Why do bookmakers close accounts?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re setting up your online sportsbook with a bookmaker. There are so many sites offering sign up bonuses, promotions, and, according to them, better odds than their competitors. Once you’re signed up and ready to go, it’s important to remember that bookmakers reserve the right to close your account for a multitude of reasons.

In 2018, following a discussion in the House of Lords, online accounts being closed were discussed at length. Lord Lipsey was critical of bookmakers for restricting punters’ accounts and suggested that something needed to be done to stop the practice. That being said, bookmakers continue to close accounts that they deem to be bad for business.

And understanding why your account can be shut down before you get started can save you a lot of stress and hassle further down the line, as you can avoid certain behaviours that can raise suspicions in the bookmakers’ eyes.

Below we explore five main reasons why bookmakers may close your account.

Winning Excessively and Regularly Cashing Out 

Arguably the most common reason why bookmakers close their punters’ accounts is simply that they win too often and too much. This might sound bizarre and unfair, but bookies are businesses, and businesses need to turn a profit. If you regularly beat your bookie and take money from them too often, they will want to shut you down. According to The Daily Mail, 50,000 of the UK’s 8.5m online gamblers have had their accounts controlled in some way by bookmakers for winning too much. Sometimes this is as simple as limiting the amount that can be bet on a particular market. Other times it can be as severe as closing the account permanently, with little or no explanation as to why.

In the UK, bookmakers are not legally required to take your bets, and accepting wagers from serial winners is undoubtedly bad for business. The more bets they get from serial winners, the more they have to pay out.

Also, suppose you win, and the money remains in your account for some time. In that case, there is a good chance that you will spend it again in the near future on another bet in the bookmaker’s eyes. However, if you withdraw it straight away and don’t make another deposit into your account, it’s clear that you’re happy with your winnings and don’t want to risk losing them. Additionally, bookmakers have the dreaded bank transfer fees to consider. The more you cash out, the more they have to pay in fees, which in turn reduces their margins and gives them another incentive to limit or restrict your account. Using a payment service like PayPal or Skrill reduces the bookmaker’s fees. It often results in quicker payment when you do cash out.

In summary, if you are someone who takes more money out of your account than you deposit, mainly if it’s a sizeable amount, then you may find yourself flagged by bookmakers as one to watch, and your bets could be limited.

Abusing or Ignoring Promotions and Sign Up Offers

Although very tempting, abusing promotions is a sure-fire way of getting your account flagged or even shut down. Of course, it’s a good idea to utilise any free bets and offers that come your way but be careful not to use these promotions exclusively. To maintain a healthy account with a bookmaker, it’s good practice to utilise offers in conjunction with your regular bets. If you only use free bets and promotions, you will be viewed negatively by the bookmaker, and you run the risk of your account being shut.

Conversely, if you have signed up for an online account with a bookmaker and ignore all of the free bets and offers that they send your way, then they will become suspicious of you. At the end of the day, everyone loves a good offer, and the freedom to bet with ‘free money’ should be enticing to all! Suppose you don’t take bookies up on their offers. In that case, they may mark you as a professional gambler, as they usually aren’t interested in taking advantage of promotions.

Be careful how you interact with offers and promotions, as bookmakers monitor your activity.

“Arbing” and Betting Random Amounts 

“Arbing,” or arbitrage to give it its old school name, is a practice that has long been a problem for bookmakers and currency traders alike. Arbing is the practice of identifying discrepancies in odds given by different bookmakers and then betting on all possible outcomes to profit. Equally, with the rise to prominence of betting exchanges such as Betfair and Smarkets, one of the simplest ways to arb is to place a bet with a bookmaker and then lay the same outcome on a betting exchange.

Arbing is not illegal, but bookies don’t like it, and if you’re suspected of it, your account can be limited or shut down. Bookies can spot arbitrage bets in several ways. Firstly, because the amount that you need to bet on an arb needs to be specific (i.e., £74.24), it stands out as most regular punters would bet a round number, £10, for example. If every single bet you place seems random and is a relatively high number, bookmakers will suspect that you are arbing and could limit your account to much smaller amounts.

Moreover, the type of bet you place can also be a giveaway. Suppose you only bet on markets with a few possible outcomes, such as the result of a particular fixture or both teams to score in a football match, as opposed to markets with multiple outcomes, such as the name of the first goalscorer in a game, or the number of offsides in the first half of a particular match. In that case, this can also indicate to bookies that you are arbing.

One other giveaway is the market that you enter. For example, suppose you’re betting on football. In that case, bookmakers become suspicious if you are consistently betting on Ukrainian Third Division matches and the Egyptian Premier League. Sticking to more popular markets, such as the English Premier League and the rest of Europe’s elite divisions, is a less conspicuous way of successfully arbing.

What is clear is that you should be mindful of your betting patterns. If you consistently place bets that look suspicious and are picked up by software that bookmakers use to monitor accounts, your account is at risk of being shut down.

Matched Betting

Matched betting is often described as ‘free money’ and is slightly different from the art of arbing as described above. The premise is relatively simple: you register for two or more online betting accounts and receive sign-up offers that you can exploit to back outcomes to ensure you profit regardless of the outcome. Although it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy, and it requires a fair bit of time and research, as well as a generous float to ensure bets can be matched and laid.

You can sign up for several matched betting blogs that provide tips and guides on making money from the process. Some of these blogs are free, but many of them require a subscription, and they charge you a fee. While matched betting is legal, bookmakers understandably hate the practice. Sign up promotions and existing offers are there to entice genuine punters to their sites, and bookmakers will very quickly limit or close your account if they suspect you of using their offers to match bets. If a bookie shuts down your account in matched betting, you have been ‘gubbed’ and need to open an account with another bookmaker.

Trying to Open Multiple Accounts with the same bookmaker 

With the proliferation of online bookmakers in recent years, we have so much choice when it comes to where to gamble. However, some sign-up offers, like the Bet365 £100 promotion, are so good that people want to benefit from it over and over again[6]. To do this, some punters try and open multiple accounts with the same bookie, often using the name of a sibling or spouse to try and trick the bookie into believing it is someone from the same household and not the same person.

As a minimum, bookmakers track IP addresses and can often sniff out duplicate accounts quite easily. Many bookies limit online accounts to one per household to combat this exact problem, so if you don’t want your account shut down, it’s best to avoid the temptation of duplicity.

To conclude, bookmakers can close your account for many reasons, and they are legally within their rights to do so. Counterintuitively, the more successful you are as a gambler, the more likely you are to have your account shut down or limited, so it’s essential to be aware of your betting patterns and your use of free bets and promotions. Also, the more you try and trick a bookie or play the system, the more likely you are to get flagged as bookmakers have procedures in place to track suspicious behaviour. 

Carl Hughes - Editor

Carl Hughes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".