We have all been getting used to the source of funds checks and increased identification procedures implemented by betting websites in recent history.
Some of us don’t really mind, some of us are all for it, and others see it as a complete invasion of privacy, but if we want to bet with the site that is asking, it’s a hoop we need to jump through.
Of course these checks have been put in place for very valid reasons; to protect anybody who may be vulnerable or for whom gambling is a source of pain.
However, have you ever been asked for bank statements when you tried to place a bet in person at your local bookie?
Apparently, this sort of thing has been on the rise over the past 12 months, and a number of punters and staff are not very happy about it.
Customers Angered by Source of Wealth Checks
People who bet mainly online have been grumbling about affordability checks too, as even if your objection isn’t to do with privacy and state control, they can pose problems.
For example someone without a passport or a driving license could struggle to meet the requirements set by a bookmaker, and thus be left unable to bet.
This is what happened to 58 year old, Michelle Wills, from Devon. With absolutely no offence intended, Michelle’s age was never going to be questioned, so she had managed to gamble at her local Betfred for over 16 years before a staff member handed her a letter requesting photo ID and bank statements.
“Unfortunately, I have never had a driving licence and my passport expired over 20 years ago.”
“After careful consideration I decided not to send my personal information and therefore I have been unable to gamble in Betfred shops. I have lived in Dawlish since 2006 and am well known to the staff in the shop, but I now have to travel to another town to gamble.”
Another punter, Simon Edwards, was even refused a payout from a bet that had already been placed because he had refused to provide private financial documentation.
After refusing a source of funds request online, he went into his local shop to place his bet instead, and had a small win.
However, when he went back to collect the £74 he had won he was told he was barred from entry for not providing the requested details online.
Speaking of the incident, he said:
“It’s been a nightmare for a long time and it’s not good betting now. I don’t mind if they restrict me to a few pence, it happens when you’re winning, but what’s going on now is getting silly. I just don’t understand it.”
“People in this shop were there looking at me thinking I’m dodgy, that I must be up to something, but all I have done is not provide them with personal financial information.”
Simon was paid out eventually, but only after contacting the Independent Betting Adjudication Service and writing in to the Racing Post.
Bookie Staff Also Struggling
These in-store affordability checks are getting bookie staff’s backs up as well – it must be a bit awkward refusing to let someone place a bet until they have shown you their bank details after all.
It could even cause confrontation if the customer in question takes the request the wrong way.
Of course, the bookmaker is only instructing their staff to do what they think is required of them by the licensing authority, but it is they that get the flack when customers feel their privacy is being infringed on.
One shop worker who chose to remain anonymous (understandably), has painted an illuminating picture:
“Customers think we’re picking on them when we approach them, but we’re under pressure to intervene. We get alerts when there has been spending at certain levels, particularly on the FOBTs, if it seems that someone is overspending. When we go and ask they can get angry but it’s what we are meant to do.”
“When I’ve asked people I’ve been told to go and f*** myself, that it’s none of my damn business and had people say to me that they’d be waiting for me outside after the shop closed.”
“I understand why my employer is asking me to do this. They’re caught in the middle and I’m not angry at them as a result, and they have to because they can face hefty fines. I know other employees in betting shops and there’s a lot of disgruntlement at having to do this and the consensus is that they do not like being put in the position to do it.”
They even went on to say that as a punter, they would probably have a similar reaction.
I think what the employee said about the customer feeling picked on speaks volumes.
No one likes feeling singled out, or having unwanted attention drawn to them, so to be happily betting and minding your own business only to be approached by staff and handed a brown envelope in front of other customers must be an unpleasant feeling.
However, if this is only happening when irregular behaviour is spotted, or when red flag signals are triggered, then it simply has to continue.
What’s the alternative; do nothing and watch some poor bugger throw his weeks wages away when he usually only spends a tenner?
Perhaps there could and should be a better way of handling it, but if we are going to protect people from gambling harm then their gambling activity needs monitoring. I don’t see how else we can do it – other than setting arbitrary monthly spending limits or something like that, which is surely worse.
Perhaps, like with bingo clubs, customers should have to sign up or become a ‘member’ when they want to use a bookmaker’s shop, and all this stuff could be handled at the start.
It’s faffy and annoying and for some people will be a non-negotiable, those people may even unfortunately be pushed towards the black market, but the ‘line’ needs to be drawn somewhere, and then the industry and us punters need to be given time to implement it and get used to it.