When you consider the nature of what they do, it’s difficult to believe that not all bookmakers are absolutely rolling in money.
Indeed, for both financial and legislative reasons, more and more sports betting firms seem to be disappearing from the market despite their reputation for constantly making a killing.
The big boys keep on getting bigger – you only need to read their annual accounts for confirmation of that – so it’s typically smaller, independent or new start up firms that are perishing.
However you feel about this state of affairs, the question punters will be asking is what happens if you have an account with a bookie that goes bust? Hopefully this article will explain everything you need to know.
What the Bookies Do With Your Money
Under the terms of their licence with the UK Gambling Commission, the bookies must confirm in their terms and conditions how they store and protect your deposited funds, and this information will help to ascertain what will happen should they go bust.
If your sports betting firm does not have a UKGC licence, and its rare to find this is the case, but you should absolutely withdraw your money and stop gambling with them immediately. They are trading illegally and should be avoided at all costs.
The key thing to remember off the bat is that any money you deposit with an unlicensed bookmaker is not protected by any governmental scheme. For context, the money in your bank account is protected under a scheme which is why you should feel safe leaving your money in there. You can be in the lap of the gods as far as getting your money back is concerned unless you bet with a licensed bookie, and even then you would ideally choose a ‘high protection’ brand – but more on that shortly.
All gambling firms must keep their customers’ money in an account that is separate to their own trading account, which in theory would help to keep your funds ring fenced and protected in the case of insolvency – however, this isn’t always the case.
Consequently, you may not necessarily get your money back if your bookie goes bust even if they are by the book. This all comes down to the level of protection they offer.
Bookmaker Levels of Protection
All bookies, no matter whey are based, have to explain in their terms and conditions to what degree their customers’ money is protected. This is a condition of the licence issued to them by the UK Gambling Commission.
There are three tiers of protection: None, Medium, and High.
What this means to you as a punter is as follows:
- No Protection – your money is seen as part of the business. So, if they go bust, you can pretty much wave it goodbye unless another company buys them out (which does happen quite a lot actually).
- Medium Protection – the bookie has conditions in place to repay your money should they go bust, e.g. insurance, but it is not 100% guaranteed.
- High Protection – your money is held in an account separate to the company’s own account, and this is account controlled by an independent organisation. It is highly likely that any money in your account when the company goes bust will be returned to you.
Do Your Research
Here’s another salient piece of information you must take on board: the betting brand themselves decide which level of protection they plan to offer. There is no law preventing a firm with no protection from offering their services to punters so long as they have a license and state this fact.
The UK Gambling Commission can only advise on which level a bookie falls into, and they will from time to time assess the accuracy of the protection level stipulated.
Remember, every single betting brand should list in their terms & conditions the level of protection they offer their customers, and this is where doing your research is key – if you are averse to risk (some gamblers are, believe it or not) and the possibility of losing your cash, you should avoid no protection bookies at all costs – especially in the current climate.
What Should I Do If I Hear Rumours of a Bookie Going Bust?
In these cases, your instinct will probably be to panic, especially if there is a lot of money resting in your account.
You may read in the news fairly frequently about a bookmaker that has suffered a hard year in their annual report, but typically the big name firms won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
It’s smaller, independent bookies that can be problematic, especially those brands that largely operate overseas and have been late to arrive in the UK market. If they offer no protection, that’s when alarm bells should begin to ring.
In these cases, it is wise to withdraw your funds immediately if it is still possible. Even after a firm goes bust, there will usually be a window of time in which you can make a withdrawal, although remember if no protection is in place then the firm has no obligation to get your money back to you.
The best thing you can do is request the withdrawal and then pester them with emails etc asking if it has been processed yet. You might just annoy them into fast tracking your withdrawal.
What Happens to My Bets if a Bookie Goes Bust?
There is a potential situation where you have an outright or ante post bet, e.g. Liverpool to win the Premier League (remember the 2019/20 season?) or a long-term flutter on the Cheltenham Gold Cup, that will be settled in the future after the date the bookie goes bust.
The reality is that there are no hard and fast rules as to what happens in this situation. Some firms will refund your stake whereas others won’t send you a single penny – and if your outright bet is looking like it has a good chance of landing then don’t expect to see any of your winnings.
Again though, if a brand is bought out by another brand they will often honour any bets placed and do the right thing in an effort to endear themselves to all of their potential new customers.
Which Bookies Have Gone Bust?
There’s a long lineage of bookmakers going bust, sadly, both those who operate predominantly on the high street and those who had online operations.
One of the most notable examples in recent times includes Moplay, a firm that burst onto the scene in the summer of 2018 but who had gone bust just 18 months later. They had their licence suspended by the UK Gambling Commission when it emerged they didn’t have the means to settle outstanding bets. The threat of a costly lawsuit from Manchester United, of whom Moplay were a sponsor, was the final nail in the coffin – the betting firm was said to owe £12 million to the club at the time they were liquidated.
When the government slapped a £2 maximum stake limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the consequences were disastrous for bookies of all sizes. While the big names were able to have a reshuffle to some extent, shop closures and redundancies were a formality – sadly, for smaller brands, it would prove fatal.
Scotbet were one such casualty, while SunBets – an offshoot from the newspaper – closed in 2018 due to ‘disappointing’ trading figures.
You suspect, in the fullness of time, more will follow.
How Often Do Bookmakers Go Bust?
When you bet with a bookmaker that has been licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, you do so with the knowledge that the firm in question is financially sound and able to cater for even the most alarming of downturns.
Alas, when you bet with a bookmaker that has been licensed to operate by a slightly less stringent authority – the Government of Curacao immediately springs to mind – then you are taking a risk. They simply do not do exhaustive due diligence on their licensees, and that’s why new offshore bookies and casinos are appearing at a rapid rate.
To answer the original question, bookies don’t go bust all that often and certainly not reputable firms backed by sound financial principles and that have been structured to survive in the long run – even the toughest of trading conditions are not enough to throw many big-name bookmakers off course. Take William Hill, who in 2018 posted an annual loss of a staggering £722 million. That would put many major global brands out of commission, but since then Wills have recovered and are now thriving once more. That is the difference maker.
That said, offshore betting sites do not always have a particularly long lifespan – they struggle to compete with the big guns unless they have an obvious niche, such as like the ‘soft’ books that offer the most appealing odds for connoisseurs of value.
The security of your betting funds is in your hands. As we have learned, there are protections in place with some bookies that allow you to get your money back in the worse case scenario, but some questionable betting operators with no protection offer absolutely nothing in the way of guarantees that you’ll get your money back.