If you have been betting online for a long time and have opened accounts at most of the best online betting sites, then the chances are that you will have had one of your accounts closed, limited, bonus banned or otherwise restricted. This is fairly likely even if you are not exactly the world’s greatest punter, which can be quite a surprise for many. In this article, we will look at a wide range of issues around the issue of bookies closing or limiting accounts.
We will explain how you know if this has happened, how it works and what it might entail, what you can do to avoid it and what you can do if (or when) the inevitable happens. We will also look at whether this practice is legal and fair and what standards the bookies have to stick to.
There are many different steps a bookie can take to restrict your account and there are no hard and fast rules as to why, when and in what order, these steps might happen. However, more often than not, bookies will start by restricting the amount you can bet. Such limits may be across your whole account, specific to one particular area or sport or as specific as relating only to particular markets. Limits are often based not on the amount you can stake alone, but on that in conjunction with the odds – in other words – what the bookmaker’s liability will be on the given wager.
The limits may be mild, or they may be so severe as to make a mockery of the fact they are even allowing you to place bets. By this, we mean that you may have a limit that sees your stake restricted by as little as 10% of the standard, unrestricted amount that a “clean” account would be allowed; or, you may find that where you try to bet £500, the bookie offers you a maximum stake of £1.46, or some other seemingly random amount (but one that we can only assume their strange algorithm has decided is suitable).
In addition, you may find that restrictions are put on your account after just a single bet (this may sound hard to believe but we have heard of this happening) or that you can go for months, or even years, before any sort of limit is imposed. Perhaps more confusingly, you may be allowed to win for a prolonged period without being affected, whilst you could see a limit enforced very quickly despite all of your bets actually losing!
How Do You Know Your Account Is Limited?
Typically, the first you will learn of your account being restricted is when you attempt to place a bet and it gets rejected. For example, if you have regularly been betting £50 on some basketball matches and when you try to place a similar bet you get some form of error message, depending on what it is, you can probably assume your account has been limited. It may say that the amount requested is above the maximum bet, or show you what the maximum is, or simply, and less helpfully, tell you the stake is too high and to try again with a smaller bet.
Such a message doesn’t definitely mean that your account has been limited but if the amount you are trying to bet isn’t too big and you have placed bets of similar sizes before, it probably has been. You may very occasionally get an email or account message explaining that restrictions have been placed on your account but these are more common when bonuses are being denied, or your account is being close entirely.
If you are unsure and want clarification as to the limits on your account you can try contacting the bookie. This is unlikely to prove fruitful and they rarely disclose any meaningful information but some bookmakers are more forthcoming than others. Typically, they will say little more than a decision has been made for commercial reasons and the limits you see online are the limits that apply.
Not Eligible for Offers
Another “sanction” a site may place on your account is to restrict you from some or even all offers. This may apply, as with limits, to any areas of their site but here we are chiefly considering sports betting (as opposed to bingo, casino games, poker or anything else). Once again, there are no fixed rules and you may be restricted from a particular offer, or alternatively from all offers and promotions.
This will typically happen if the only time you are using the account is when it is in conjunction with some form of bonus, money back deal, offer or promo. It is even more likely to happen if you appear to be using the offer in a way that makes it very likely, that you will get a net win. For example, if you get given a £10 bonus and place that on over 2.5 goals, then use your own cash to bet on under 2.5 goals, this is likely to raise a flag as what the bookie would deem bonus abuse.
Unlike with a limit on stake size, if a bookie is banning you from taking part in promotions they have to tell you. This is because the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have strict rules about how promotions can be marketed. For example, it would seem unfair to most people if a bookie emailed you about an offer, you placed a certain qualifying bet and then they subsequently denied you the relevant bonus because they had, without telling you, made your account ineligible for such offers.
For this reason, if you are being restricted in terms of what offers and promotions you can claim, the bookie must inform you in writing (email, letter, text or account message will all suffice). As with any communication about stake limits, this will say little beyond that the decision has been made by their traders for commercial reasons and no further discussion will be entered into. It should, however, make it clear whether this restriction applies to all promos, or just certain specific ones. If you have any doubt contact the bookie for clarification.
