SCV Part 3- Deal With The Reality or It Will Deal With You

My rationale for making this a three part series was this – Part One was to lay out the direction we were going with Single Customer View (SCV) and the foolhardiness of that. 

Part Two to offer up what I believe is a compromising solution for most parties, with the least amount of friction for all concerned.  Also, to ignite debate with part three providing answers/rebuttals to questions/criticisms posed privately and publicly to the first two articles. 

Punters 

For me, it’s high time everyone just got real and stopped listening to broad sweeping statements and headlines that hold no water.

This is where YOU are now (not even taking SCV into account as it hasn’t happened YET)

Your current business relationship with your bookmaker goes something like this.

  1. You don’t know what checks you will be subjected to. 
  2. You don’t know when (or if) they will be imposed on you. 
  3. You don’t know how invasive these checks will be e.g. Will a payslip do, or if your granny sent you £100.00 will you/she have to provide her bank statements and a selfie of her holding them?
  4. You don’t know how long a timeframe; when you provide whatever information you’re asked for, will take to get an answer on if you’ve “passed the checks”.  There are numerous stories of checks taking months to complete whilst customers are left with radio silence, or correspondence such as, “The relevant department is working on this but we cannot give you a timeframe for which these checks will be completed.”
  5. If, as so often happens you get hit with these requests on withdrawal you don’t know where to complain, if you don’t pass and are denied your funds. The Gambling Commission won’t deal with you as an individual complaint so you’re probably down the IBAS route and good luck with that (Though I do know several people who have  taken the bookmakers to court and have a 100% success rate.)
  6. You don’t know exactly who will end up privy to all this personal/financial information (bank statements, company accounts, inheritance documentation, P60’s etc etc) that you provide, other than it most likely ends up with a third-party Data house. You should read through the Operators privacy policies to try and establish this.  The reality is they can do pretty much what they wish with it.  Whether the data is sold on by the third-party company is also not known. 
  7. You DO know (and if you don’t know this it’s probably best to close all your online accounts now and take up gardening) that every piece of information you’ve ever supplied to your bookmaker (or that has been covertly obtained by – TransUnion) has been used to profile you within an inch of your life, to identify what your worth is to them.  If you’re identified as someone (professional or recreational) that looks like you’ve got the faintest clue at what you’re doing, you’ll be stake restricted or closed.

A recent report by Cracked Lab Report into SkyBet highlights just how much information they have and share about you.

SCV and Vested Interest

SCV vs Single Customer Wallet (SCW) in my view, is not how your thought process should be working. Yes, having SCV on the horizon has been useful in igniting the debate and looking at a potential solution to make the gambling industry cleaner and more protective.  This for me is simply trying to reinstate a level playing field for punters, where the only relationship you have with your bookmaker is “Here is my money, this is the bet I wish to place at the odds you have offered and if you’re willing to accept both, then pay me immediately if I win and keep my money if I lose – you’re fully entitled to them.

Campaigners For Reform (CFR)

So, we all know when you place a bet the (supposed) outcome is you get paid if you win, whereas if you lose then the operator keeps your money.  

This has now gotten convoluted somewhat, as Campaigners for Reform (CFR) will argue that the advent of smartphones in your pocket coupled with relentless advertising, email/SMS offers, enticing deposits with bonuses or free bets has moved the goalposts from something you may have “thought about doing” into something you are being “pressurised into doing”. Of course, you still have free will/personal responsibility.  Why would that be any different than Wetherspoons offering free pints, or McDonalds offering you free fries with a burger?

Well in a lot of ways it’s not, BUT whatever your view is on those comparisons, there are people out there who suffer from a gambling disorder and this type of marketing can lead them into perilous situations. This is where some may need educating on why gambling is a bit different from other addictions, such as alcohol and drugs.  Those ‘vices’ provide alternative kicks, but along the same lines of fun and relief that gambling provides, without causing you to lose the sort of money you just can’t afford in such a short space of time, albeit with different consequences such as personal health.  

There is a good article here on the effects of dopamine, the neurological effects and why it is very difficult to ‘solely’ blame personal responsibility on a disordered gambler, this is a fact that punters, bookmakers, and the industry must take on board.  

So, to my understanding CFR believe whilst ‘FREE BETS’ or ‘BONUSES’ are naturally welcomed by most players, they can really be ‘perilous’ for a disordered gambler.  Enticing them to come back and play some more, leading to more potential problems.  They would like to see ‘Free Bets’ and ‘Bonuses’ outlawed, which is all well and good, but what about most players that want to enjoy these bonuses that are offered, why should they suffer, because of a small minority?

