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Winning Sports Bettors Remain at War with Sportsbooks


Photo Credit: Steve Marcus/Reuters

Refreshingly detailed but at the same time alarming article from ESPN discussing the unique relationship between sportsbooks and bettors. Now that sports betting has become legalized throughout the United States there is a lot more discussion about customer experience. A decade ago, if you bet at an offshore sportsbook and got your limits slashed or were asked to leave you may jump in a posting forum to vent or send a complaint to Sportsbook Review. Now, bettors are a quick Google or Twitter search away from reading about stories of shady practices and the outright refusal to take certain bettors’ action. The common story line goes like this: Player bets a few good numbers, wins a few bets, and is told to take their business elsewhere.

“In our world, our community,” said Joe Fortuna, one of the professional bettors who says he was cut off by William Hill in Nevada, “everyone knows you’ll get thrown out of there.”

“It’s not even really close,” said another Las Vegas bettor who had been restricted by William Hill and requested anonymity. “They’re by far the worst.”

We discussed this concept at length on a recent BettorIQ podcast segment.

Many sportsbooks will use the “this is a business” argument meaning they have the right to do whatever it takes to help their bottom line. Others — most notably William Hill — claim that there is always more to the story than just banning a player for winning.

“If someone tells you that the reason that they are prohibited from wagering with William Hill is because they are winning, they are not telling you the whole story.”

What’s even more concerning is that bettors who aren’t even all that “sharp” are being impacted. We’ve heard stories of guys betting stale lines or low percentage multiple team parlays — the type that sportsbooks make a killing on — and still having a less-than-friendly experience.

These types of practices are likely to increase considering the projected profits from sports betting that were used to help convince lawmakers legalization was a worthy investment were simply too high. When your business model says you should make x-amount of dollars and you fall well short, the only logical course of action is to come up with alternative ways to increase profits and for most sportsbooks that means cutting off those who win while welcoming with open arms that average bettor who has no chance at any long term success. It’s a slap in every serious bettors’ face when a publicity-seeking sportsbook refunds a “bad beat” on a high profile sporting event. Or how frequent we read articles about sportsbooks getting crushed on an NFL Sunday.

We can only hope that at minimum there will be some sort of middle ground reached between serious bettor and sportsbook. If anything, more transparency in terms of what they will and will not allow. In the meantime, be sure to stay in the good graces of your local bookie. He’s likely to remain the best “out” you have.