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A Professional Punter Calls It Quits.


I have had another email from professional punter Alan Potts, this one is a very sad summing up of how things in the UK gambling industry has become. He's sent it to relevant bodies. He's given me kind permission  to reproduce it here, an open letter. 

I backed my first winner almost sixty years ago, a horse called Vigo’s Slipper, a tip from the door to door greengrocer that I worked for on a Saturday. The race was a 1M 3F handicap at Catterick and the SP was 9/2 - my half crown each way produced a profit of about fourteen shillings. It was the start of a lifetime as a punter, a consistent loser for two decades plus, then several years of profit before becoming a full time player after redundancy aged 44.

In the 90’s I was mainly betting on course, then online as the internet offered new tax free options, eventually the Betfair exchange and the revolution that produced in the early years of this century. Once I was betting for my living, from 1992, my stakes were measured in hundreds and the annual turnover in six figures. On the exchange twenty years ago, single win bets of up to three thousand were placed, with an average stake of around eight hundred. 

My betting activity declined after I’d reached 65, becoming more of a hobby than the earlier need to pay the bills. But the stakes remained in three figures - it was what I was used to and I was, and still am, comfortable at that level. In all those years, nobody ever asked me where my money was coming from, nobody ever contacted me to discuss my betting and betting accounts were only closed or restricted if I’d been winning too much. I’d read about something called ‘affordability checks’, but didn’t take much notice as it could surely never affect me. Well I was wrong about that!

The first intervention came from the exchange in August, who arbitrarily set a monthly deposit limit of £500 on my account, then sent me an email telling me I needed to contact them. Which I did, using their online chat service, although the word ‘service’ hardly applied. They insisted that we should talk on the phone and when I explained that I have severe hearing issues caused by tinnitus and would prefer to use chat or email, that was interpreted as me being difficult and met with a threat to suspend my account and further reduce the monthly limit. That seemed to me to be a rather odd way to treat someone that had been a customer for 20+ years and as I don’t take kindly to threats, I told them to shut the account. 

I suppose if you set up a section dedicated to the ‘Safety and Wellbeing’ of your punters, the people so employed will need to harass customers to justify their salary. I still have absolutely no idea what prompted them to conclude that I might be, to use the popular jargon, a ‘problem gambler’. It was however obvious that continuing to talk to them would lead to demands for financial details supported by documentary evidence, which I’m unwilling to provide. 

Since then I have used three online bookmaker accounts that had all been opened many years ago and used only very occasionally. This was OK for a while, but  one has blocked my account recently after asking for evidence of identity and address which I felt was laughable on an account that had been in use for 25 years. The other two were OK, but pushed me  to set deposit limits, loss limits, take a break etc - all part of the ‘Safer Gambling’ theme. 

And now we have the details of the latest proposals from the out of control Gambling Commission, an outfit that would clearly love to add ‘Stop’ as a prefix to their title. And having read those, I have concluded that there’s no longer a place for a punter that regards a five hundred pound stake as a perfectly reasonable bet. I’ve emptied the last two accounts and I’ll no longer be betting online or over the phone. 

There are two points that were key to this decision. First, the fact that I would be willing to give details of my finances verbally, but the betting firms demand documents, which I regard as being called a liar - my word isn’t good enough. Second, the feeling that if I continue to bet online, Big Brother will always be looking over my shoulder, waiting to disapprove, wanting to stop me enjoying something which has been a major part of my life. 

All this in the cause of that daft oxymoron ‘Safer Gambling’, when the whole point of the gamble is the risk, As the great American writer on horses and betting, Andy Beyer, wrote:

“Most citizens live lives of such routine and drudgery and are so  concerned about security that they cannot imagine how delicious uncertainty is. A gambler may have as many periods  of pain and frustration as he does  of  exhilaration, but at least he knows he is alive”

But that reality is never going to  alter the views of the smug, self satisfied do-gooders that are employed by the Gambling Commission. 



Star Sports - Star Sports employ me on a freelance basis to produce #BettingPeople interviews and write blogs for their website via my own musings or reporting from the betting ring. They are also the firm that sponsor the English Greyhound Derby and are famous for laying massive bets. They offer a special guarantee for owners, they can back their own horse win £10,000 from 10am each morning and £20,000 off the show. They take bets over the telephone, via their app, on-line or on-course at the big meetings where they are in attendance. Star Sports offer a £25 matched bet when you first sign up. They are an oddschecker listed Best Odds Guaranteed BOG bookmaker. 


Bet Goodwin are another bookmaker for whom I have an affiliate deal. Now if you're the sort of person that likes a multiple on a Saturday or has a regular recreational punt Bet Goodwin could be for you. They offer BOG and all sorts of concessions to ease your pain if you suffer an unlucky loss, give them a go and get the warm glow of knowing that if you lose a few bob, I'm copping! Julian also puts a fair bit back into racing having a couple or three horses in training with Chris Gordon. Click on the banner below to join them. They are an oddschecker listed Best Odds Guaranteed BOG bookmaker. They offer existing customer free bets consolations. Click below to sign up. 



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