If A Bookmaker or Casino Goes Bust Will You Get Your Money Back & What Happens To Your Bets?
The majority of punters never really consider what will happen if the bookmaker or casino that they favour placing their bets with goes bust. For that reason, many of us have money in our accounts, just waiting for us to find a bet that we like the look of before putting our wager into action. Similarly it is worth thinking about ante-post options for big events where we often place a bet without even thinking about what will happen to our money if the company ends up going bust before the event itself actually rolls around.
Yet what happens to the money in our account or the ante-post bet we’ve opted for if the company we’ve been using goes out of business? Is it as simply as our money just being returned to our account, or is it a little bit more confusing than that?
The good news is that bookmakers and casinos are generally a reliable form of business, so the chance of them going busy is actually quite slim. In fact, more often than not a bookie that’s struggling will be bought out by a competitor long before they have to hit the self-destruct button. Even so, these are trying times for the betting industry, so here’s a look at what you need to know.
Read The T&Cs
If you place a deposit of cash into a bank then, theoretically at least, it is protected by the government. That means that if the bank fails then you’ll almost certainly be able to get all or some of your money back. The same is not true of bookmakers and casinos, a lot of whom can offer customers few protections.
That doesn’t mean that you should panic and set about withdrawing all of your money from your betting accounts and never place another ante-post bet ever again, of course. In reality the majority of bookies are well run and solid businesses and UK licensed operators are required to put some protections in place to try to ensure punters do not lose out in this case.
What it does mean, however, is that you should be looking at your terms and conditions to see what level of protection you’re offered by your bookmakers of choice. According to the Gambling Commission, every business that it licenses has to set out in its terms and Conditions whether or not your funds are protected and the extent to which they are if the business becomes insolvent. They legally have to keep your money in a separate account to their own, but this alone doesn’t offer you any safety when it comes to the bookie in question hitting potential financial trouble.
There Are Different Levels Of Protection
|Basic Protection||If the company in question goes bust then any money in their accounts will be considered to be part of the business and, as the category level suggests, will receive no protection|
|Medium Protection||The bookmaker has some sort of arrangement in place to ensure that a customer’s monies can be returned to them in the event that they go bust. This is usually in the form of insurance or something similar, but it’s still at risk depending on how badly their business is looking|
|High Protection||This is the best form of protection offered by betting companies and sees your money kept in an account that is separate and distinct from the rest of the company in the event that it goes bust. The accounts are controlled by an external and independent company or person, meaning that the likelihood is that you’ll get your money back in the event of a company hitting financial trouble|
Every UK licensed betting company will fit into one of three categories when it comes to the level of protection that they offer their customers.
Interestingly, this level isn’t judged or decided upon by some sort of external adviser such as the Gambling Commission, but rather the bookies themselves choose which category they fit into. The table above shows the levels.
The Gambling Commission doesn’t do any approving of the status that a bookmaker gives themselves, but they can and do check the accuracy of what they have chosen. With this in mind, it’s important for you to check the level of protection a bookie says they offer, especially if you’re liable to have a large amount of money in your account at any one time.
Rather than talk in abstracts, it might be worth looking at the specific example of Scotbet, that ended up being bought out by its own management team back in 2011. It was the largest independent bookmaker in Scotland at the time, having 65 shops to its name. One thing that’s worth noting is that the company had been up for sale for 12 months prior to the management buyout. That, perhaps more than anything else, helps to explain how even when a bookmaker is in trouble they’re not really likely to suffer in the same way as other businesses suffering financial issues.
It’s absolutely worth bearing in mind that there is a huge amount of money in the gambling industry. Whilst in other businesses a poor year might mean monetary losses and the need to sack staff, in the world of gambling it is more likely to mean not making as much profit as was hoped for. The main reason that Scotbet was put up for sale was that the parent company, Festival Group, suffered big losses as a result of the economic downturn as opposed to fears that Scotbet, which was the trading name of Morrisons Bookmakers, was losing money.
