Dubious tipsters who earn commission on the business they send to online bookmakers are pulling in vast sums of money by deliberately recommending long shot bets that are unlikely to win, the Guardian has learned.
Current and former tipsters, pressure groups and charities have described how the operators have a vested interest in seeing their tips lose because they take up to a 30% cut of the losses their followers make to bookmakers.
The disclosures will increase pressure on the government to exert more control over the gambling industry. It is currently self-regulating but is facing severe scrutiny after the online betting firm 888 was penalised a record £7.8m because more than 7,000 people who had voluntarily banned themselves from gambling were still able to access their accounts.
On Thursday, the Guardian revealed that the industry was harvesting people’s data to target low-income gamblers and people who had stopped betting.
The new details of dubious practices on the fringes of the industry focus on “affiliates” – individuals or businesses who send customers to online bookmakers by posting links and taking a share of the income that the bookmakers make from those referrals. Affiliates have become one of the main ways for online casinos and bookmakers to gain new customers since the cost of conventional pay-per-click advertising rose sharply in recent years.
The spread of social media has led to a marked increase in the number of affiliates. While some conduct their business legitimately, others are alleged to deliberately mislead those who have come to trust them after they have built a rapport by showing evidence of occasional wins and by having an approachable tone. To access the operator’s tips, followers must sign up with the particular bookmaker or casino to which the vendor is affiliated.
They often advertise free bets to lure in new users. However, users often have to make up to 35 bets before any winnings can be withdrawn.
Critics say bookmakers must do more to challenge such practices.