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Show friends' bank statements or stop betting: one punter's worrying conundrum

At some point the white paper will eventually appear. When that time comes we will discover the government's approach to affordability checks. Until then, and perhaps for an indefinite period thereafter, large numbers of responsible punters will have their civil liberties restricted by a Gambling Commission that seemingly believes we all need protecting from ourselves.

Bookmakers are terrified of the industry regulator. Where operators have behaved badly, that fear is entirely warranted, yet all too many punters who enjoy betting without harm are being caught up by the commission's draconian broad brush approach to affordability checks that are inevitably causing significant financial harm to British racing.

It is, however, not simply affordability checks, nor the account closures and restrictions imposed on winning clients, that are stopping punters from punting.

Bookmaker requests for source-of-funds information are intended to comply with the commission's understandable efforts to tackle criminal activity, yet some of the questions being asked are providing further incentives for long-time customers to wave the white flag.

Joe Beevers, a high-staking punter, racecourse bookmaker and poker player, had an account with exchange firm Smarkets that was close to £100,000 in profit. He no longer uses that account having been informed he would need to ask two friends to show Smarkets their financial data. Not surprisingly, he believed it inappropriate to even raise the subject with them.

Punter, poker player and racecourse bookmaker Joe Beevers, pictured at his Ascot pitch
Punter, poker player and racecourse bookmaker Joe Beevers, pictured at his Ascot pitch

"Back at the end of summer 2021, Smarkets asked about source of funds and matters relating to affordability," says Beevers, who responded by sending a number of bank statements, his tax return and a stockbroker statement that recorded a six-figure sum.

"For one of the bank statements, they asked about two transactions from two separate individuals. One was for a few hundred pounds, the other for £2,000. In relation to the £2,000 credit, I explained if they went back to the first statement I handed over, they could see I had sent that person £2,000. He was simply paying me back.

"I had no idea why they wanted to know why another friend had sent me a few hundred pounds. I pointed out that, set against the stockbroker statement, it was immaterial, but they said they needed to know.

"I told them the friend and I were going on holiday together and the credit was for his share of the tickets. In response, they said they wanted to see his bank statement and also the statement for the person who had paid me back £2,000. I recently got a mortgage and didn't have to provide half as much personal information to people who lent me a six-figure sum."

For Beevers, enough was enough.

"I had already given them way more than I wanted," he says. "If I was locked up in a foreign prison I'm sure those two friends would provide bank statements to get me out, but I told Smarkets I wasn't comfortable asking them to do that simply so I could bet on a Smarkets platform. I told them they couldn't have those statements, following which they said I was free to withdraw my funds."

He adds: "If they think they are entitled to the statements of my friends, and if they feel that information would be helpful to them making a decision, I am terrified that they have the documents I actually did send."

Joe Beevers: 'I am terrified that they have the documents I actually did send'
Joe Beevers: 'I am terrified that they have the documents I actually did send'

Personal information was also sent to Betfair by Beevers, whose relationship of over 20 years with the exchange included running their poker markets.

"I made a five-figure withdrawal, which triggered them to ask for bank statements," he says, expanding on a story that raised considerable interest this month when Beevers referenced it on his Twitter account.

"With Smarkets, I felt like I was being interrogated. With Betfair, I felt like they were looking for problems, not solutions. I said I could show them liquid funds and a P60 and that if they would then allow me to use my account as before, that would be fine, but if they were going to restrict me to a £100 or £1,000 per month deposit, the account would be no use to me and in those circumstances I wouldn't send any further documents.

"The guy said to me in that case my account would be frozen until such time as I provided all the documents they wanted. A few days later I logged into the account and saw it hadn't been frozen but closed."

In response, a Betfair spokesperson told the Racing Post: "We have legal and regulatory obligations that may, from time to time, require us to request information from certain customers. While we endeavour to help all customers get through the process, sometimes customers are unwilling or unable to provide the information which the regulations require."

A Smarkets spokesperson went further, conceding that "intrusive" checks are causing the exchange to lose numerous accounts. The spokesperson also expressed the wish that the white paper might improve a situation currently unsatisfactory to all.

The statement read: "We regret any time compliance checks result in a customer choosing to cease trading with us, which is unfortunately a very common response due to the detailed standard of affordability and source-of-funds checks the regulations require us to apply to customers in the UK.

"We respect our customers' right to privacy but unfortunately in some circumstances we are obligated to ask for specific and detailed information to comply with our licence conditions, which we appreciate can feel intrusive. We hope the UK government's white paper will help the industry and Gambling Commission find a better balance."

Racing punter Joe Beevers was told he had to supply the bank statements of two friends in order to continue betting
Racing punter Joe Beevers was told he had to supply the bank statements of two friends in order to continue bettingCredit: Edward Whitaker

Exasperated punters would no doubt agree. On the wider subject of affordability checks, one now ex-Smarkets and Betfair punter has strong views that will chime with many.

"Affordability checks are fine if they protect the people they are supposed to protect," says Beevers. "What they are actually doing is akin to breathalysing everybody who has ever had a drink.

"If somebody has a problem they should be helped, but, generally speaking, we live in a free country where people should be responsible for themselves. There is nothing wrong with gambling. It's a recreational pastime and the majority of people are well in control of what they are doing. Unfortunately, everybody is now being treated the same way, which is just wrong."

It is wrong and worrying. Also more than a little disturbing is the idea that anyone who has received a bank transfer from a friend or family member – maybe a Christmas gift or their share of a dinner or holiday – might be required to produce that person's bank statements in order to continue betting.


Have you been affected by intrusive affordability checks? If so, we would like to hear from you. Email us (editor@racingpost.com) with the subject 'Affordability checks' to share your experiences and contact details


Read more on affordability checks:

The £40 million blow: how affordability checks are already hitting horseracing

An existential threat - how did affordability checks become such a big issue?

'I'm very close to giving up' - the punters suffering from affordability checks


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Lee MottersheadSenior writer

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