Bowler accounts are in the news of late.
Punters Stephen Fletcher and Darren Azzopardi have been charged with fraud over their use of bowler accounts, or more accurately, ‘dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception’.
The charges stem from a 2014 Police Integrity Commission inquiry. It found that after being banned by most bookmakers, Fletcher and Azzopardi used the identity of a string of police officers to open betting accounts and punt in their name.
Most of the police were paid by Fletcher and Azzopardi for the use of their identity.
What is a Bowler?
A bowler account is indeed a very simple concept. When banned or severely limited by bookmakers from having a bet, the punter opens an account under somebody else’s name and bets through that (hopefully with the bowler’s permission!).
It’s largely the only way to get around restrictive bookmaker practices.
Is it legal? Well… we don’t really know. Fletcher and Azzopardi have been charged, but any court case would have to play out first.
Do bookies like it? Not in a million years. There will be fine-print in their terms and conditions specifically prohibiting it. They ban or limit a punter because they don’t want to deal with them.
If a bookie discovers a bowler account (which can be extremely difficult from them to do), it will be shut down instantly… and expect to have a battle to get access to any winnings in the account.
How bowlers work
Actually, using a bowler account goes far beyond just using somebody else’s name.
A bookie can potentially identify the user of an account based on any and every piece of information they have about them. If any of these items looks off, or matches another account, they may have grounds to suspect bowler activity. The information bookies have is easy to identify if you think about it:
Personal information: name, address, phone number, email address.
Funding information: whatever you use to deposit and withdraw cash to the account – credit cards, bank accounts, PayPal accounts and anything else.
Connection information: this where you access the account from in terms of both device (desktop, tablet or phone), and the internet connection (fixed line, wifi or sim card). These things identify you to a person at the other end of a transaction, and if they match between two accounts, it could raise a red flag with a bookmaker.
Minimum bet limits
MBLs have of course made an enormous difference to the ability of punters to get on. They’re now in place in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, with Queensland not far away. South Australia and Western Australia have made the right noises about getting on the MBL train too, so the rules may cover all Australian racing soon.
Even if they ban you on everything else, minimum bet limits ensure horse racing is protected from such activity. A bookmaker MUST accept your bets to win an amount up to the limit specified. It’s part of their agreement with racing authorities.
So MBLs have taken away some of the need to use a bowler account for racing. For everything else however, there’ll remain many restricted punters for whom a bowler is the only way to have a bet.
Of course, national minimum bet limits on all wagering would remove much of the need for bowler accounts. Further to that, they would largely achieve the government’s desire to stop punters taking their business to overseas bookmakers.
Unfortunately, despite the strides that have been made, that doesn’t look to be on the horizon at the moment.