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01 Nov 16 15:40
Date Joined: 28 Jul 03
| Topic/replies: 1,097 | Blogger: reb's blog

Article by Aaron Rogan

Paddy Power accused of using social media to spy on punters

Paddy Power Betfair and other online bookmakers are building profiles of customers by using intrusive online trackers and social media background checks, The Times has learnt.

A legal expert has said that the companies may be in breach of privacy laws because they do not make it clear to customers how information was gathered and used.

Campaigners and sources within Europe’s biggest online gambling company have claimed that unfair tactics are used to prevent successful gamblers from winning and to push losing punters into betting more. They said the tactics were widespread in online gambling companies.

One senior source who worked in Paddy Power before its €1.3 billion merger with Betfair this year said that traders who operated on risk-management teams often carried out background checks on social media and looked at people’s homes on Google Maps in an effort to determine their likely income.

“You check who they’re friends with and what they like on Facebook to see if they have good connections. Everyone does that. If a guy is betting a lot you want to see where he lives. That’s what you have to do in your job, your bonus is affected by it,” the source said.

“If someone is betting a lot you look up their account and see what you can learn about them. If they’re having big bets and live in a normal house, you want to know if you’re taking their inheritance off them or if they’ve built up a big bankroll to play with.”

Another source said that background checks were a “grey area” that were not requested by senior staff but known to happen.

“You’re never told to do it but if you work in trading rooms it’s a small world. You’ll ring up a mate in another trading room and say, ‘Listen we’re taking a hit, do you know who this guy is?’ You use whatever information you can get your hands on,” the source said.

This information is coupled with data gathered by software trackers, often without the customer’s knowledge, in order to build a profile that determines how they are treated.

In the trading room punters are tracked by software and marked as low-risk or high-risk. Those who are deemed to be “losers” after a few bets are pushed towards online casino games and given incentives to keep betting on the games that guarantee returns for the bookmakers. Those who win are restricted in the amount they can bet or barred from betting at all.

“It is highly sophisticated and the biggest thing is it’s not a fair game on both sides,” a source said.

The industry has claimed that it needs to install software on customer’s computers and smartphones to prevent money laundering and account fraud but campaigners have said that the information is used for a much wider benefit to the bookies.

Brian Chappell, founder of the campaign group Justice4Punters, said the tracker sold by Iovation, a United States company, is legal but bookmakers do not provide a clear explanation of its use and put it on computers without expressed consent. The cookie is used by Paddy Power Betfair, **** and Skybet, among others.

Mr Chappell took a successful case against Skybet to the UK information commissioner this year over its use of Iovation. The commissioner ruled that Skybet was likely in breach of data protection law because it was not clear what the tracker did and it was not essential for the use of the site. Mr Chappell said that other bookmakers such as Paddy Power Betfair and **** were the subject of similar complaints to the commissioner.

“It is a standard practice across the bookmakers. The best way to think about it is a jigsaw where every piece of information obtained is like a piece to give a full picture,” Mr Chappell said.

“This information is then used to restrict and close accounts, but there are other implications. This information could be used to stop problem gambling.”

Bookmakers introduced online tracking in the last ten years to stop successful customers who had been banned because they won too much from reopening accounts under the names of friends and family members. It has since been claimed to be used to share information about gamblers across the companies who use it because it is a third-party software, which the companies deny.

“The bookmakers have created a monster. They have created it by restricting and effectively banning all customers with any sort of ability whatsoever; you don’t even have to win,” Mr Chappell said.

“Iovation itself is not illegal, but the way bookmakers use it is, because they do not provide people with a clear explanation of what it does before downloading it.”

Daragh O’Brien, director of Castlebridge, a data protection consultancy firm, said that background checks could be used for risk management if the practice was disclosed by the company. However, social media background checks do not appear on the privacy statements of Paddy Power Betfair or ****.

“The fact they’re digging around needs to be disclosed up front,” he said. “The key to the Data Protection Act is that if you’re not stating what you’re doing clearly then you are probably in breach of it.

“Managing risk is a legitimate practice and using software is fine but you need to be transparent about that. I can see why bookmakers wouldn’t want their customers to know how they make sure they have an edge but the law is clear that you have to be transparent.”

