What User Information Do Betting Companies Monitor and Track?

data monitoringIf you are a sports or casino bettor then the likelihood is that you will simply create an account with one or more brands, verify and deposit money into that account and then proceed with placing bets or playing games. We don’t really look into things much more than this but those who are curious or concerned about privacy may wonder what these betting companies do with the information that they have on us.

What exactly do they monitor about your time spent as a customer at their site(s) and why? Plus, what is it about this information that they gather which allows them to flag specific accounts and potentially proceed with limiting,  blocking them or blacklisting them? Naturally, a betting company is looking to make money from the services it provides, and if you are a player who is frequently winning, this does put a bit more of a halt on them doing so. Therefore, it is not uncommon for your winning frequency to be tracked and then your account restricted due to consistent wins.

Yet, there are various other reasons why platforms track and monitor all their registered users, mainly to enforce safe and responsible gambling. They do this through different means and so here we are going to be taking a look at some of them and discovering what information this provides to the betting company and how they protect and use this information.

Why Do They Track Information?

information trackingWhat is it about betting companies that makes them want to track and profile their members? Well, obviously bookmakers and casinos need clients to be able to earn their money. However, they are much more interested in those players who lose frequently. Winning bettors obviously have to be paid out and that money is something that the sportsbooks and casinos don’t want to part with if they can help it.

Yet, when you really get down to it, these bookies really already have quite the advantage to start with. They create the odds and the lines, and that is what you as the bettor have to work with as a member of the platform(s). They set up the rules for using their betting services, they can also cancel your bets and they have the ability to limit stakes and payouts for wagers. They also have the possibility of limiting your account with no reason given, lock your account and even hold your money for an extended period of time while requesting various documents from you in the process.

A lot of the information that is tracked and recorded from you is for legal reasons. For example, a gambling company needs to know your location to see if you are allowed to gamble from where you are, they need to verify who you are to make sure you are over 18 and you are a resident and they need to monitor the way you bet so that if you do develop a problem they can flag this up to you and hopefully help you avoid addiction. 

The fact remains though that almost every single thing you do from the moment you login is tracked, every click you make and how long you spend looking at the site or various pages.  Most of this info is not used directly for responsible gambling purposes and is actually simply used to profile you.  This can be beneficial in the sense you are likely to be offered more applicable markets and promotions but at the same time it is also invasive and allows companies to select customers on the basis of how profitable they are.

Naturally the companies with the biggest resources and biggest number of brands have the most power in this area. Well-known companies can keep track of your spending habits and winnings at their sites, they utilise complicated computer programs and large teams to monitor you. These teams are usually known as “Risk Teams”.  In recent times many of the biggest betting companies have merged to create multi-billion pound mega corporations that have tens of brands associated with them, if you sign up with any one of these brands it is likely your data will be shared between the other brands you have an account with.  For example, betting with Coral doesn't mean that Ladbrokes won't also be privy to the data they collect about you.

How Does a Betting Company Monitor Its Users?

location tracking

There are multiple ways that a betting company will keep a track of you, and some of these things are in use throughout the online world, so it is not just something that is adherent to bookies and casinos:

Location and I.P. Address

Your I.P. address will usually be tracked. This is partly so that you can’t open multiple accounts from the same I.P. address/household/family/location etc. Should someone else at your location want to open an account at the same online betting site from the same address this can create issues with many examples of accounts being closed down when this happens. Some companies will let you have multiple accounts with the same I.P. address but you may need to jump through some hoops initially to prove these are not duplicate accounts.

The main reason your I.P. address is tracked though is so they know your location.  This is important as when you gamble in the UK you are doing so with UK licensed betting companies who have to follow certain rules, in other countries rules are different, gambling may not be allowed or the company you are betting with may not operate there.  Largely, location tracking is done as a legal requirement but of course that does not mean your movements are not tracked to profile you too.

In theory you can use a VPN to mask your I.P. but companies know this and can often tell if you are using one, even if they can't it will contravene the terms you agree to when you join so if you are caught expect a closed account and bets to be voided.

Cookies

Yes, we have all heard about those cookies that our computers make use of. Cookies come into play with every single website that you visit, so each time you visit the Bet365 or Ladbrokes platform for example, that visit is logged. Whether or not you are logged into that site as one of its members, it knows you are there. Some countries require you to accept the cookies before you can proceed, while others simply notify you about them being operative.

Cookies essentially log everything about your visit, from the time you arrive to the different pages of the site you click on and on to the amount of time you spent there. As any frequent online user will then notice, the advertising and marketing promotions on your screen will automatically change. If you had been browsing through fashion websites in the early morning, the ads you’d see when you visit Google for example, would reflect offers for such. If you then choose to load up Paddy Power in the afternoon and spend 15 minutes there, once you come away, you’d see advertisements for the same website and other related ones. Naturally, this is to keep you reminded about the betting companies and is an important part of their advertising.

There are benefits to the user, cookies allow sites to load more quickly and can save you resubmitting data each time you visit, but again, largely, cookies are used by the companies more so than for the user.

