Gambling review

Punters barred from betting shops after failing to meet affordability demands

Affordability checks are affecting betting shop punters as well as those online
Affordability checks are affecting betting shop punters as well as those online

Punters are increasingly finding themselves denied entrance to betting shops if failing to provide bookmakers with detailed personal financial information, shining further light on the growing reach of intrusive affordability and source-of-funds checks.

Online gamblers have increasingly faced requests from bookmakers, under pressure from the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission, for personal documents such as payslips and bank statements to allow them to continue betting, with accounts closed or heavily restricted if these requests are denied.

However, bettors placing wagers in retail outlets are also being hit with demands for proof they can afford to bet, while one betting shop employee spoken to by the Racing Post said staff were under increased pressure over the past 12 months to seek information from their customers.

Requests for identification and financial documentation to continue betting resulted in Michelle Wills being stopped from betting in her local branch of Betfred, she has claimed, after she was unable and unwilling to provide the information.

In a letter to the Racing Post, she said: “I'm 58 years old and have enjoyed gambling all of my adult life. On entry to my local betting shop in December, I was given an envelope from a member of staff and I was shocked to discover a letter from Betfred starting ‘Dear Customer’.

“The letter said that I was not allowed to gamble in any Betfred shop in the UK until I provided photo identification, namely a passport or driving licence. Unfortunately, I have never had a driving licence and my passport expired over 20 years ago. In addition to this, the company wanted three months' worth of bank statements and a source of funds.

“After careful consideration I decided not to send my personal information and therefore I have been unable to gamble in Betfred shops. I have lived in Dawlish since 2006 and am well known to the staff in the shop, but I now have to travel to another town to gamble.”

Simon Edwards, a punter from Devon, said he had been blocked from entering any William Hill betting shop after he had refused to hand over financial documents to allow him to continue betting with the firm online.

Having had his account closed by William Hill, Edwards placed a £52 football accumulator using his debit card in one of the operator’s shops. However, when he went to collect his £74 winnings, he claims he was told he was not allowed to enter the building as he had not provided the information asked of him when affordability checks were imposed online.

Edwards, who contacted the Racing Post in a letter published in Sunday's newspaper, took his case to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service and was paid out, but expressed frustration at the impact the checks were having on his ability to bet.

“It’s been a nightmare for a long time and it’s not good betting now,” he said when speaking to the Racing Post. “I don’t mind if they restrict me to a few pence, it happens when you’re winning, but what’s going on now is getting silly. I just don’t understand it.

“People in this shop were there looking at me thinking I’m dodgy, that I must be up to something, but all I have done is not provide them with personal financial information.”

Betfred and William Hill were contacted for comment on Sunday.

The challenges around in-shop affordability checks have not been limited to customers, with staff expressing concerns over having to intervene more regularly to ascertain the source of funds the punters are using and their ability to afford to place bets.

A betting shop employee based in Scotland who works for a major high street firm, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job, said customers had been confrontational when asked for documentation and that the checks were getting more regular.

The employee said: “Customers think we’re picking on them when we approach them, but we’re under pressure to intervene. We get alerts when there has been spending at certain levels, particularly on the FOBTs, if it seems that someone is overspending. When we go and ask they can get angry but it’s what we are meant to do.

“When I’ve asked people I’ve been told to go and f*** myself, that it’s none of my damn business and had people say to me that they’d be waiting for me outside after the shop closed.

"It’s scary and luckily nothing has happened to me so far, but one day it might. Others have been fine, said they’d get the documents and be back the next day and I’ve never seen them again.

“I understand why my employer is asking me to do this. They’re caught in the middle and I’m not angry at them as a result, and they have to because they can face hefty fines. I know other employees in betting shops and there’s a lot of disgruntlement at having to do this and the consensus is that they do not like being put in the position to do it.

“Having been a betting shop punter, I know what I’d have said if approached to hand over these documents.”

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Deputy industry editor

Published on inGambling review

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