I suppose it depends on what kind of society we would all like to live in.  Do we want to do the best we can, to cut down suicide, financial ruin, and mental health issues?  Of course, what morally sound human being wouldn’t want to help with that?  Though I have to say the solutions put forward by some of the CFR and bookmakers, are at best ‘burning down a house to rid a wasp’s nest’, or ‘cracking a nut with a sledgehammer’, to get through their way, to once and for all sort out gambling disorder. 

The CFR mean well of course they do, but within these ‘quango’s’ they carry baggage.  Some carry significant funding from The Gambling Commission (UKGC) and have vested interests, like software to help with this problem and it is in their personal interests to see their ventures recommended in the ‘white paper review’.  Some want to see the harshest measures brought in because of family bereavements and losses, with no efforts at all from them to do impact assessments on one of the biggest pastimes and a significant contributor to HMRC.  

Some CFR also seem very reluctant to engage in any form of debate, unless of course you wholeheartedly agree with what they’re pushing for.  Indeed, some experienced punters in the industry have been blocked on social media for merely challenging certain individuals on why some of their proposals are just unworkable.  There needs to be a compromise on all sides here, this isn’t about one singular part of the industry, we accept it needs reform, but CFR need to be more realistic.  We all need to accept that we need to accept some sort of ‘friction’ if change is to be made and compromise should be welcomed.

The SCW solution provides that compromise, as the punter is vetted at source with an allowance.  The suggested allowance of £1,000.00 per month for sports and £100.00 per month for casino gambling would be enough for 99% of gamblers to place bets safely and easily with clean money, without the need for invasive checks, which will certainly put many punters off from betting if they were made to do so.  Also, under the current proposed SCV system, it is possible to simultaneously break the rules on deposit limits set out by individual bookmakers, so there is nothing in place to stop a disordered gambler depositing 10 or even 20x their limit before the system puts up the red flag. 

The SCW also makes it pretty much failsafe in terms of refunds from bookmakers, offering them protection from unscrupulous punters, who wish to take advantage of having a free bet so to speak, by saying they were coerced or encouraged to bet, and they shouldn’t be betting in the size they were allowed (despite having exploited loopholes in depositing etc). In my view the CFR need to be distancing themselves from the ‘bookmaker/operator organised’ SCV and embrace the SCW.

Bookmakers

Put simply, the affordability checks placed on punters in the last twelve months or so, have been an absolute nightmare and a disaster.  The liquidity on the betting exchanges highlights this clearly, as will the ongoing funding problems for the BHA after generally decent punters have been culled to form a statistic used to placate the ones who need to be placated.   

Let’s not pull any punches here, the bookmakers/operators during this period have behaved disgracefully as the mounting evidence from punters on social media testify, who have been treated very badly. Whether it’s being able to withdraw their money but denied due to anti money laundering (AML) procedures. A practice which is not acceptable according to the rules set out by The Gambling Commission – UKGC.  

The evidence is irrefutable.  I know several professional punters, whom I interact with daily getting suspended and restricted to ludicrously low amounts on the Betfair Exchange, unless they provided a substantial amount of data, myself included in this.  I supplied the data they requested in May 2021, and it took them three weeks to re-instate me.  Six months later after a couple of deposits, they restricted me again, only this time my limits were back to what they were after just twenty-four hours after I complained about having already fulfilled their checks.

The measures, which were brought in with the blessings and encouragement of the UKGC, (I will deal with them in the next part) to help identify disordered gambling is being misused.  The Operators knew they wanted to keep the VIP customers in the casino, knew they had to answer to shareholders and knew if they got rid of the real problem, then profits would be massively hit.  So, the Operators had to act and deliver culls of punters to placate these clueless commissions like the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and UKGC.  Indeed, it was only recently the BGC were boasting a cut in the number of problem gamblers (a term many do not like) to 0.3%.  The one question they can’t answer in that data, is how many of those that were culled or refused to supply their data, were actual disordered gamblers?  This is the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Then of course the Operators are now firmly in ‘bed’ with the UKGC, the BGC regarding SCV, why?  Because it brings them control, they can profile punters, streamline their business, whilst making sure the healthy returns from the casino (game of chance) is kept as high as possible.  

Indeed, how can we trust this cartel that has formed, BIG CORPORATION OPERATORS, that simply abuse their rights to improve their business, without tackling the problem properly.  If you want recent evidence of how they might manage your data and don’t want to take my anecdotal word for it, see the article by The Guardians Rob Davies, who tells us of how industry insiders have revealed how they profile punters.

So already as you can read from the above, leaks are appearing in the press from staff members of the Operators.

