As you embark on your journey in sports betting, it’s highly recommended that you only use bookmakers and betting apps that are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
Why? Because these brands must uphold higher standards than those without regulatory approval, and so it means that punters are afforded stronger protections should a betting firm act inappropriately.
Also, the rules of the Commission dictate that all licensed operators must reveal in writing the level of protection they have in place for their customers’ money, should the worst happen and they go bust.
As part of their role, the Gambling Commission also has the power to suspend the operating licence of a bookmaker. You may find that this happens to the site that you wager on, and so it’s well worth knowing what happens to your open bets in this scenario and what will happen to the money in your account.
Why Is a Gambling Licence Suspended?
Any betting firm that wants to operate on UK soil or even simply advertise here has to have a licence – that’s the law under the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.
To qualify for a licence, and to maintain it, all firms must abide by the Gambling Commission’s guidelines for conduct and best practice. If they don’t, their licence can be suspended or revoked entirely.
There are some common reasons as to why a bookmaker may have their licence suspended, and these are mostly covered by the Commission’s stated objectives of stopping betting from becoming a source of crime and disorder, making sure that the industry is fair and transparent, and ensuring that children and other vulnerable persons are protected from gambling harm.
And so any bookie that operates in a way that breaches these ambitions will likely face regulatory action, and that can include the suspension of their licence.
Some of the most common reasons for suspending a gambling licence include:
- Failure to implement appropriate anti-money laundering measures
- Failure to provide a safe and secure website/app
- Failure to apply a decent level of customer service
- Failure to act in a socially responsible way (e.g. protecting children/vulnerable persons from gambling-related harm)
- Not implementing appropriate age checks and verification procedures
In 2021, the holding company behind the Fiveyards fantasy football game had their licence suspended after the Commission deemed that they had not integrated into GAMSTOP, the UK’s self-exclusion scheme for problem gamblers, effectively.
Can a Suspended Bookmaker Still Take Bets?
From the moment that the licence suspension is confirmed, the bookmaker must cease to operate in the UK market until the Gambling Commission has carried out a full investigation.
And so they won’t be able to take new bets during that time, and will typically put a notice on their site detailing the situation. They certainly need to let their customers know.
Once the regulator has completed their investigation, they will decide the next course of action – if it’s a slapped wrist and a fine, then then the betting firm will be allowed to start trading once more; if it is more serious, the site might shut down completely.
What Happens to My Bets With a Suspended Bookmaker?
When you place a bet in good faith with a bookmaker, it has to be settled unless it is financially impossible for the firm to do so.
Sometimes, a betting brand will have their licence suspended and then later go bust. In this case, you may get your stake money back but only if the firm has a medium or high level of protection. If they have low or no protection, you may lose your stake.
If the bookmaker doesn’t go bust, they are legally obliged to settle your bet – either as a refund or if it’s a winner – even if they decide to leave the UK market.
In the same way that you can’t cancel a bet if you suddenly need the money for something else, neither can they.
Can I Get My Money From a Suspended Bookmaker?
Typically, a suspended bookmaker will still leave some of the functionality of its website and app in place.
So you might not be able to place new bets, but you should still be able to log in and make a withdrawal from your account even during a time of suspended operation.
In fact, if a company does have their license suspended it makes sense to get your money out as soon as you hear about it, just in case things get worse and the company goes bust.
You can always contact the Gambling Commission directly if you wish to make a withdrawal from a suspended betting site, but find that facility is not available to you, and let them know the situation.
Any company that wants to get their license back though will want to treat customers properly
What Happens to Betting Sites That Have Their Licences Suspended?
As mentioned, the regulator will suspend a licence when it has concerns about how a firm is operating, and will then decide what course of action needs to be taken.
There are some cases when a company bounces back from a suspended licence. Matchbook, the betting exchange platform, had their licence put on ice back in April 2020, and after a four-month review the Commission decided to meter out a £740,000 fine on parent company TripleBet. Matchbook is now back up and running.
FSB Technology is a sports betting software provider that, at the time of writing, is the shirt sponsor of Leicester City FC. But the Commission did not like how their BlackBet brand was operating, and after its’ licence was suspended FSB decided to remove their platform from the UK market.
The licence of MoPlay, a subsidiary of Addison Global, was suspended in March 2020 following a series of breaches. As the Commission began their investigation, the parent company went into liquidation and so the licence was revoked altogether.
And that same scenario played out with BetIndex, one of the most high-profile cases in recent years. Their licence was suspended by the regulator, and as they were unable to make any money during the suspension they soon fell into administration and permanent closure.