WiFi Restrictions When Betting At Racing And Sporting Events
Many of us now own smartphones that we can use to browse the web from pretty much anywhere either via a mobile network or by connecting to WiFi. This fact is what has driven the meteoric rise of online betting and spurred on the advent of features like in-play and cash out, which are predominantly utilised on mobile devices.
What will be familiar to those people that attend horse racing, big football matches and other large sporting events, though, is that often the local masts become overloaded and this restricts the mobile data network. Horse racing and some other sports also take place in more remote locations that often have poor reception even when masts are not jammed. How in these instances do punters bet online?
Thankfully many venues now offer free WiFi to their patrons, in the knowledge that mobile coverage is not available or limited. This isn’t, however, always useful if you want to use that free internet to login to your bookie and place a bet. It is very common, especially for racecourses, to restrict access to other betting websites and instead redirect users to the site of a specific betting partner that has sponsored the meeting.
Of course, in a lot of instances there are other betting opportunities but is it fair to limit spectators, who have paid to be there, the right to bet with who they choose to?
Placing a Bet When Attending an Event
Most WiFi restrictions for the moment are at horse racing tracks. For most meetings crowds are fairly low level and so if there is mobile signal you can usually get a bet on but let’s say that you are in the crowd for the Grand National and you want to bet online, the local network is sure to be jammed. Most people attending the race will want to bet in person though, with an on-course bookie, and therefore the WiFi restrictions are not too frustrating to many. Those, however, that want to take advantage of better odds, each-way terms and deals online can, however, be left frustrated.
If you do want to participate in mobile betting at such an event, you need to use one of the event or stadium sponsors. It isn’t uncommon to find Ladbrokes or William Hill sponsoring Aintree or the Etihad Stadium, for example. For this reason, as part of the deals signed by the stadiums and the sportsbooks, the available betting stands are of those companies as well.
If you were to link to the venue’s Wi-Fi, then this would give you an online connection. Then, through your smartphone or tablet, you can access online sportsbooks. Or can you? Because generally speaking, the fact that you are connected to the stadium or racecourse’s Wi-Fi, you will likely be redirected to whichever betting brand is sponsoring the arena or the event in question. Entain, which owns the Ladbrokes brand, is the official sponsor of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – the annual Rugby Football League event. Therefore, if you were spectating one of the games sponsored by this brand, the likelihood is that the Wi-Fi would direct you to the Ladbrokes sportsbook.
What if you don’t own a betting account with Ladbrokes, though? Do you really want to go through the rigamarole of signing up for a new account and then going through the verification process etc.? If you hold an account with William Hill, why is it not possible for you to just visit that website and sign in as you normally would, enabling you to place a sports bet on the rugby game?
Getting Around the Issue with 5G/4G Connectivity
It would be very easy to consider simply turning Wi-Fi off on your mobile device and utilising the mobile data connection instead. This would generally allow you to visit your chosen sportsbook to place bets by a 3G, 4G or 5G connection. And this is often what many people do use for their mobile sports betting activities when out of the house. There is a bit of a catch involved when it comes to doing so at a sports event, though.
To begin with, the connectivity for data is often very poor when you are inside an arena or even at a racecourse, if the mobile network is available at all. Venue owners are not uninformed on people using their mobile devices for sports betting opportunities, and so have likely taken measures to ensure that only their Wi-Fi is usable. In this respect, you won’t be able to make use of mobile data connections to bet, or if you do, it has the potential to be very slow, freeze or cause other problems on your device.
Even if you do have a strong connection to your data browsing, it can often be said that masts are overwhelmed at big sporting events. Consider how many people attend events like the FIFA World Cup matches or the Grand National. Imagine if they’re all trying to utilise 4G or 5G from one location, not just for placing bets, but for general browsing, uploading images to Instagram and so on. Masts for this connectivity will likely be overwhelmed at sports events, meaning that there is little chance of getting to place your preferred bets in the end anyway. Just think about New Year’s Eve when everyone tries calling or sending messages to their family and friends. Mobile masts have a lot to deal with at that time, and big sporting events are exactly the same with thousands of fans in attendance.
How Does This All Work and Is It Fair?
A racecourse or stadium will often provide its visitors with access to Wi-Fi for free. Obviously, many people want to be connected to the online world all the time these days, and will value a free connection as being something extra special. However, it is also because of this that the venue has the ability to block access to certain sites and, where bookmakers are concerned, redirect you to their chosen sponsors’ sites.
A recent query was put to the Betfair community by a user who had been to the racecourse and utilised the Wi-Fi of the venue he had visited. He commented that he wasn’t able to use any of his frequently used betting sites as he normally would outside the racecourse. Several replies were put to him, with another user commenting that it happens in various places with free Wi-Fi, such as airports. Another reaction was to make use of a VPN to be able to access the sportsbooks of choice via Wi-Fi.
However, this may also generally depend upon the racecourse you are visiting. That same user made mention of the fact that he is a regular at Pontefract Races and has little problem with engaging in betting via his favoured platforms from there. He noted that it seems to be just at certain courses, which could be due to the sheer size of the events and venues. Pontefract Races may not have any specific sponsors for example, whereas an event taking place as part of Cheltenham definitely will.
Are Wifi restrictions a fair part of attending a horse racing event or a football match, then? After all, if you’re a member of a specific online sportsbook and you have deposited money there, the idea is that you’ll want to use it. If you’re redirected to another sportsbook when using the free Wi-Fi though, you won’t be able to do so. Instead, you’ll have to make do with either placing your bets before visiting the venue or having an account with one of the sponsors.
Of course, this is all done because a deal has been entered into by the sportsbooks and the venues or events. It wouldn’t look very professional if the Grand National, which has had various betting sponsors sponsored by Betway, actively offered spectators the chance to place wagers through another platform, taking revenue away from them.
Money Makes the World Go Round
The simple fact of the matter is that it all boils down to money – as many things do. Because a deal has been entered into by the racecourse with a particular betting sponsor, it is inclined to adhere to the rules and promote that brand as much as possible. In return, it receives money from its sponsor, which can be put to use in improving the overall standing of the venue, maintenance of it, introducing new aspects and so on. Without that income, sports venues would be a little less well-off than they are. If that wasn’t a factor, then the likelihood would be that Wi-Fi would probably be charged first of all, but it would allow you to visit any sportsbook you prefer.
Is it fair? Well, bettors probably don’t think so. After all, they are the ones being restricted by the course, be that by the barriers brought up via the Wi-Fi or the lack of data connectivity within. And if we were spectating and decided we wanted to have a punt but then found we weren’t able to for one reason or another, we would definitely be on the same wavelength.
Of course, it’s also easy to see how it works in the favour of the racecourses, arenas and stadiums. After all, they need to make money in order to continue running and putting on events for people to see. And in turn, if a venue is promoting one specific bookmaker, then it is likely to forward some traffic in that direction, resulting in new registrations for the bookie and so on. It’s definitely a two-way street where the sportsbook and the event/venue are concerned.
It would seem then, that the only one losing out in this instance is the bettor – the one who is actually placing the bets on the events being held by the sponsored venues. It’s just a little unfortunate that money is what makes the world go round.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, because you’ll still be able to place wagers before you enter, even if you can’t do so from the course or venue.