The Last Step: Account Closure
One final option the bookie retains is to politely decline your business entirely. Again, you will normally receive notification of this in advance, typically by email depending on your account communication preferences. It is possible, however, that you will simply be denied access to your account with a message to contact customer support.
Whether you find out this way or via the bookie contacting you, the message and effect are the same. They will say that for commercial reasons their traders have decided that they can no longer accept your bets. If you have any bets currently open they will let these stand and pay them as normal, assuming they win. Any funds, including from such bets, will then be returned to your standard withdrawal method.
Why Do Bookies Limit Accounts?
A bookmaker is in the business of making money and, as unfair as it may sound, they want to accrue lots of customers who regularly lose whilst avoiding those that win. In other words, in the simplest terms, they will only take your bets if they think you are going to lose in the long run. This means that any customers that their algorithms or traders identify as being a threat to their net wins will see their accounts limited at best and closed at worst.
It really is that simple and whilst this is not a model you will see in virtually any other business, betting is not really like any other business. That is because the only way the punter can win is if the bookmaker loses, and vice versa.
It is important to note, however, that bookies fully understand and accept that some of their customers will win some of the time. Indeed, if nobody ever won, they would actually go out of business, because nobody would gamble. The bookies do not have a problem paying out big sums and just because you land an acca for a few thousand pounds does not mean you will be banned. Equally, if you hit a hot streak of form and win a number of bets in a row, the chances are you will be fine.
Bookmakers are concerned not about people who get lucky and win, nor about people who enjoy a sustained period of success. They are, however, bothered about people who they fear will regularly be able to get the better of them. Certain bets, types of bets, stakes and patterns and timing of wagers are what is likely to make them look into your account and we will discuss this in more detail in the next section.
What Gets You Limited?
We have loosely looked at why bookies might limit your account but now we will take a more specific look at what sort of activity is most likely to lead to your stakes being limited, bonuses being denied and your account ultimately being closed entirely. Many of the reasons are linked but broadly speaking they can fall into the following categories:
- Only betting with bonuses or in conjunction with offers and always maximising the value of these promotions
- Betting on selections where the bookie’s odds are out of line
- Betting large amounts on very niche markets or sports
- Consistently winning over an extended period of time
- Breaching bookmaker Ts and Cs
- Attempting to take advantage of bookie errors
There is a lot of crossover between these reasons. In addition, a player is far more likely to be banned or limited when their betting activity spans a number of the above areas. For example, you might get away with winning for a fair while if the bookie is confident your wagers were “bad bets” that simply got lucky. At the same time, if your bets on unusual sports and markets appear quite random and, again, the bookie believes the selections you have chosen were priced correctly from their point of view, this alone is unlikely to see you banned. Let us now look in more detail at the areas we have highlighted.
Only Betting with Bonuses & Offers
Bookies are businesses and businesses generally have making an overall win as their number one aim. If a punter only ever uses their account when they are offered a freebie then they are unlikely to get any major net wins and may even cost the bookie money. If a player rarely deposits and only does so when offered a bonus, a bookmaker may continue to offer bonuses for a while. However, eventually, when it becomes apparent that the customer is not a typical recreational punter who enjoys the occasional bet but is just after a free lunch, the site is almost certain to pull the plug. They may not close the account or even limit stakes but the chances are that offers will be withdrawn and eligibility for ongoing promotions removed.
Hitting Bookie on Weak Odds
This is probably one of the activities that is most likely to see you have your account limited. As more information comes in about an event, be it in the shape of team news and injuries, the weather, or anything else, odds change, reflecting the new perception of the probabilities of each possible outcome. Price movements can also be due to significant sums of money being wagered, which may not have an obvious (to most people) cause but could indicate that some punters know something about the contest that others do not.
Bookies change their odds to try to ensure they keep pace with new information but a small number of, typically shrewd, gamblers, may be able to get their bets placed at bigger odds just before the bookmaker reduces them. Bookmakers have the technology to spot punters making such bets and, especially when the wagers go on to win, this is typically a quick route to a limited account.
Betting on Niche Markets
If you regularly bet £1,000 on who will win a Premier League game, most bookies won’t bat an eyelid. Even if you win a number of bets, unless you are catching their odds before major moves (as above), the bookies will be confident enough in the prices they have set. On big events, they do not really believe they can be beaten regularly and they are happy that their overround (essentially their margin) is big enough to cover any times they might have mispriced a market slightly.