Clicks and Time Spent Online

Sites know exactly how long you spend logged in and they know how long you spend looking at markets or gaming they also track every click you make.  They use this information partly to tailor their product to you but also to flag up if you are spending a lot of time online or betting or if you are clicking around a lot you may be betting out of boredom.

Many sites now have activity alerts or similar warnings that tell you how long you've been online or how long you've been gaming.  This is again to help find people with signs of problem gambling but it is also used to profile you so they know how you like to gamble, when you like to gamble and where you like to gamble. 

Other factors can also be flagged up, such as if you usually bet in the evening but suddenly start to bet in the morning or the middle of the night, which again could indicate an underlying problem.

Duplicate and Unique Accounts

it is important for online sites that you don’t possess more than one account as well. While the IP address factor above will help with that, you could simply open an account up from a home computer and a work computer. Which is why when you do register for a new account, it is compared with all others on the system to ensure that you don’t have multiple accounts.

Your telephone number, address, email address, date of birth and everything else you enter when registering will be compared. Any similarities will be latched on to and quickly disposed of in most cases.  To open a duplicate account that would not be suspicious you would need a false name, address, DOB, documentation, etc., which more than anything is fraud and could land you in trouble with the law as well as the company if found out.

Stakes

Here is where the companies can bring in a bit more of their own control over your account. At the beginning, when you first open an account, everyone has the exact same staking level. Should you then proceed to start winning bets on a frequent basis, there is a strong likelihood that your staking level will be reduced. On the other hand, if it is discovered that you are not very good at betting on certain sports, your staking level will be increased. Should you find that you are able to place significantly lower bets on rugby than you are on golf for example, consider how frequently you have won or lost on those two sports.

This works as an alternative to banning you completely, because if you can bet more on sports that you frequently lose on, the sportsbook stands a bigger chance of gaining the funds. If the opposite is true, then it is because the bookie isn’t looking to see you receive a big pay-out from betting on something you are frequently successful with.

Staking is important when it comes to safe gambling too.  If you are betting £10's a week and suddenly start staking £100's or £1000's it suggests there could be an underlying issue and they company will then likely try to contact you to check this is something you can afford and may limit or suspend you while they do this.

Tipping and Trends Betting

There are stories about people who decide to create a sort of personal tipping competition between themselves. Generally speaking, with trend betting, it involves a group of friends who all bet on the same type of selections at the same time of day.  With the modern popularity of social media the numbers involved in this had soared.

This is readily noted by the sportsbook via an engine that compares bets. If a group of people bet at the same time on the same event, alarm bells start ringing and it is plainly obvious that they are from the same tipping service. For this reason, it isn't particularly advisable to become a part of this, if one punter in the group is good at betting this could reduce the stake that any part of the group can place on that due to their connection to the tipping service.

Arbing and Matched Betting

Arbing is a system of exploiting odds differences between bookmakers to ensure you make a profit.  Of course if you are betting with two brands that are part of the same group and share information then this will be quickly flagged and you will be limited. If, however, you bet with two independent companies then you may think this is difficult to track and you will get away with it but in reality these sites employ software to track people who may be arbing.

There are signs they look for, such as staking amounts that are not whole numbers (e.g. £76.38 rather than £75 or £80) as arbing requires specific stake amounts to be used that are relative to the odds to guarantee a profit.  There are other indicators too, such as people who login, go straight to a market, bet and then leave.  These type of people often spend little time on sites and never use promotions. Exchanges do not often care about arbing as they take commissions from all bets.

Matched bettors are also tracked and while the first few may get away with it if there are a lot of new accounts signing up placing similar bets and amounts then it is likely you will not have that account for very long.

Banking and Fraud

It is not just your bets that are monitored so are your deposits and withdrawals.  One thing that often be flagged as suspicious is if you use several banking methods to deposit and withdraw, which could suggest criminal activity.  Many sites have a closed wallet system for this reason, meaning you must withdraw using the same method you deposited with.

Of course with deposit limits these days people can opt-into a system that limits their deposits and that means a lot of people do not end up depositing an unusual amount but the fact is many people do not opt-into these limits.  If you are someone who usually deposits £10's and you suddenly start depositing £100's or £1000's then this will be flagged up and they will likely then restrict your account and try to contact you.  One thing they will want to know for any significant deposit is why you suddenly are gambling with so much more and where the money came from.

Companies can ask about the source of your funds as it is a legal requirement to check this for larger amounts to prevent fraud.  For example, you wouldn't be allowed to bet with funds sources from a personal loan, money that doesn't belong to you or money received through credit.

Promotions and Enhancements

It is interesting that betting brands give customers a huge amount of incentives to bet with them yet in reality if you utilise these too much you are likely to be limited for promotion abuse.  Companies want you to use promotions to get you on site but they also want you to then bet normally too to make them more likely to earn money from you.

