Can You Place Bets On Behalf Of Someone Else?
Imagine that you have found the perfect event to bet on. You are pretty much certain it is going to be a winner, but you can’t access a sportsbook to get a wager on before the event takes place. You instead choose to give a friend a call and request that they use your account to place the bet for you. They go ahead and make the bet, and as you suspected, it’s a winning one. The winnings are collected, and you go along as happy as can be. The question is, was everything that happened in that scenario legal? Can you really place bets for someone else and not suffer any consequence?
That’s what we’re here to look at today. You can probably guarantee that this process has happened numerous times in the past and it will probably take place again in the future. Does that make it right, though?
Well, in the circumstance noted, your friend would be required to log into your account and place that specific bet you requested. This is generally considered as an illegal action, as the account is in your name and you can only bet for yourself with your own money - you signed up to these terms when you joined they site. In this case your friend would be the fraudulent party and, if you had specifically asked him to place the bet on your behalf, you would be the colluding party.
However, what about if your friend had his own sportsbook account and you asked him to place a bet on your behalf through that? Isn’t that a different story altogether? After all, they are using their own registered account and the deposited money within. If it is a winning bet, they simply withdraw the funds from their account and hand them over to you. Well, it may be a legal bet placed in this instance, but there are still certain policies that this could contravene, namely using money from someone else to gamble with.
Most of these rules are in place not to make it hard for you to bet but because of the laws in place around gambling. Companies are legally obliged to verify the people who bet with them are legally allowed to do so (i.e. must be over 18 and be in the country when they bet) and that the funds used are legal. This is impossible in instances where other people bet on their behalf. It also discourages money laundering, as someone could ask you to bet for them, giving you a cut, in order to 'wash' dirty money.
Let’s take a look at the capabilities and possibilities of whether it is actually legal to place a bet for someone else.
A Bet Placed Through Your Account by Someone Else
Normally, the idea behind someone else placing a bet on your sportsbook account would start bells ringing. It stands out as being centred around someone fraudulently accessing your account and using the money within it to place bets. Of course, this is a slightly different case if you have asked them to place that bet for you.
However, in the eyes of online sportsbooks, this is still considered to be an illegal activity. While this may not really look like an issue to most people, sportsbooks would consider it a breach of their terms and conditions. That’s because within those terms and conditions, there is a stipulation that states third parties cannot provide the funds and/or proceed with placing bets on an account in a different name.
It was the case in June of 2016 when a 19-year-old student placed a stake of around £25,000 on 12 horses running in races a various locations. The bets were accepted at the Bet365 platform, which were a combined total of 960 £13 each-way Lucky 15s. The vast majority of these turned out to be winning wagers as well, and the total winnings from them equated to £984,833. Yet, the bookmaker refused to pay out the winnings to the student. It claimed that the original stake for the 960 bets had been provided by a third party, and this contravenes the platform’s terms and conditions.
Things became quite bitter at this point, with the student launching legal action against Bet365. The case was discontinued by her in the end though, leading many to speculate that a settlement was reached between both parties. The three-year legal battle probably left many people questioning the plausibility of the terms a many major bookmaker sites.
Most people who do this do it because they either can't access a site when they need to (e.g. no internet connection) or they are abroad and therefore cannot bet. While it may seem very innocent in these situations to ask someone to bet for you at the same time you are contravening the terms you signed up to and, if caught, you could end up forfeiting any winnings and having your account suspended.
At the more sinister end professionals or criminals will approach people to place bets for them as they either cannot themselves or they want to use you as a mule to wash dirty money. This is something that people may find attractive when approached but it is absolutely illegal and it makes you complicit, which may result in criminal charges.
A Bet Placed on Someone Else’s Account for You
In stark comparison, it would probably be very difficult for a bookmaker to track this kind of activity. You place a bet on your account, but it’s really one that someone else has asked you to make for them. Let’s say your best friend wants to bet on a horse race, but they don’t own a sports betting account. You do, so you agree to place the bet on their behalf through your account. There’s no way that a sportsbook could know that that verbal exchange has occurred between the two of your beforehand. This is a common occurrence each year with the Grand National in particular.
Furthermore, there isn’t really any illegality stance on this, either. After all, you’re the one who has logged into your account, you’re the one who has deposited money into it, and you’re the one who has made the bet. It’s also you that will withdraw the money if the bet wins, and there’s nothing to stop you from passing that money on to a friend or family member.
Yet, while this may not always be an illegal activity to engage in, it still goes against the general terms set out by most bookmakers. Your betting account must be used for your own betting activity and nothing else. The process of placing stakes for someone else, regardless of how good your intentions are in doing so, goes right against this condition. And while you probably wouldn’t be prosecuted if you were somehow caught doing this, wouldn’t it just be easier for your best friend to open their own sports betting account up? This way, neither of you are really doing anything wrong on the whole.
You may need to be living in separate places to be able to do so. If you and your friend were sharing an apartment or house, often you wouldn’t both be able to sign up to the same platform with many only allowing a single account from a single address or IP address. This is another term specifically laid out in the conditions of online betting sites.
This practice obviously happens and on a small scale with relatively small stakes it is unlikely to be flagged up. It gets more difficult with higher stakes as companies may need you to prove the source of funds and if this money has come from someone else they will not allow you to use it, if you lie about this fact then you are also contravening terms and the law and could end up in hot water.
