As the NFL regular season enters its third week, ESPN and ABC have reported that William Hill US regularly bans sports bettors who win too much. Banning handicappers who can beat the house spread is a legal practice in Nevada, but it is one which is getting criticism from news sources.

William Hill US brought the practice from the United Kingdom, where the subject is a hot-button issue. William Hill owns 108 of Nevada’s 128 sportsbooks and betting shops, while it owns more sports betting venues than any other bookmaker in the United States. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to repeal the PASPA federal ban on single-game sports bets in 46 states, the topic is now more relevant than it had been in the past.

Brian Chappell, founder and president of the UK advocacy group Justice for Punters*, warned US sports bettors of the battle head. Chappell said, Americans should be worried. It’s coming.

In fact, blacklisting consistently good sports bettors already happens, though it is not well known among the United States betting community. Gambling on sports has been so restricted in the United States that most American gamblers are unaware of the trends — those that will change for many soon.

Joe Fortune Blacklisted by William Hill

Joe Fortune, a profession bettor (“handicapper”) who bets at the Las Vegas sportsbooks, said it is already happening in Las Vegas. Fortune said William Hill US is the worst offender, as it brought the practice from the United Kingdom.

Fortune said, “In our world, our community, everyone knows you’ll get thrown out of there.”

Another anonymous sports bettor who said he had been blacklisted by Wiliam Hill said, “It’s not even really close. They’re by far the worst.”

Joe Asher Makes the Decision

According to ESPN’s Chalk, William Hill US’s CEO, Joe Asher, makes the decisions on who to ban in a business meeting once a week. The ESPN piece stated, “Joe Asher will scroll through a list of accounts, flagging any that stand out as potential threats. He will then ask his team of traders why they should continue doing business with these customers.”

“The traders, sources said, regularly resist, promising that a player ultimately will lose back all their winnings and then some. Their resistance, however, has not prevented hundreds of bettors from being put on a list that prohibits them from betting with William Hill in person or on the company’s mobile app.”

While Americans might be shocked to learn they’ll be banned if they’re too successful, the practice would not suprise UK bettors in the least. In the UK, banning skilled sports bettors is old hat.

UK Sportsbooks Ban Winning Bettors

That doesn’t mean it is without severe critics. Steve Donoughue, a UK gambling consultant and head of an all-party parliamentary group which oversees gaming, said the practice of banning skilled gamblers is prevalent — and sometimes preposterous.

Mr. Donoughue said, “Yes, bookmakers are severely restricting or closing accounts for what appears to be the fact that these people are winning. The hilariousness of it. is that they restricted one of my member’s accounts, and he’s a Lord.”

Another U.K. sports bettor added, “If you try to win, they don’t let you play anymore.”

Las Vegas Casinos Banning Card Counters

Of course, experienced bettors who visit Las Vegas casinos should not be surprised. Las Vegas Strip casinos have blacklisted blackjack card counters for decades. Card counting is a skill used in blackjack to gain a temporary edge over the casino. The count involves the percentage of high cards and low cards in the blackjack shoe.

When a card counter knows that the shoe is full of certain kinds of cards, they increase their bets by a significant amount — perhaps from $10 to $100 bets. This gives the card counter an effective edge in the game against the casino. While the theoretical edge is small and the card counter still can lose, high rollers can take a lot of money from the casino. What’s more, the casino likely cannot make a profit off a card counter.

Casino Can Accept Your Business or Not

Counting cards itself is not hard. Fooling the casino’s dealers, pit bosses, and security cameras is the hard part. A card counter has to keep an accurate count while pretending to be an inebriated high roller, all the while varying bet sizes at just the right time. It isn’t easy, so most card counters get spotted. Those who are consistently successful are put on a blacklist. Card counting isn’t illegal, but casinos have the right to allow individuals to wager or not.

That is the ultimate law in a casino. Management can escort you to the door anytime they want to. Casinos can keep records of your betting history and decide whether they want their business. It’s that way in blackjack. It’s that way with edge sorting in baccarat. And increasingly, it’s that way with skilled handicappers in sports betting.

Can William Hill Weather American Outrage?

The question is whether the practice of banning successful sports bettors will hurt William Hill and its fellow sportsbooks in the United States gaming market. Public perception varies in different countries, even two countries with so many similarities like the United States and UK. Americans might have a different reaction to the news casinos only want their business if they lose money.

More importantly, the US gaming industry has to mount successful lobbying efforts in dozens of different states to be able to accept sports bets. At the moment, only Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, and Mississippi have legal single-game sports bets. While William Hill’s lobbyists are trying to convince US lawmakers to legalize their sportsbooks, they must manage public perceptions about the social and individual costs of gambling.

While they talk about consumer protections and responsible gambling to the officials who hold the future of their industry in their hands, US bookmakers might be called out for predatory behavior by the general public, the sports media, and the gaming media. Even the news media might get involved in the act.

William Hill Statement on Wagering Bans

It is a thin line bookmakers like William Hill may walk, which is why William Hill US issued a press release countering the narrative. William Hill said in its press release, “It is completely false to say that we ban people simply for winning. There are literally tens of thousands of customers in Nevada that are winners at William Hill. That’s one of the great things about sports betting — a lot of customers do win.”

“In the rare situation where we do prohibit someone from wagering with us, there are a variety of reasons why. They include the sharing of accounts (usually tied to someone who previously has been banned), betting on behalf of third parties, screen scraping and other efforts to ‘game’ the system, as well as compliance reasons or being offensive to staff and/or other customers.”

*Note: NFL sports bettors in the United States should know that “punter” is a term for a gambler in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Brian Chappell does not lead an advocacy group for American football players who punt.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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