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The affordability check misnomer

Mel Gee here!

I would be sure that all readers are aware of the impending legislation to conduct affordability checks on those who bet with online bookmakers. Having now experienced this myself, my thoughts are as follows…

It would appear your status of new bettor, regular bettor, casual bettor, seasonal bettor, long time bettor, small stakes or large stakes bettor is irrelevant.

It would appear we are all on the radar. We are all fair game as the bookmakers try to show those in government that they (bookmakers) are as concerned as anybody that gambling can get out of hand for some people.

You are likely to be checked at some point; I have already had an account suspended subject to proving I can afford to do what I have been doing for 50 years.

I’ll come back to my personal experience in a moment, but first I want to highlight the sham that is “Gamble Aware” together with the insincerity with which the bookmakers operate.

My first experience

Without exception, all the bookmaker accounts I originally held have now closed me without explanation beyond suggesting I read their respective T&Cs. Basically, the point they were making was that they reserve the right to terminate any customer’s account without notice or giving a reason…

BUT, and here’s the cynicism, again without exception, I was invited to play roulette or play the slots! Hmmm? What happened to Gamble Aware?

Betting on horse racing (my chosen preference) is a skill. It’s me versus the bookmaker. I have a chance to win and to win often and to be a long-term profit maker.

Playing the slots or roulette is a game of chance. The numbers are heavily in favour of the bookmakers, and you can’t win long-term. That’s it, you can’t win.

I continue to receive ‘free’ spins or bet £x and receive 50 or 100 ‘free’ spins.

Why isn’t anybody counter arguing the Gamble Aware sham where my experience is repeated daily as thousands of “me” have been treated similarly. I’ve never seen any bookmakers publicly challenged about this common occurrence. Why?

Secondly…

And this is the most hideous example of bookmakers not giving a tuppenny damn about you, me or the next person…

A new customer online offer giving inflated odds to sign up, such as Manchester United to have a corner during 90 mins, 5/1, max stake £5, or Frankel to win, was 1/20 now 2/1 max, £5. You get the gist. Similar offers are available daily to entice new customers. Again, where is the Gamble Aware?

Once these poor souls are hooked into the net, they have free money to bet with and, the habit that wasn’t there, suddenly becomes a norm, and we know that the road to losses is paved with more and more bookmaker offers.

BUT! And here’s the rub… Any bettor who even slightly knows what he is doing will be closed down while the naïve newbies will be wrapped in cotton wool and their bank balances gradually drained. Unless they start to get lucky, of course, then it’s restrictions or closure for them too.

The solution proposed appears to be making affordability checks commonplace.

Again, why is the obvious hypocrisy not publicly put before the bookmakers?

Hills get the ball rolling

This brings me to my recent experience with affordability checks.

I have held a credit account with William Hill for about 47/48 years. For no reason and no explanation, this facility was withdrawn at the beginning of 2022, and I was told I would have to deposit money prior to making a bet. That’s not an issue but losing a credit facility I had held with no issue for nearly half a century left a sour taste and I am still fighting for its reinstatement.

With that useful facility lost, the amounts of money going to and from my bank and my online account was cause to have the account suspended in May accompanied by an email requesting a chat about my activity and the affordability of the amounts involved (with a credit account, the amounts going to and fro were dealt with by cheque, so no red flag situation).

I received a call from Gibraltar, a very nice lady indeed. I explained the above and suggested that’s why we were having the conversation. Prior to the call, I had emailed explaining additional helpful information as it was important to me to do all I could to reinstate the account.

I explained how I owned racehorses, continued to support our industry with ROA Membership etc. Also, I insisted that I was the best person to determine my ability to fund my betting and I needed no help from others.

The lady remained interested in my comments but said she still had to ask the questions as deemed by an affordability check. The questions were simple yes/no…

Was I in control, was I aware of self-regulating, was I aware of betting holidays, but nothing intrusive. The call lasted about 15 minutes. We agreed there wasn’t an issue and I felt it right to agree that some people needed help and it was good that this was being addressed.

My account was reinstated next day and now I continue the fight for credit status to be activated once more. I’m confident of a win.

I haven’t yet placed a bet, so I don’t know if there’s been a restriction imposed!

And yes, I have lobbied my MP and a reply received from the minister presenting the white paper due in the Commons soon.

If you get an affordability check request, I suggest being polite. After all, it’s our account we want not their wrath.

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