The sports betting business is not always as fair and transparent as it claims to be, as new allegations regarding bet365 Australia reveal. According to a former employer of the popular online betting platform, the operator’s practices were dishonest and unethical, to say the least, and probably even illegal.
The bookmaker, which is originally based in the United Kingdom but is also present in Australia and regulated by Australia’s Northern Territory Government, is said to have blocked access to punters who regularly won from their bets on the website. Bettors who were losing, on the other hand, were exploited and encouraged to bet and lose even more. The outrageous claims were published Thursday in an ABC News article, which cited a former customer account supervisor at bet365 Australia.
The whistleblower, James Poppleton, told the ABC journalists that the truth about bet365’s operations was a “burden on his conscience”. He had worked for the bookie for 18 months and during his time, he had seen multiple practices that could be called unfair. According to him, the bookmaker used special backdoor algorithms, various restrictions, and allegations of cheating, delaying and breaking the terms of the site to gain an unfair advantage over punters.
Poppleton’s claims have apparently prompted a journalist investigation into the shady dealings of Australian bookmakers and bet365, in particular. Reporters have also spoken with professional poker player and recreational bettor Daniel Laidlow who says he was restricted by the website for no apparent reason. His stakes were restricted so the maximum amount he could win was $5 to $10, whereas typical potential winnings would be in the $1,000-$5,000 range.
The ABC Investigations article has also published a screenshot of Mr Laidlaw’s account details, which reveals very interesting and scandalous things. The screenshot from inside bet365 shows that a secret algorithm classifies Laidlaw as a successful punter. Since he is considered a risk to the company’s profits, he has been restricted. The risk, according to the file, is 0.0025, which is incredibly high, Poppleton explains, adding that the bookmaker takes several different factors into account, including punters’ total bets and turnover, their average bet, as well as the win or loss ratio to the company.
These rankings and algorithms are applied not only to winners but also to those who tend to lose, Poppleton says. As soon as the algorithm finds a punter who has started to lose a lot of money, it increases the betting limits, allowing the customer to wager and, therefore, lose more. According to the former bet365 employee, such practices are just the opposite of the responsible gambling policies promoted by the bookmaker.
Dealing with Problem Customers
According to Poppleton, bet365 has encountered issues with certain punters who placed live bets over the phone. In Australia, in-play betting is allowed only over the telephone. The journalist investigation reveals that bet365 has found several customers who were exploiting a certain weakness in this type of betting – they were placing “late” bets and stalling on the phone to see how a sporting event would progress. Often, the odds change within seconds and it is essential to be able to place a wager at the right time to maximize your winnings.
Such betting practices are typically considered fraudulent activity by most bookmakers. This is true for bet365, too, but instead of taking measures to deal with such customers, the operator has found an alternative way to solve the problem, Poppleton explains. It came in the form of Quick Code Delay Testing, a procedure, which logged the calls and the length the calls of punters who wagered on live sports over the phone.
Officially, this procedure aimed at checking whether there ware delays registered for the calls made by cricket bettors as opposed to punters who placed bets on other sports. However, the former employee of the company believes that this Testing had a different purpose – to see whether customers would notice a delay in the operator’s actions over individual bets.
According to the whistleblower, there was a small delay – 1 to 3 seconds, between the time when the bet was submitted over the phone in certain sports and when it was accepted. This gave the bookmaker more time to reject the bet or offer less favourable odds. ABC Investigation has also obtained files which show the phase “Delay added” to certain user accounts in bet365 system. Adding such delays should be against the law and should be banned, journalists point out.
Authorities have taken no action regarding the allegations against bet365, which is one of the largest betting operators in Australia and across Europe. The Northern Territory Racing Commission, which regulates the sports betting industry in the Northern Territory, has found no evidence of delays in in-play betting.
Alastair Shields, chair of the NT Racing Commission, told ABC News he had not heard about such allegations and added that it is not illegal for bookmakers to place restrictions on successful punters. It may not seem completely fair but it is up to the betting operator to decide whom to serve and whom not to offer betting services.