What Happens to Dormant Accounts and The Money In Them?

pocket watch with money half buried in sandBetting is one of those activities that some of us do on a daily basis, while for others it is a lot less of a frequent. There may also come a time when we decide to take a break from it, and there could be several reasons behind doing that. The idea in most players’ minds is that they can just return to a betting account at a later date and utilise the money there to continue gambling whenever they want. Well, that is not alwats strictly how it works, as you need to ensure you’ve logged in at least once within a certain time period or your account could become dormant.

After all, a casino or sportsbook won't just keep your account active for an indefinite amount of time when you’re not using it. If the time does arrive for an operator to suspend or close your account because of inactivity, what happens to the money in them? And furthermore, does a dormant account remain closed forever after that? Or can you return there and have it re-opened? Let’s take a look at what happens to dormant accounts and the funds, if any, still held within them.

What Exactly is a Dormant Account?

dormant word definitionWhile there isn’t specifically one set description of what a dormant account is in every gambling jurisdiction, there is a general consensus behind it. It is sometimes the case that an online casino or bookie will set its own terms around what defines a dormant account. That can make it a little more confusing, but it just stands as another reason to become familiar with the site terms and conditions.

However, the general explanation of an account being dormant means that it needs to have met the following criteria:

  • The player has not logged into their account for a set period of time. The UK Gambling Commission defines 12 months as being the minimum for an account to be labelled as dormant.
  • The player has not placed a bet on any game or sporting event for an extended period of time.

Effectively money from gambling accounts is kept separate to the rest of the operators business, this is actually a legal requirement of their license.  If your account becomes inactive it still costs an operator to administrate you account and those funds need to be kept within the main players account.  By making your account dormant the operator is not seizing your money, rather they are separating it off from the main part of their business so they can administrate more easily.

Where things can get a little sneaky is once your account becomes dormant an operator can begin to charge fees on your account balance for it's administration.  The longer you do not log-in for the more any account balance will be eroded.  The fees charged and the frequency of charges differ a lot between brand but will be found in their T&Cs.  These terms have to be reasonable too and if they are not you may have a case for compliant, although making and account dormant and charging fees is standard practice.

How Do Dormant Accounts Occur?

sleep iconsThere are many different explanations as to why some people allow their gambling accounts to become dormant or abandoned. One of the most prominent reasons is people who end up opening multiple accounts at various platforms. Their betting activity moves around as they seek out the best offers, odds and games. Once they have found the right site(s) for them many then abandon the remaining ones, often leaving active funds in some of them - although in most cases this would be fairly low amounts, perhaps under the withdrawal limit.

Some other explanations as to why certain accounts become dormant include:

  • With the marketplace being very competitive, customers will move their activity between operators to take advantage of special offers, more favourable odds and loyalty schemes. The practical outcome of this activity means that some accounts won’t be used as often as others, or not at all.
  • The vast number of introductory offers for newcomers means that players are encouraged to create new accounts elsewhere, which may not actually be utilised beyond that welcome offer.
  • Some people may utilise online accounts at times of large events. This applies primarily to sportsbooks, so when Grand National or the World Cup come around, they may return to their sports betting account. These accounts may seem dormant, but they’re actually being used as much as the customer wants.
  • Some players may work extended hours, spend long periods of time in foreign countries or experience a change in their financial circumstances. Perhaps the customer doesn’t wish to close their betting account in this instance, but it is left unused for a long period of time as a result.
  • Account holders may simply opt to not use their gambling account any longer.
  • The death of an account holder would make their gambling account go dormant if the operator was not informed by someone else.
  • People who place ante-post bets months or years in the future, these can end up being paid out but the account holder forgets about those winnings.
  • The account is simply forgotten about by a user who later remembers they hold an account with the brand, perhaps because they changed email addresses or notifications from the brand did not reach them and were sent to spam.

Procedures For Money Left In Dormant Accounts

piggy bank lying in bed dormantA December 2010 report, which was constructed by then Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, looked at dormant accounts in detail, as well as unclaimed winnings. The report looked into whether or not the money involved in these situations should be put to use in order to fund better sports provision.

When a customer hasn’t used their account for a set period of time, it is standard practice for the operator to try and contact the owner of the account. This is usually done by email in the first instance, but telephone contact can also be attempted if the player has left such contact details on their account for use. If the gambling platform manages to get in touch with the player, then they would be encouraged to reactivate their account. Special offers can sometimes be offered to players in order to provide additional incentive to do this.

However, alongside this, many operators also charge an administration fee. This is charged at the discretion of the operator, with some opting for a 10% charge per month on any unused money in the account. This is presumably there as a way of getting customers to actually use the money in their accounts, and to reflect what operators may see as their increased operating costs. This ultimately means that over an extended period of time, the remaining funds will dwindle down until nothing is left in the account.