The Non-Payment Rule
There is nothing to stop a bookmaker from denying you winnings if they suspect that third parties have placed the bets for you or you have placed bets for a thrid-party. Even if you have expressly discussed it with someone else, handed them the money to bet for you and the bet has won. Should there be any suspicion of a third party being involved, gambling sites can expressly refuse to pay out the necessary winnings. It’s actually become quite a controversial rule with many bettors.
These terms came into effect though, as in the past, bookmakers were frequently utilised for money laundering. Therefore, it is necessary for sportsbooks to monitor the money that flows through them. Of course, it would be insane for a platform to ask each and every one of its punters to verify where the money came from that they are betting with. Although it does happen from time to time and always for large sums, with gamblers needing to verify where the deposit came from in order to obtain a withdrawal, this is a common practice.
However, if a bookmaker suspects that the money in your account may have been deposited fraudulently or that criminal activity is occurring, it has the legal right to withhold your money. It is always a good idea to ensure that the deposited money in your account comes from you, and that nobody else transfers it for you. At least in this instance, you will be able to verify where the funds came from with little issue.
Using Professionals to Help
There are some people who don’t feel quite as comfortable with placing sports bets, and so may find it more intriguing to enlist the help of a professional. In these circumstances, they would hire a much more experienced sports bettor and give them access to their bookmaker account. The professional would then proceed with placing the sports bets for them, based on their own betting knowledge. Now, it’s only natural that this professional bettor would want some sort of payoff for their services. In those circumstances, they would likely take a commission from the winnings on your account.
It is for this reason that online sportsbooks state in their terms and conditions that only the account holder should place bets via the account. Using professionals to assist with this obviously provides you with much more of an advantage. That’s something that bookmakers don’t like – as it’s their general goal to ensure that punters lose more than they win. The term that only the account holder placing bets has the prime goal of cancelling this out.
Further to this, online sportsbooks will have specific teams of people and computer algorithms that are tasked with being able to spot dubious betting patterns. This includes patterns that look like they are made by professionals. Should you be believed to be guilty of using professional bettors to assist with your wagering, then your account could be limited or even shut down as a result.
Many terms and conditions state that the site is able to collect and process data about your game patterns, personal data, depositing of funds and other related information. This is done so as to prevent was is defined as fraud, collusion or other improper behaviour.
Do the rules differ when it comes to entering into a land-based establishment like a betting shop and placing bets? After all, you don’t need to have an account to be able to do so. As long as you’re of legal age, a bookmaker store will accept your wager on anything. If your brother requests that you go into the local Ladbrokes and place a £100 bet on the 3:00pm horse race at Ascot for example, there’s very little to stop you doing this.
After all, the bookmaker doesn’t know that the bet is specifically for your brother. In their eyes, the money is being handed over and the bet is being made. You receive the bet slip and if it wins, you can cash it in – or you can hand the bet slip over to your brother who can claim the winnings. Obviously, this is something that is a lot less able to be managed, as there is less data handed over to the bookmaker in a store.
The same goes for using professional bettors to assist with your gambling. A professional bettor could walk into a betting store and make five different bets for five different people they are helping out. The store wouldn’t really know any different. Unless he starts winning big every time, questions may be asked, or he may be restricted with the amounts he can bet.
All in all, to get away with betting for someone else, the likelihood is that it would be easier through a land-based store. This still doesn't mean that it is allowed though and all high street companies will have rules that you cannot do this. If you are caught you could face action.
On a low level between friends this situation occurs a lot, you can imagine someone asking 'are you going to the bookies today? Can you place this bet for me'. There are, however, instances where this practice is used to launder money and in those situations if caught you could end up facing criminal charges.
On of the lesser known reasons why stakes on fixed odds betting terminals were reduced in 2019 was because these machines were often used to launder money. A criminal gang would give say £100 each to 10 people and ask them to wager red or black on roulette at £100 / spin. With a 96% pay out rate those gangs, on average, could get back £960 of clean money for every £100 staked. The lower stake limits have drastically reduced this effect.
What About Betting Syndicates?
Betting syndicates generally relate to groups of people pooling their bets together in one. These may or may not be legal, depending entirely on the nature of the scheme in place. Of course, one person needs to proceed with placing that pooled bet in the end, and this could mean that they are labelled as the agent. This is especially true if they take a cut of the stake themselves.
Of course, lottery syndicates are very common around the UK and sometimes they’re officially encouraged as well. Where the legality side of things comes into play is whether the person collecting the individual stakes from each participant and then placing the bets is doing so and claiming profit at the same time. If that person does claim some sort of profit or gain from collecting the funds and placing the bets, then it could really be considered as an illegal activity.
Syndicates should simply occur without any gains for the person laying the bets. This is why sweepstakes for events like the Grand National are extremely common in offices. However, these are usually played for small stakes, rather than grandiose outlays. In this circumstance, such sweepstakes are classed as work lotteries, residents’ lotteries or private society lotteries, and they do not require a licence to take place.
All the money associated with a syndicate must be paid out as prize money, too. In the case that it isn’t, any profit must be donated to charity. Therefore, it is not illegal to engage in syndicate betting, as long as the terms are adhered to regarding such. This is even though one person is placing bets for several syndicate participants.
Still, many sportsbooks do not allow syndicate betting as this is still classed as third-party betting and they cannot do things like verify the source of funds and the legality of all the participants. Therefore, many choose to use bespoke services that are set up to allow syndicate betting.