In contrast, because they generally accept far fewer bets and far less money on the Bolivian second division, or Swedish ice hockey, or cross country skiing, they invest less time, money and effort in researching those markets. This means that it is far easier for someone who is a major fan of those sports to know more about them than the bookmaker. Knowledge is power and in this scenario, the expert punter’s prediction about the probabilities of each outcome is quite possibly more accurate than the bookie’s. In simple terms, it is far easier for a gambler to have the advantage on such events. In addition, few people bet on them, certainly not for large stakes, and so big bets will really stand out – especially if they win.
Beating the Bookie
Ultimately, no matter what you bet on, or how much you stake, if you just keep on winning, eventually you will see your account limited. What the bookie believes are “mug punts” (basically bad bets made by an average recreational punter) will be tolerated even if they win but at some stage, if you keep on winning, the bookie may have to accept that there might be more to these bets than they are seeing. If they are losing money, sooner or later they will seek to limit, or stop, those losses.
Breaching Terms & Playing Dirty
We have combined the last two categories from our list above because they are frequently the same thing. This may include a wide range of account activity and is, as with most items on this list, linked to the belief that what you are doing is going to cost the betting site money in the long run.
It may be that they suspect you are operating accounts in other peoples’ names (perhaps to get around the fact that your personal account has already been closed or limited, or possibly to claim multiple bonuses). You may be trying to take advantage of a palpable error, where the bookie makes a clear and obvious pricing mistake (for example getting the odds the wrong way round between a big favourite and a massive underdog). Or perhaps money has been incorrectly credited to your account and you try to withdraw it.
There are almost countless ways your actions might be suspect. No matter what, if you are not playing fair, or the bookie perceives this is the case, there is every chance that they will withdraw bonuses, limit your stakes, ban you or a combination of the three.
Can I Avoid Being Limited/Banned?
If you are a typical recreational punter then the chances are you will not have your accounts limited or banned too quickly or too often. As such, for most gamblers, this is not really an issue they need to be too concerned about. Even if you consider yourself a shrewd punter who knows their stuff, and even if you manage to make a small net win over an extended period, most bookies will allow your account to run as normal, at least for a good period of time.
If, on the other hand, you are a more serious professional or semi-professional punter who is able to find value bets on a regular basis and thus hit the bookie when their odds are weak, sooner or later you will get limited and ultimately banned. The same applies if you are someone employing any one of a number of advantageous techniques, such as bonus bagging or arbitrage betting. Ultimately, anyone doing the things we have listed above, will almost certainly get banned at some stage. That said, as is the case in many areas of life, something of a game of cat and mouse ensues, with punters trying to avoid being banned and bookies trying to identify unprofitable customers as quickly as they can.
In these murky (although we prefer to say cunning) circles, people discuss various techniques that can be used to try and avoid being limited but all they are really able to do is extend the life of your account. If you do the things mentioned above then no amount of subterfuge, disguise or misdirection is going to stop the bookie from realising that your account is unprofitable to them. However, that said, the following may mean you are able to use your account for a little longer than you might otherwise be able to. Quite how effective these tactics are is unclear but they all follow a certain logic and all have worked for some people, some of the time.
- Place a Mix of Bets – Bookies love punters who place accas so among your normal bets, throw in some big accumulators… you never know, you might even win a couple of them!
- Use the Full Site – Try playing some casino games, bingo and perhaps poker. This makes you look more like a normal gambler and also gives the bookie more hope that you may hand over some of your cash to them rather than the other way round.
- Do Not Max Out Offers – If there is a refund or cash back deal worth up to £50, at least some of the time place bets that do not seek to maximise the value of the promo.
- Do Not Withdraw All of Your Cash – Recreational punters tend to leave their balance active for future bets so if you always withdraw the full balance every time you win this may arouse more suspicion.
- Make Stakes Round Figures – People who are employing certain advantage gambling techniques may place bets for unusual amounts to maximise or equalise their net wins but betting £24.78 will raise more attention than simply betting £25.
- Bet on a Range of Leagues – If you really want to bet solely on the UEFA youth tournaments because this is your specialist area, wading in with a £500 bet as your first wager with a bookie may well see you instantly banned. However, if you start with a similar stake on a more mainstream league and continue to mix things up, your bets on the more niche events will stand out less.
