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It has been reported over the past few weeks that at least 20,000 betting accounts have been closed – with probably double that restricted over the past six months, too.

Staggering figures! And they leave me thinking: ‘Is everyone winning?’

You’d think so wouldn’t you? But that’s not the case.

It is believed bookies may now be able to restrict those who are either showing a profit or likely to show a profit based on previous selections recorded.

Without doubt, their software can make predictions about punters’ behaviour based on previous betting habits, for example winning strike rate, average price of winners and staking on whether the account is eventually going to make a profit over time.

They can also detect bonus hunters and arbers in the same way. Whatever policy the bookies are pursuing, it is obviously serving them well in reducing liabilities and increasing profits.

However it’s now becoming clear this could be having a detrimental effect for bookies – especially for their horse racing markets.

In a recent survey of 878 respondents who either had their accounts restricted or closed, 59% said their interest in betting on horse racing had been reduced.

This can’t be good from any perspective.

Admittedly, many of these 20,000 restricted accounts could be multiple accounts held by one customer wanting to get their bets on or take advantage of the bookie bonuses.

Even so, it is still believed that 7,000+ individuals have had their accounts curtailed. The cumulative number of bans across all online bookies has even surprised the bookies themselves.

I really don’t get why bookies want to restrict accounts from punters using bonuses. Surely the mission of the bonus hunter is to engineer the bonus so he/she wins more on Betfair than with them?

OK, on occasions the bonus hunter may win big, but overall I’m sure if the bookie left the account unrestricted they would win more from the punter than the other way around.

I can fully understand bookies restricting punters with a rep for insider gambles that plough in late to guarantee prices, as no doubt such punters will be losers for them. However, the policy of restricting bonus hunters needs a major rethink purely from a business point of view if nowt else.

Bookies would love punters to log on and go straight to one of their ‘mug’ markets – such as the casino or arcade – and play them all day long simply because there is no judgment required on their part by odds compilers.

But it is variable with racing – and that’s what they don’t like. Take some late money from well-informed punters and they could get hit for six especially in the betting shops.

Bookies like guaranteed edges and reluctantly offer horse racing to draw punters into their betting portal in the hope they overspill into the other ‘mug’ markets mentioned above.

Heck they now have ‘mug’ markets within horse racing, such as ‘Backing your horse to win by x amount of lengths’… and they’re all designed to tempt you away from the main Win and Each Way markets which gives them a relatively slim profit margin.

As I see it, this trigger-happy approach to restricting punters from racing could be self-defeating in the end. Indications are it is proving that way, as the magnet of the horse racing markets contains less and less of an appeal if punters are limited to measly £1 or £2 stakes.

The issue of bookie restrictions is now being addressed by the BHA as an issue that requires urgent action if the sport they govern and its popularity is suffering as a consequence.

It is clearly damaging to racing if bookmakers are using the sport as a loss-leader and weeding out punters who happen to be profitable. Something’s got to give somewhere.
If this carries on it won’t be long before the major bookies known for their horse racing markets slowly but surely turn into glorified casino sites with horse racing included as a minor market.

To add further credence to the above, a recent BBC focus on the controversial fixed odds betting machines alleged betting shop staff are told to offer gamblers perks to keep them playing on, offering “absolutely anything” to make them feel comfortable… including fetching sandwiches!

And then there was this matter from a few weeks ago in which one of the Internet’s biggest bookmakers was reported to be facing legal action from a customer for failing to transfer a £54,000 balance to her bank account, despite claims requests to do so were repeated over a period of some months.

Apparently, the punter was also told she would be restricted to a maximum stake of £1 if she wished to bet with the balance… but was welcome to gamble as much as she wished on gaming products.

Need I say more?

All the above leads to one conclusion: if you are serious about making long term gains from your betting or trading, gains that will have longevity, then you MUST focus and turn your attention to methods where your profits can be derived from Betfair or other exchanges.

Anything else, as Blackadder said, would be like a pencil without any lead – pointless!