As the floodgates open for sports gambling in America, states and perhaps even the federal government are going to have to grapple with regulation. One topic that is sure to be at the forefront is whether sportsbooks have the power to ban smart bettors essentially on the basis of being so. ESPN’s David Purdum has an excellent story detailing all sides of the issue, and the takeaway for me, despite the denials of some books, is that this happens in the UK and Vegas.
Here are the nut graphs of the piece:
“Yes, bookmakers are severely restricting or closing accounts for what appears to be the fact that these people are winning,” said U.K. gambling consultant Steve Donoughue, secretariat for an all-party parliamentary group that focuses on gaming. “The hilariousness of it,” Donoughue added, “is that they restricted one of my member’s accounts, and he’s a Lord.”
The profit-minded corporations that have entered the bookmaking game, however, look at it from the perspective of their bottom line and wonder what business would ever choose to cater to customers thought to be “uneconomical.” It’s like encouraging a world-class competitive eater to dine often at your all-you-can-eat buffet.
According to Purdum’s story, some books are more amenable to taking smart money bets than others. The Westgate SuperBook, for example, is reputed to be a haven for intelligent bettors, albeit with limits that prevent the casino from losing its shirt. But they court the smart bettors and adapt their strategies to evaluate their own systems.
The William Hill conglomerate is reputed to be the stingiest in this regard. While a spokesperson of theirs denied that they ban customers solely on the basis of winning, they declined to answer follow-up questions.
Frankly, this should not be allowed. Gambling limits are one thing, but to issue blanket bans to advantage players is absurd. If the books can’t win with a 10% VIG, perhaps they need to hire more talented oddsmakers.
While two players told Purdum that this practice has already happened to them in New Jersey (at a book controlled by William Hill), the state stipulates that books cannot refuse to take action from smart bettors. If the players’ accounts are accurate, New Jersey should take action against the book.