Indeed, the incoming chairman of the company, John Heaton, who worked as a consultant in the gambling business, said at the time that it was a ‘profitable’ group that was ‘well-run’ and offered the management team that bought it out the ‘opportunity to expand’. In this example the company was taken over by new management that worked hard to ensure that the company wouldn’t go out of business, but in many other cases the bookmaking businesses are simply taken over by a larger company in a merger, thereby protecting customer’s monies.
What About My Bets?
Knowing that whether or not you’re likely to get the money back in your account from a casino or bookmaker if they hit financial trouble will depend on the level of protection they offer is one thing, but what about any open bets that you’ve placed?
The money for these bets is still held in a separate account and will remain classed as being your money until the result of the bet is known, so in most cases when a company gets itself into some sort of a financial predicament you’ll simply have your stake returned to you as though the bet has been made void.
Obviously if you’ve placed an ante-post bet then your main hope will be that the company remains solvent long enough for your bet to come to fruition. In reality that’s unlikely to happen if the company has truly hit the financial rocks, so you might want to explore ways of getting your stake back yourself via a Cash Out or cancelling your bet. If you’ve tried to withdraw your money then you’ll get it back on the proviso that the company hasn’t had its accounts frozen, with withdrawals to eWallets more likely to be processed in time because those withdrawals tend to be quicker.
Another more recent digital example of a betting site going under is BetBright, a site that we used to cover on this site. They were a promising new site with lots of features and a dedicated customer focus, in their mission statement at least.
The company, Dedsert Ireland Limited, was set-up in 2012 and invested around £60 million in the brand, technology and acquisition. From the outside all seemed to be going well until suddenly in March 2019 they ceased operations, advising customers they had 30 days to withdraw funds.
BetBright were sold to the 888 Group for around £15 million, however, 888 bought the brand for their technologies rather than the brand or their customers and so immediately closed the site. The sale value, a quarter of what was invested in BetBright, tells you that the business was failing, although this was not obvious by looking at them.
While this was good news for customers as they were guaranteed to get their deposits back, 888 then announced that all bets due to settle after the 5th March 2019 would be voided with the stake returned. This caused outrage among punters, some of whom in particular had large ante-pot bets on the Cheltenham Festival and would no longer be able to back at the same price.
In the end 888 did honour ante-post Cheltenham bets but all other advance bets on the likes of the Premier League were voided. This is a good example of what can happen to ante-post bets when bookies are suddenly closed and acquired.
Which Brands Are The Safest?
Obviously any company is at risk of hitting financial trouble, especially in such a time of financial turmoil around the world. Yet the reality is that the biggest and best-known brands are also the most likely to be the safest. That isn’t a guarantee, with Ladbrokes being an example of a much-loved company that offered Medium Protection when checked recently, but it’s simply not in the interest of the biggest brands to do anything other than offer their customers the best protection it can.
Conversely, of course, the newer a brand is the more likely it is to offer its customers the most basic form of protection. Often this isn’t some sort of con but rather simply a matter of the company not having the finances in place to offer decent protection and therefore planning to upgrade it in the future. A new brand is also far more likely to fail than a more established one for simple reason that it doesn’t have the customer base from the off and will have to work hard to gain a reputation.
If your account is with one of these new bookmakers, especially a white label one, then it’s very much in your interest to keep an eye on how they’re doing and withdraw your funds if you have even the slightest suspicion that they’re struggling financially. It’s always much better to be safe than sorry and if you’re wrong about them then you can always just put your money back into your account when you feel that they’re on a more solid footing.
At the time of writing this page the vast majority of sites licensed with the UK GC provide only basic protection, with a good few established brands such as William Hill and BetVictor only providing this level. Around 20% of sites will provide medium level protection, such as Bet365 and 888 themselves, and a tiny handful provide high level protection, such as Coral, Paddy Power and Betfair.