What Happened To Premier Punt and BetSid? Why Have They Closed Down And Voided Bets?
Premier Punt began life in 2013 as a fantasy football themed betting site that allowed punters to run fantasy teams and leagues alongside traditional sports bets. Following a review of the brand in 2018 the holding company, Edinburgh based Incentive Group Limited, decided to turn the site into a fully fledged sportsbook/casino by licensing out their platform to companies, such as AXL Media, who ran the Premier Punt site. This was however closed to the UK, along with their other brand BetSid, on the 6th March 2020 with the company cancelling all ante-post bets.
This is becoming a common theme in the UK at the moment with Premier Punt and BetSid the latest in a line of brands to close with little notice, such as MoPlay recently, or leave the UK market, such as ComeOn and Royal Panda. It reflects the difficulty smaller and non-UK focused brands are having in a market that is increasingly regulated compared to others and has higher tax rate, let alone being one of the most congested and competitive markets in the world.
Premier Punt and BetSid, who run their sportsbook on the SB Tech platform, have had cash-flow issues for a while (see below) and it would be wise if you are a customer to withdraw any funds immediately. Customer funds are currently protected in a separate account although the company only has a basic level of protection, as defined by the UKGC deposit protection scheme, meaning if they go insolvent (like MoPlay did last month) players may not get their money back at all as the account, while separate, is still classed as part of the business in the event of bankruptcy.
The Warning Signs Were There
Customers may have been largely unaware but advertisers have known since late 2019 that the brand was in trouble due to repeated failed payments. A source at the company told us in January that the company were pushing through an ‘internal purchase’ and this was having ‘considerable cashflow issues’.
At the beginning of 2019 The Incentive Group had their sites set on UK growth and as part of this purchased the brands BetSid and 21Bet. Both had previously been FSB white labels who’s owners went into administration and the Incentive Group bought the sites and moved it onto the SB Tech Platform, the same as Premier Punt.
BetSid seemed to do OK but despite lots of early noises about 21Bet from the Incentive Group they quickly went quiet on the brand, many believe they had bought a dead donkey and it was not what they thought it would be (see our page on what happened to 21Bet). 21Bet closed down in late 2019.
Strangely at the time 21Bet ceased operations the site was quickly closed down with customers needing to contact support to withdraw funds. This is unusual as most sites will stay open for withdrawals for a period of time. It is likely this was done to slow down the withdrawals process in line with the idea the company has cash flow issues.
It is therefore not a big surprise given that information that Premier Punt have now closed, it is likely the group were not able to secure investment needed to service existing debt and have decided to withdraw from the market to limit further loses.
Why Now? The Cheltenham Festival!
The reason the Incentive Group have chosen to close now and to not fulfill ante-post bets is because the biggest betting event of the year hits from the 10-13th March, the Cheltenham Festival.
In recent years the favourites have done well at the Festival and bookies have struggled, this was likely a big fear in the minds of the Incentive Group leading to a rapid shut-down.
It is unusual for sites to close and not honour existing bets. In fact, the UKGC made it clear last year that they expect operators to have robust systems in place for ante-post bet settlement in the event of a company closing down. The fact Premier Punt and BetSid are voiding all existing bets is again a sign they feel they cannot afford to pay them out if Cheltenham does not go their way.
Will You Get Your Money Back?
At present yes, the company is still active and as mentioned under the UKGC deposit scheme Incentive Media is obliged to hold funds, and stakes for unsettled bets, in a separate account that is independently audited. This means your money is there and you can withdraw it, currently by logging into the site. There may come a time when the site is closed permanently but you should still get your money back if you contact them directly (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
Given the company and brand have clear cash-flow problems however it would be sensible to issue a withdrawal request asap. Lessons can be learned from the very recent collapse of MoPlay, who remained open for a few days for withdrawals before going insolvent.
Mismanagement Or Misfortune?
There are plenty of successful small betting companies in the UK so it is difficult to say there has not been some mismanagement. It is a common story, brand established as sports site (in this case a fantasy themed sportsbook) and then decides to try to monetise that traffic by turning into a sportsbook/casino. It is a story that often fails.
It is very costly to compete in the UK, it is one of the most saturated markets in the world with some of the biggest global betting giants based here. Without serious investment and a large bank-roll it is difficult to compete. It seems the Incentive Group put a lot of money and faith into 21Bet and this back-fire set them on a spiral they couldn’t recover from.
It is unfair to say other factors have not come into play however. The recent changes in UK gambling regulations coupled with new plans for minimum online stakes and a new gambling act mean small companies struggle more than big ones to adapt. The government also increased the point of consumption tax from 15-21% last year, which again is harder for smaller brands to absorb compared to bigger bookies.
Will Premier Punt or BetSid Come Back?
At this point it is anyone’s guess whether we will see them again, the brands, unlike MoPlay, have not suffered negative press and are still a viable names.
There is a possibility someone may buy the sites and accounts, or simply just the name and launch a new site. If this happens it will likely be soon. Given BetSid was already in its second incarnation it is less likely we will see them again.
If anything changes in the near future we will let you know.