If you use too many promotions or most of your bets are on enhancements then this will certainly be tracked and if you do it too often many companies will then limit you.  Tracking use of offers also naturally has its uses internally so companies can review what customers like or do not like but most of this tracking is used to flag up customers who use promotions too much.

One common example are people that play free prediction games with bookmakers or who use free spin initiatives but do not often place real money bets.  These people tend to find themselves limited or shut down pretty quickly, although this is common of all businesses not just gambling firms.

Necessary Responsible Gambling Tracking

betting on sports app at homeAll online gambling companies are expected to promote responsible gambling and see that bettors they suspect to be at risk of falling victim to gambling addiction are provided with the necessary assistance. Obviously, without tracking your betting activity, this is not something that they are able to do unless you were to reach out to them yourself.

Fortunately, if a sportsbook or casino is legal and licensed, then it is likely that it will have tracking software which provides them all of the necessary information on how long you’ve been betting, the amounts you’ve been betting and so on. By gathering this information and analysing it, the bookie is able to approach the customer about their time spent gambling.

it is something that the United Kingdom Gambling Commission has spent its time trying to further reinforce in recent years, as several instances have been discovered where platforms haven’t been following responsible gambling guidelines. One of the most popular online gambling sites 888.com, was fined £7.8 million for failing its members, after it was found that one player was able to place 850,000 wagers worth over £1.3 million with money stolen from their employer. Several other circumstances saw other gamblers able to either gamble despite being at risk or place bets exceeding the norm. 888.com did little to stop this from happening.

Therefore, without collecting data about your gambling activities, there is no way that an online bookie would be able to prompt you on your time spent online betting or the amount that you have actually wagered so far. This is why most legitimate bookmakers will also have links to various problem gambling organisations, like Gam Care and Gamblers Anonymous – to provide their vulnerable bettors with a route to take in these circumstances.

There are also other instances where gathered information can be used, such as if fraud or criminality is suspected. This data can then be used as part of any proceedings against the user.  There are also instances where accounts are hacked or used by others without permission (including minors) and the fact the betting company has a profile on you means that they are more likely to spot this and potentially stop it if it happens.

Privacy Policy on Data Collected

privacy policyIt is also important that you are informed of the site's intent to collect data and what it will do with it from the very first moment. This is where a privacy policy comes into effect. Naturally, when you sign up for an account, you are asked to enter your name, email address and various other details to create your account. Information is generally always collected from you when you enter information into the site.

How does the sportsbook utilise this information? Well, the general idea behind it is so that it can personalise your experience while using the sportsbook. Additionally, platforms may request you to answer short surveys on the usability of their websites, in a bid to improve them for your convenience.

How Your Data Is Protected

Your personal information and data are kept secure behind highly safe networks and it is only made accessible to a limited number of persons who have special access rights to this. These people are required to keep that information completely confidential. Any sensitive information you provide (such as when depositing through a debit card for example), is encrypted through Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology at the best online betting sites. This means that it is kept as safe as possible from hackers and other such issues.

As part of that same privacy policy, it should be made clear that platforms cannot sell, trade or transfer your data to third parties. While this doesn’t include website hosting partners and others that assist in the operation of the websites in general, this is only shared if those parties agree to keep the information safe and confidential themselves.

If an online sportsbook doesn’t have a privacy policy that you are able to view in full, then it is recommended that you don’t register for an account there. If you do, you are at risk from having your details shared with an innumerable amount of other places and people.

Can Your Offline Betting Also Be Tracked?

betting shopIf you walk into a betting shop or casino and place a fairly low stakes bet in cash then as long as you are over 18 (and you can prove this if asked) then there is not much the company can track about you.  The reality today though is more and more people are betting with cards and this gives even land based premises the opportunity to track you.

Linked reward card schemes have also become popular, the idea being you can bet in a shop or casino and link this to your online account.  This allows you to do things like deposit and withdraw from an online account in cash and companies often give you enhanced rewards for using these schemes.  Of course, what they are getting for this service and these rewards is your data, allowing them to track what you do both online and offline.

Even if you bet in cash if you always bet in the same shop or casino then you will be recognised by the managers who will track information about you to some degree, for example, if you are always winning from one shop or casino then even using cash is not going to stop them form barring you.

The only way to truly bet anonymously is to bet in cash and at different locations, but that in itself is such a hassle compared to the ease of online betting that most people wouldn't go that far to protect their data.

Conclusion

data trackingTo put it bluntly, your data and information regarding not only your registration and account activity, but everything that you do at an online betting site, is stored. For the most part, the utilisation of this data is done so as to protect you and your activity at the site, especially where responsible gambling is concerned.

Of course, it is also the policy of bookies and casinos that you don’t possess and use more than one account. Therefore, they track and monitor you for this reason as well. Essentially, tracking and monitoring of accounts should generally work as a benefit to both sides. Naturally, the company will probably place much more of a focus on its efforts towards boosting its own status. Yet, with the sturdier ground that the Gambling Commission of the UK and those in other jurisdictions are taking now, as much effort should be put forward by these platforms for both sides.