Minimum Bet (liability) Law: Where are we going?

Today SkyBet has announced their version of an online minimum bet, more correctly, a minimum liability law (MBL).  This follows recent announcements by BetVictor, Betfair Sportsbook and William Hill. Ladbroke-Coral now GVC has a MBL in shop.

J4P welcomes these announcements, albeit they don’t meet our Charter. We welcome the announcements, because it’s some progress towards meeting one of the Gambling Commission’s primary aims, (and a licensing condition for each operator), not just our Charter, e.g. a ‘fair and open’ gambling market.  One day, we hope that every sports betting market will have a MBL unless the gambling industry and officialdom produce evidence as to why not.  J4P always asks for the following; honesty, e.g. in the case of MBL, if a market is too small or a section of a sport is thought to be too specialised or corrupt, thus making a MBL impossible, say so and either withdraw the market or make it quite clear that MBL doesn’t apply and why.

There is nothing wrong with honesty!

As lots of people know, the history of a MBL is a long one where many people have tried hard to make progress.  There is only a tiny number of customers against it; usually, but not always, those who get their bets on anyway using various means, some of which are ‘blurred’ legally.

As a CEO of a major sports betting company as opposed to a CEO of a ‘one-arm bandit’ factory why would you offer a MBL?  Of course you wouldn’t, it’s much preferable to make sports betting markets into a second ‘one-arm bandit’ factory where your company is extremely unlikely to lose, even in the short term.

The UK government and the gambling regulator are quite happy with this unfairness, despite the aforementioned aim and J4P has now been told a number of times in meetings with both that there is no prospect of new legislation concerning a ‘right to bet’ in the near future, because it’s not a priority and parliamentary time is short due to Brexit.  Consequently, there is no pressure on company CEOs and their staff to do anything and some major bookmakers have, unsurprisingly, taken this route. These facts support J4P’s views that the MBL offers so far should be welcomed without forgetting to campaign for improvements, because the companies didn’t have to offer them.

Compared to six months ago, we’ve moved forward. If you only bet on Class 1 and Class 2 horse races (win only), you should be pretty happy, because you’ve got a small number of bookmakers providing something similar to what punters have in Australia.  For everybody else, there’s much more limited progress dependent on certain factors, e.g. do you bet in shop – does the shop takes your bet without ringing head office (might get an odds change) – do you only bet on ITV races?

This progress requires some warnings and one major warning; all the MBL offers are slightly different, so make sure you read the rules before trying to place your bets.

Where are we going?

Good question with no definite answer.

The ‘free market’ is impossible to predict, so without the government and regulator attempting to fulfil one of their three primary aims for gambling, making predictions is not easy, but it’s not in our nature to avoid having a go:

  1. MBL will expand slowly if bookmakers don’t lose money, primarily for ‘image’ reasons. The gambling industry at present needs positive publicity.
  2. MBL will expand rapidly if bookmakers make money on it.
  3. MBL will disappear if bookmakers lose money on it.
  4. If 3. happens, the government and regulator may, but it’s only ‘may’, do the decent and correct thing, and legislate for a form of MBL as a number of Australian states have done.
  5. The specialist horse racing media will never mention J4P’s role in attempting to bring about a wide-ranging MBL. This is our most confident prediction by far and makes us proud, because it proves our voluntary work is having an effect and is dangerous to their commercial ‘friends’.

Alone and in combination with others, e.g. The Horse Bettors Forum and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Betting and Gaming where one of our senior members has regular access; J4P will continue to work for the best MBL possible throughout all sports betting.  We will also continue to work with the government and regulator to achieve the same.

ps:  We think Paddy Power is doing the same as the Betfair Sportsbook, but haven’t been able to find any promotion about it easily, so stopped looking.