Sign On the Virtual Dotted Line

Signing up to betting sites

How important is the sign-up process when you are opening an account with a sports betting company?

As Italian operators worry about more stringent sign-up requirements being imposed by a new government, and Polish operators demand simpler sign-ups, we open two accounts – to find out just how long it takes and just how easy it is.

On Monday, we reported on a 13-year-old boy who had lost £80,000 ($107,000) of his father’s money betting online, after seeing an ad at Wembley Stadium. “It sounded like fun and I thought I would make money too,” he said.

Rather more ominously, he added, “It was just far too easy. I just had to put in dad’s name, address, date of birth and checked a box saying I was 18 – it took literally seconds to register and start gambling.”

Yesterday we covered the new Italian government’s plans to take draconian measures against Italian sports betting companies – including the possible introduction of a far more onerous sign-up procedure, which the betting companies fear will see them lose clients to operators in different countries where sign up procedures are, to use the 13-year-old boy’s words, “far too easy”.

Polish employers also alarmed

This morning, the focus shifts to Poland, where the government has come under attack from Pracodawcy RP (the Polish employers’ organization) which has accused the Ministry of Finance of “making it difficult to develop the bookmaker market” and hindering local operators’ ability to compete with internationally licensed gambling sites.

Specifically, the employers’ group accused the ministry of making no progress on allowing local operators to offer a simplified account registration process for new customers.

With the World Cup fast approaching – the first game is a week tomorrow – there is clearly going to be a betting bonanza. Gamblers want to place bets, and online sports betting companies clearly want the new business.

You would assume that governments would like the tax revenue as well – the Polish government charges a 12% tax on betting turnover and the employers were quick to point this out. But it appears – for now at least – that Polish bureaucracy will win out, and local gamblers will be placing their bets with non-local companies.

Why sign-up is so important

Simply put, because the longer it takes to open an account, the more likely a customer is to abandon the application process – however attractive the sign-up offers – and open the account somewhere else. With people increasingly conscious of how much information they give away following the introduction of GDPR, this trend is only going to increase – so sports betting companies are going to want an ever more simple and streamlined sign-up process, even if regulators want otherwise.

There is no question who will win the argument – there are now so many operators registered in places where a simplified sign-up is perfectly acceptable that sites with long, drawn-out application processes will unquestionably see potential customers voting with their feet – or their fingers and a mouse.

Does it literally take seconds?

There is, of course, only one way to test the hypothesis. So, this morning I opened accounts with BetFred, an online bookie in the UK offering me a £30 ($40.50) bonus if I bet £10 ($13.50) on my first bet; and Matchbook, a betting exchange which is fast emerging as a rival to Betfair. How long did it take me? And what information did the sites ask for?

Signing up with BetFred

BetFred asked me for all the standard information – name, address, date of birth, card details. I needed to choose a username – someone had already taken my dog’s name, how unfair is that? – and a password. I then registered a debit card, made a deposit, and I was ready to place my first bet. How long did that all take? Four minutes and two seconds: not quite the “literally seconds” quoted above, but it was a very simple procedure, and at no time did I feel like abandoning the process.

Matchbook

Matchbook took slightly longer, simply because the site didn’t auto-populate as much as BetFred’s site did. But I was still ready to place my first back or lay bet within four minutes 45 seconds of going to the site. Like BetFred, the site asked me for all the standard information, and the obligatory first school/mother’s maiden name/favorite sports team.

In both cases, I was surprised at how little was required in the way of security – my standard password was rejected by both sites for being too complicated. Neither site asked for any additional verification of my ID (such as a passport number, for example) and yes, signing up was remarkably simple.

It is therefore easy to understand the objections of both the Italian sports betting companies and the Polish employers’ federation. Sadly, it is also very easy to understand how a 13-year-old boy from Lancashire was able to lose so much of his father’s money so quickly.