Paddy Power Betfair and **** refused to comment on their risk-management procedures. Both said they did not breach any data protection law or share information with third parties other than as disclosed in their terms and conditions.

“Paddy Power Betfair has a longstanding policy of not commenting on risk-management processes, as they are commercially sensitive,” a spokesman said. “However, you can take it that they don’t share trading information with other operators. For the avoidance of doubt, Paddy Power Betfair is not in breach of data protection legislation.”

A **** spokesman said: “**** does not share customer data with any third party except for those purposes clearly stated in our terms and conditions. As a matter of policy **** does not disclose details of its risk-management and fraud-prevention procedures.”
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Report TheChaser November 1, 2016 5:37 PM GMT
“grey area”

best place to live so it is
Report Kelly November 2, 2016 12:43 AM GMT
A lot of the stuff in this article fits what a lot of us know about ( and no doubt some have experienced ) . I know for a fact that many years ago one prominent bookmaking chain set about identifying "losers" with a view to exploiting them .  Would not have been too difficult that exercise for anyone with a brain and access to customers accounts / betting patterns .

Regarding sharing of information among bookies my own evidence is that restrictions/ closure all happened within a relatively short time frame , after years of normal betting being more or less allowed .  Hardly coincidence .

But there are no rules for bookies , despite the fact that they are "licensed" . Voluntary stuff does not work , never will where the almighty dollar rules the roost .
Report Vubiant November 4, 2016 10:25 PM GMT
The moral stench from this is overwhelming.  There must be several grounds on which bookies are guilty of unfair trading if someone who knows the operation of punting would hire a smart lawyer and take a case.
Report Eddie Batt November 4, 2016 11:15 PM GMT
Interesting thread -not hard to see a class action of some description in the next few years.My own pet hatred is the fact that withdrawals are still not processed 24 hours plus after the initial request-I took this up with betfair customer services and they told me that it was something that customers had asked for -they denied that it was profitable for betfair until I explained the maths to them.They are providing an additional service to punters which just happens to be profitable for them but they haven't found a way to allow any individual to opt out.
Everyone knows that throughout the industry you can lose thousands without being asked to verify your identity but win a few quid with a new account and you can't withdraw it until you have jumped through hoops.
Personally I think the Irish government should put manners on the bookmaking industry and not just allow them to squeeze mugs.
Report BigRob1 November 4, 2016 11:41 PM GMT
Paddy Power have turned into a vile company , what bugs me is they muscled in on the small shops who took a bet with their money back specials and free tea and coffee but now wont take the decent bet the small indie would have .

I tried to place a bet on the Olympics 3 doubles and a treble but was told in shop it was singles only on that  market only to discover when l got home that online they did accept multiples on the market ,it cost me a decent payout .

I wonder if instead of moaning online if l objected to their next licence would l get anywhere,, theres a boyles facing them so no reason for 2 bookies on the street .
Report Eddie Batt November 4, 2016 11:51 PM GMT
Vile is right-ironic when you consider the reason they were initially set up was to take on the big English bookmakers and their restrictive practices.
Report padlock April 20, 2017 10:38 AM BST
Lovely PP shops now like a gambling creche ,accepting bets from teenagers ,noticed this happening daily in shops,kids who look about 14-16 years old ,seen a neighbours kid in one of the shops age 15 gambling .Dont they id people ? Guess its not a good business decision to check id.
Report insideinfo April 20, 2017 10:49 AM BST
as long as you're losing its not a problem..rob a post office,steal from your wife and family to fund your habit,remortgage your home,they dont care.though back a few winners and that all changes.
Report workrider April 20, 2017 12:11 PM BST
At Cheltenham yesterday I was astounded when a bookie asked a customer what age he was before accepting a £100 wager off him,guy said he was 24,looked more like a 17yo.Fair play to the bookie .
Report kincsem April 22, 2017 3:08 AM BST
I hardly bet at all here, and almost nothing with PP.
Can they keep finding new customers?
Report Catch Me ifyoucan January 6, 2018 10:05 AM GMT
Don't they issue cards now to keep you 'loyal'
Report Catch Me ifyoucan January 25, 2018 7:23 PM GMT
Report roadrunner46 April 13, 2019 7:02 PM BST
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