start placing some in the early hours of the morning. This is in addition to the wagers that you’re continuing to place in the day. This would obviously be a cause for concern for bookies or online casinos, especially if it happened in addition to betting on odds things you haven’t bet on in the past.

Making Big Deposits

handing over sack of cash moneyEveryone uses their online bookmaker differently, with some people choosing to pay in a large deposit once and then use that as their bankroll, whilst others opt to pay in small amounts on the fly as they bet. In and of itself, such a way of operating isn’t a problem, though bookmakers tend to prefer those that deposit and withdraw money infrequently as this costs them less in fees to banks. When it might become a thing that they decide to look into is when you’ve always done small deposits and suddenly start making larger ones and / or if your deposit frequency suddenly increases.

This suggests to the online operators that you’ve started trying to chase losses, which is a red flag in terms of responsible gambling behaviour. Putting large sums of money into your account regularly, especially if you’re not withdrawing anything and are losing the money as quickly as you can put it into your account, is suggestive of behaviour that isn’t very healthy. There might be an entirely reasonable explanation, but the likelihood is that you’re doing that because you’re trying to recoup losses, which is far from a healthy way of betting.

Any Big Changes In Behaviour

Gambling AddictionAs you might have established by now, the main thing that bookmakers and online betting companies are looking out for is a big change in your behaviour. This change can come in several different ways, with the ones that we’ve already mentioned being the most obvious ones. Another example is someone who regularly uses the sportsbook of their chosen company suddenly decided to play in the online casino on a regular basis. This shift in approach would be of concern to your betting company, who will fear that you’ve started spending money in an unusual manner.

Everyone gambles in their own way and for their own reasons, so the main thing that companies will look to do is communicate with you to see what has changed. It might be the case, for example, that you’ve suddenly started to work shifts that mean that you can bet in the daytime on some occasions and at night on others. This would be an entirely reasonable explanation of what has happened, so that would be borne in mind when the company you bet with began their investigations. If there’s any sort of big shift, however that manifests, most will flag it up.

Should Gambling Companies Self-Monitor?

businessman explaining on a white board in a meetingAll the way through this piece, we’ve talked about what betting companies will do in certain situations. The truth is that these things are what the gambling firms should do if they are being operated in a respectable manner, but that isn’t always the case. Time and time again you will see a notification from the Gambling Commission that this firm or that company has been issued with a fine for failing to follow the guidance that is in place for gambling companies when they apply for, and are subsequently issued with, a gambling licence.

At the end of the day, though, betting firms are designed to make a profit. Most of those who gamble understand that they are likely to lose their money in the long-run, because that is the manner in which casinos and bookmakers are set up. As a result, is it right that they’re responsible for monitoring themselves? The fines that they’re given for failing to correctly identify problem gamblers are likely to be smaller than the amount of money that they earn from the problem gamblers that slip through the cracks, so it isn’t good business for them to stop people from losing their money.

It also isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2017, for example, there were stories about the manner in which betting shop staff weren’t adequately trained to be able to identify problem gamblers. Just because things have moved mostly online doesn’t mean that those same things aren’t true. An account manager who makes money from how much his clients bet isn’t incentivised to help those clients stop their betting, so until that sort of approach changes, we’re unlikely to see any major shift in approach from the gambling industry.