The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF), created in 2015 with the assistance of the BHA to represent the views of those who bet on British racing, has received a considerable amount of correspondence from the public regarding the issue of account closures and restrictions.
Anecdotally, many horseracing bettors find their accounts closed or restricted (sometimes to such a degree that they might as well be closed) due to activity which bookmakers deem to be unprofitable or potentially unprofitable.
As a result, and in order to get a better appreciation of the situation, HBF undertook a survey of the horseracing betting public through its website (http://ukhbf.org/account-restrictionclosure-survey/). The survey was open from 3 April to 30 April 2016.
- There were 878 respondents
- They reported over 4000 restricted accounts in the previous 6-month period
- They reported over 1000 closed accounts in the previous 6-month period
- 520 respondents (59.2%) stated that account closures and restrictions had reduced their interest in betting on horseracing
- 94% claimed not to have been given a reason for closure or restriction or to have been told no more than that it was a “trading decision”
By using figures given separately to HBF by some bookmakers for the actual number of accounts closed by their firms in the period of the survey, HBF estimates that 20,000 British accounts were closed by bookmakers over the last six months with probably twice that number restricted.
In view of the fact that bettors may have had several accounts closed, HBF estimates at least 7000 individuals are affected.
The experience of having an account closed or restricted, sometimes for no obvious reason and with no warning or formal explanation, can clearly be a negative one and have wider ramifications.
HBF figures suggest about 4000 bettors will have a reduced interest in horse racing every six months if this continues. This will clearly affect racing’s income from betting.
Just before this survey was undertaken, HBF wrote to representatives of a dozen leading bookmakers, spelling out their concerns, suggesting some measures that could be implemented and inviting further discussion.
There was a mixture of responses, from positive to negative, and, in some cases, no response at all.
As part of the most recent HBF meeting, on 6 June, Forum members met with one of those representatives. Talks were encouraging, and HBF hopes to use them as a basis for future discussion.
A fuller summary of the survey findings will appear on HBF’s site in due course.