|For some reason, the mainstream press has got a thing about online gambling. It’s either a fad or a menace to society in their eyes, and a story yesterday in Scotland on Sunday proves the point. Martin Hannan wrote a piece entreating punters not to get ‘snared’ in a ‘tangled web’ of Internet gambling.|
Hannan apparently lost £30 he had in an account with Netbetsports.com. Unfortunately, the company folded, leaving many punters empty handed, after the company was wound up by liquidators last week. Hannan recounts how Netbetsports.com ffered decent odds and free bets. But the fact that one sportsbook went down confirms Hannan’s experience that ‘distance betting’ – i.e. over the phone or the Internet – is a dodgy proposition.
Hannan cites the collapse of Burns Bookmakers, a telephone credit bookmaker, as further evidence. To be fair, he does namecheck Betfair.com and Easibet.net as solid organizations. But the problem, as Hannan implicitly admits, is not Internet betting per se, but the lack of regulation of the same. Such regulation would offer punters some protection in the case of circumstances such as those that befell Netbetsports.com customers.
The liquidators of Netbetsports.com, Grant Thornton say the ideal situation would be if legislation was passed which forced gambling companies to hold clients’ monies in individually named bank trust accounts. This, Hannan says, would be expensive, but would offer rock solid protection for the customer. Grant Thornton offered some useful advice, such as betting on credit cards (not an option for most US bettors), as that would allow them to recover their stakes, if not their winnings from the card companies should the betting site go under. Regular withdrawals would also reduce the risk, the company said.
Hannan, however, goes for the Calvinist approach to all things Internet, recounting the familiar litany of Internet filth, fraud, and deceit. But he’s missing the point – which is, proper regulation can and will prevent such abuses, and protect the punter. And hopefully, that’s exactly what will happen when the UK government finalises its gambling reforms.