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Gamblers hit with restrictions after profiting from betting agencies’ promotions

More than a dozen gambling companies have restricted bets from people who make money from promotional offers or who “bet in a manner which is not commercially viable”.

Correspondence seen by Guardian Australia aligns with evidence presented to a parliamentary inquiry, which alleged some bookmakers restrict bets from successful gamblers while encouraging “the highest risk customers who lose the most money and experience the most harm”.

Some industry sources, who asked not to be identified, said the restrictions were necessary because groups of gamblers often target promotions, such as “deposit matches” where a bookmaker matches the amount of money a punter places on an event. They can then create dozens of accounts in other people’s names so they can use them multiple times, manipulating the market.

But others have said promotions were increasingly used to keep bad gamblers betting. They said the introduction of higher taxes had led to odds being adjusted to offset lost revenue and that promotions prevented people who were losing money at a faster rate from quitting.

Emails from 2016 to late 2022 confirm gambling companies use inducements to encourage bets from people they consider to be casual or “recreational” gamblers. They can reclassify people as “professional” gamblers at their own discretion. Some have been upfront about stopping those who cost them money.

In 2021, the company Sportsbetting, which has since closed, blocked a gambler’s access to promotion deals and restricted the amount of money they could gamble on regular markets.

In an email, the company said it reserved the right to cancel or restrict accounts based on “a number of factors including those who almost exclusively bet on promotional markets, show the traits of professional gamblers or bet in a manner which is not commercially viable”.

“Your account may also have smaller betting limits on some markets, including enhanced odds markets, as a result of this,” the email said.

Some gamblers use promotions to engage in a tactic called matched betting, where inducements can be used to help offset bets with other bookmakers. Those who continually do this can have their accounts restricted.

Emails seen by Guardian Australia show that one small gambling outfit told a gambler in 2020 that promotions were “designed to reward clients who support us with their weekly betting activity and do not focus primarily on promotional markets only”.

When restricting their account, they said 80 people had created accounts on the same day to use the offer, with 75 people “exploiting our generosity”.

“We are a small business and can’t afford what happened today,” they wrote. “It isn’t how the promotion is intended to be used.”

Late last year, News Corp-backed company Betr told one gambler their account had been restricted after an internal review, and that they would no longer have access to “bonus bet and bonus cash promotions, early payouts, double your winnings and deposit offers”.

“Any existing promotion bets will be honoured but from this moment onwards any bet placed on a promotion market will not be eligible,” a representative said an email to the gambler, which did not state the reason for restrictions. Betr was contacted for comment.

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Global giant Ladbrokes told one gambler that promotional offers were “intended for recreational gamblers only”. In a 2016 email, the company said gamblers “may be disqualified without notice and without liability”.

A spokesperson for Entain, which owns Ladbrokes, confirmed it restricts accounts but said it did not block people who win and that “so far in 2023 we have more than 130,000 customers that are winning from us”.

“For those that consider themselves professional punters, we play them up to the legislated minimum bet limits, however at the end of the day we have an obligation to our shareholders and the racing industry that we support to run a fiscally responsible business,” the spokesperson said.

Australia’s largest gambling company, Sportsbet, has also restricted the use of promotional offers. It told one gambler they were “intended for members who place a bet for recreation or entertainment purposes”.

“Our records show that there has been excessive use of promotions on your account,” a Sportsbet email said. “Therefore, while we’re happy to honour your existing bets, your account will no longer be eligible for Sportsbet’s promotions.”

A Sportsbet spokesperson said “promotions are not available to all customers and their offering is a commercial decision for our business, similar to how many other businesses or industries offer promotions.

“Sportsbet does not block customers or close their accounts simply because they are winning or due to their use of promotions,” the spokesperson said.

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