- Play Fair – You might think that trying to get a bet on Novak Djokovic to beat the world number 200 at 18/1 is too good to refuse but the chances are the bookie will void your bet and your card will be marked. Play fair, stick to the rules and you increase the chances of keeping your account clean for as long as possible.
Is It Legal for Bookies to Limit & Ban Accounts?
As things stand it is entirely legal for bookies to limit punters, deny them bonuses and refuse to accept any bets at all. Despite some criticism from an MP and some moves to try and instigate a minimum stake that the bookie must accept, in reality, this is unlikely to change any time soon. What is not acceptable, however, is for a bookie to deliberately advertise a price that in reality is not available to most customers. In addition, they cannot limit or restrict accounts in such a way that affects a customer’s ability to use a bonus or offer that they qualified for before being notified of any restrictions.
We touched on this earlier and the UKGC has been clear that customers must be treated fairly and transparently. They very straightforwardly outline what is and is not allowed and what the operator (bookie) must do when it comes to restricting the use of bonuses or free bets. If you think you have been unfairly treated check out the information at the UKGC website. As the first port of call, you should bring this info to the attention of your bookie and see if their customer support team can rectify the issue.
What Can I Do If My Account Gets Restricted?
Sadly, the answer is almost certainly nothing. We have never heard of anyone having any joy in trying to have restrictions removed or get their account reaccepted for bonuses and certainly once the bookie closes an account, you can consider the matter closed.
If you think there has been an error you can always try and contact the bookie but as we have said, they are usually unwilling to discuss the matter. The only time you may have some success is if your account has been suspended or closed for reasons not covered in this article. The most likely one is that you have not passed certain security, age or identification checks and your account is suspended pending this. However, sadly, if your account has been restricted due to genuine gambling activity undertaken by yourself, there is unlikely to be any way back.
Plenty More Fish in the Sea
That said, seeing your account closed or in some way limited is far from the end of the world. The first thing to note is that if you have only been refused future bonuses, you can still use the site to make normal bets and possibly still have access to offers in other areas of the site, such as the casino. However, if your account has been closed, or no longer serves your needs, it is more than fair to say that there are plenty more fish in the sea.
There are lots and lots of excellent online betting sites open to UK and other customers and almost all of them will offer you some form of welcome bonus or free bet. These bonuses, bet credits or money back offers give you a nice boost when you first join and you may well be able to find a new site you prefer even more than the old one.
Whilst serious pros may well feel they already have accounts with most bookies, it is worth noting that new ones open quite frequently. Whilst such sites may lack the history and reputation of the biggest and best UK bookies around, the vast majority can be trusted and, as a bare minimum, you at least know that they are regulated and licensed by the UKGC. There are certainly more than enough highly reputable bookies for any recreational punter who has simply fallen foul of an over-zealous algorithm or happened to land a lucky winning streak.
One type of site which will never impose a stake limit is a betting exchange. There are now several different betting exchanges to choose from too, some of which have good welcome offers from time to time for new customers. These sites can be viewed as peer-to-peer betting and because there is no bookie, there is nobody to impose a stake limit.
Before we look at that in a little more detail, it should be noted that an exchange may close your account but this will only ever be for breaching their terms or failing to provide ID and never for winning, beating their odds or using advanced techniques that tip the scales your way. Equally, it is possible that an exchange will bar you from certain promotions but due to the way the model works they don’t tend to have as many offers anyway.
In terms of your account being limited this simply will not happen because you are not betting directly with the exchange, but instead they are a third party that brings two sides of the same wager together. Exchanges are great for this reason but they are also home to a lot of other shrewd punters, so whilst you may often find excellent value odds if you act quickly, you really do need to be fast!
What’s more, you are restricted by the liquidity that exists and you can only place a bet where there is someone prepared to bet against you. Liquidity for major sports and key markets is rarely a problem, even for those wanting to bet four- or five-figure sums (or even more). However, when it comes to the sort of niche markets that may have forced some gamblers onto an exchange, liquidity is likely to be far more of an issue. Even so, exchanges are a brilliant invention and they have a lot to offer most bettors. If you aren’t familiar with them we strongly suggest you check them out. Better late than never!