In a similar fashion, UK operators place the money held in a betting account into a ring fenced account. This minimises any financial risk with the customer’s funds, as they are kept separate to any business funds. However, at the same time, it usually provides the betting company with a profit boost as well, because any money left within an online betting account generates interest for the company.  The company itself can not however use that money for it's own purposes.

Of course, this relates solely to the United Kingdom. Other countries or licensing jurisdictions may have their own specific procedures for dealing with dormant accounts and any funds left within.

What happens if the procedures in place to contact the account holder are unsuccessful and money remains in the player account? Well, betting operators claim that after a variable time period and through an accountancy procedure, the funds will simply revert to their own profit line. Once they have been included there, they are liable to tax and levy contribution as is the norm for gambling business income.

In most circumstances though, terms are set up for the funds left within dormant accounts by the operator. While it is common for the funds to be added to the income of the company after a set time period, it is also possible that the money will be redirected to the Gambling Commission fund instead. If this takes place, then the money also cannot be redeemed by the player at a later date, because it is no longer possessed by the gambling site. In other cases, the funds will be donated to charities of the operator’s choosing – sometimes, gambling addiction organisations will benefit from this outcome.

Why Do Operators Make Accounts Dormant?

little men using tools to unlock a roll of money

The online gambling industry is, without a doubt, highly competitive. This means that there are many online betting sites that provide services to players. As a result of this, active players end up opening many accounts at different sites. Some of them will be utilised regularly, while others will be left alone for long periods of time and then eventually abandoned.

It costs a gambling operator money to service your account, too. The payment system fees, and regulatory fees are imposed on its operation. After a certain period of time has passed, an online casino or sportsbook is not obliged to service the account, and as any money-safe business would do, it closes off any leak where money is essentially being lost.  It also allows them to removed the money from the players account into their own business accounts after a period of time.

Reactivating A Dormant Account And Redeeming Funds

restore funds money with circular arrowsIf your online gambling account has been left alone for a couple of years and you remember that you had deposited into it and left some money there, what do you do? Can that money be redeemed? And if you want to start using the account once again, can it be reactivated at any time?

Well, it is usually the case that there is no issue with reactivating your account. This is often a simple case of you logging in to the account and then making a deposit into it or, if the money is still present in it, using that to place a bet. That is the policy at Paddy Power (at the time of writing), where if your account stays inactive for 13 consecutive months with a positive balance, a monthly charged is applied. However, if you access it again while the balance remains in the positive, you can make use of the funds to gamble or even withdraw them.

Of course, if you’re unsure whether your money is refundable or not, then you need to find this information out. If it is available and refundable, then this will be done by the online betting site itself or, in some rare instances, but the gambling authority in question. You’ll simply need to contact them, and they will provide you with instructions on how to proceed with claiming your money back.

If a site has since closed down or migrated to a new platform that required people to sign up then you may end up losing your money.  If the site was purchased or is now owned by someone else you can contact them and ask if they will pay back any monies owned, but largely that is at their discretion.  If a brand has gone bust and you get in touch in time you can make a claim for any money left in the account with administrators, but don't hold out too much hope of getting all or indeed any of it back.

Know The Dormant Account Policy In Advance

know the rulesIt is always a good idea to find out about the dormant account policy of the gambling platform that you are already signed up to or that you are considering joining. That’s not to say that you are definitely intending to leave such an account in an inactive or dormant state, but this information is always good to know about.

To find out these details, it is usually the case that you can simply browse through the terms on the website itself. Dormant account policies are often found within the terms and conditions of the platform, and if you don’t want to scan through every single section of these, you can simply search for the term ‘dormant’ or ‘inactive’ to highlight the specific areas.

Once you have located the necessary information about dormant accounts, you’ll need to know what the casino procedure is for handling such accounts. Plus, any relevant information about how it processes remaining funds within such an account, too.

If it comes to a point of you not being able to find the details out, then you should feel free to contact the customer support team. For a speedy response, you should contact them through a live chat function, if this is provided.

The terms and conditions of a gambling site must also comply with the rules set out by the Gambling Commission as well.  It is not legal for a site to state that an account is deemed dormant after one month of inactivity, for example. If the gambling licence held by the operator requires accounts be deemed dormant after a 12-month period only, then it is not legal for the platform to make the period any less than this. Naturally there is little wrong with the casino extending this period beyond the 12 months, at their own discretion.

Some people may suggest that casinos and sportsbooks operating online can abuse the rules. However, this is a very rare outcome, if it ever has been the case at all. Players aren’t really prone to forgetting about money in their betting accounts, so it is only in a few instances where dormant accounts with money left in them are found. What’s more, online casinos and the like aren’t really that eager to discourage their potential customers from playing more at their site.

These facts are essentially a reason why many players don’t even consider checking into the rules surrounding dormant accounts at gambling sites. It is usually the mindset of most people that they won’t leave an account with money in it. And if they have no money in an account and it is placed into a dormant state, what’s the harm in the end?