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Black Type Bet promises not to ban customers 10/09/2016
Greg Wood
• New site trying to trade in a traditional way
• Black Type adamant it will not close winning accounts

A prominent campaigner for increased consumer rights for punters has offered a cautious welcome to a new player in the crowded internet gambling market: a bookmaking site that claims it will not ban or restrict its customers for winning, and will guarantee to lay any price to lose at least £500.

“It’s positive that an online bookmaker is trying to trade in a traditional way,” Brian Chappell, the founder of the website, said on Thursday. “This type of approach, if it continues, will certainly be welcomed by most punters, especially the thousands who have their bets restricted to pennies by the major players.” .

Shareholders in Black Type Bet, which launched on Wednesday, include Mylo Sangster, the grandson of the famous owner-breeder Robert, whose blue and green silks were among the most famous of the last 50 years. The new firm is seeking a niche in a highly-competitive market which has seen a number of bookies come and go in recent years, on occasions taking their customers’ deposits with them, but Black Type is staking its claim to be different on a willingness to lay bets at advertised prices.
A bookie that accepts your money might not sound revolutionary but in recent years increasing numbers of online gamblers have suffered the frustration of attempting to place bets on racing and sport with major firms, only to find their stakes restricted to tiny amounts, or refused altogether.

The Horserace Bettors Forum, a group launched by the British Horseracing Authority to represent the interests of racing punters, also recently claimed at least 20,000 accounts were closed by bookmakers in the first six months of 2016. This, according to Simon Rowlands, the HBF’s chairman, raised fears that “the appeal of betting on horse racing is possibly being seriously eroded by the trading practices of individual bookmakers.”

Black Type is adamant that it will not close winning accounts, with the sole caveat that customers using computer programmes to “arb” bets via betting exchanges – that is, take a price on their site and lay it on an exchange for a small, guaranteed profit – will be barred on a “three-strikes-and-out” basis. There are no gaming products – such as virtual slot machines and roulette – on the site, and Stephen Davison, a spokesman for the company, said its promise to lay its prices to lose at least £500 is cast iron.

“It’s there on the site in big letters and there’s no hiding away from it,” Davison said. “This is not a project that’s been built up overnight.

“We’re after day-to-day £20 each-ways, £50 to win and £1 Lucky 15s, and there are plenty of punters like that out there who are disillusioned because they’ve won a bit somewhere and been closed, or they’ve backed something at 12-1 that’s gone off at 6-1 and the bookie has decided they don’t want their business.”

To maintain its margins, Black Type will not offer the “Best Odds Guaranteed” concession on racing that is widespread among major firms, or offer inflated odds or free bets to new customers. It is, in a sense, an attempt to return to traditional bookmaking practices in the internet age, and only time will tell how successful that can be.

Chappell, a fierce and persistent critic of bookmakers on the issue of restrictions and account closures, is one of many who will watch with interest. He also points out that the Australian state of New South Wales introduced legislation in January 2015 which forces bookies to honour guarantees on the minimum bets they will lay, and that a number of firms have seen their turnover and profitability rise as a result.

He would like to see the Gambling Commission, which regulates the industry in Britain, introduce equivalent rules for bookies trading in the United Kingdom. “At the moment, bookmakers are advertising prices but they are discriminating,” he said. “It’s not just a few people, as they claim. It’s thousands and thousands of people.”
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