It’s an old cliché, but it is simply putting the ‘foxes in charge of the henhouse’ and this has no place in becoming the way forward for professional, normal, or at-risk gamblers.  The SCV is serving one purpose and that’s fully THEIR OWN.

Without the SCV, the Operators lose the control they so desire.  The recent sickening interviews of CEOs of BIG CORPORATION OPERATORS doing the media rounds, maintaining SCV was being implemented and was necessary in tackling gambling harm, had another purpose.  The operators are protecting what they already had, their motives are clearly dubious at best. 

SCV often kicks in after financial harm has taken place, whereas SCW is a preventative measure and I’d love to debate any bookmaker over this, so step forward into the ring if you dare.  So, if we are going to bring in invasive checks, then we need the friction for all kept to an absolute minimum, whilst reducing the amount of disordered gambling, with the operators kept miles away from any private financial data.

The Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission (UKGC) is a government quango, which has little if any prior knowledge of the gambling industry.  Their job should be to regulate the industry and make sure the Operators are behaving responsibly, yet they only seem interested in AML and reducing the harm to disordered gamblers. Their key aims again this year are solely focused on reducing and minimalizing gambling harm.

With the senior managers paid an average of over £170.000 and funded by GAMCOS with a staggering £19 million deficit in funding in the latest accounts, to quote a script from Gordon Gekko ‘Wall Street’, ‘These vice presidents, each earning over two hundred thousand dollars a year.  Now I have spent the last two months analysing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out.  One thing I do know is that this company lost millions of dollars and I bet all that is spent on paperwork going back and forth between those vice presidents.’

Much of the expenditure has been spent on gambling regulation (£20.47 million), bring in the SCW and there would be minimal expenditure on regulation, because it is taken care of at source.

The UKGC also set no clear guidelines to operators on how affordability checks should be undertaken.  So, operators are left to their own devices to form them as part of their social responsibility and to prevent money laundering.

A task which sometimes is beyond the operators, with BV Gaming Ltd hit with large penalties recently.  

If an operator shows the UKGC that they have got rid of (X) accounts and are acting responsibly towards disordered gamblers, the UKGC do not care if a ‘responsible’ gambler is caught up in this mess. They do not care if the 99.7% of gamblers who enjoy betting on a regular basis are put through unnecessary stress and rigmarole of providing in depth financial documentation akin to that needed to obtain a mortgage. Nor do they seem concerned about how and where that data is stored by the operators. 

In a recent email I sent highlighting the problems the operators are causing due to these checks, The UKGC took over twelve weeks to reply and then failed to address a single point I made.  They sent me a load of corporate blurb about disordered gambling and how they need to further reduce the harms of those at risk, despite having already taken many positive steps to reduce this.

This furthermore was highlighted when Andrew Rhodes (interim CEO of UKGC and formally of the DVLA) was photographed this summer with lobby group Coalition Against Gambling Ads.

Andrew Rhodes with Coalition Against Gambling Ads

When has any member of the UKGC sat down with a group that represents ordinary punters, that subsidise the industry? Surely the people in control of regulating the industry and issuing of gambling licences should be talking to all those involved in the industry to garner the full picture. And not just engage with those that shout the loudest on behalf of just 0.3% of gamblers. If the UKGC were serious in regulating the industry fairly for all, then they need to engage in meaningful dialogue with the 99.7% of responsible gamblers or at least different representatives from all areas of the gambling industry, not just bookmakers and CFR.  

Conclusion

There is much to sort. I have no vested interests and If I did, I wouldn’t be fully backing a SCW.  I would feel the friction of what that would bring, but if it meant that business was being conducted in a fair and clean way, then this is the way forward.  The ideal scenario for most involved in the industry is ‘no change’ to the status quo, but please remember we are not in that particular place anymore. 

Do not let this opportunity pass and let’s hope a suitable solution can be found as the ones on the table right now are not suitable for anyone other than those with ‘vested interests.’

Thank you for your time.

Disclaimer:  *All figures used in this three-part series are from articles or documents available in the public domain.

Published by Lee Keys

Lee has been a professional punter for the best part of 25 years, with various forays into the business of tipping horses. Now, Lee is head honcho of barstewards.co.uk with a very small band of punters, helping them to make a second income from betting on horse racing. Early part of Lee’s career saw him write for Sports Advisor magazine, run The Winning Line horse racing advisory service and was the first person to develop a commercialised betting application for Betfair called RETA. Based in York, Lee’s passion is sport in general namely Horse Racing and Cricket and he will often host the ‘BARSTEWARDS’ podcasts.

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