Ladbrokes are one of the biggest players in bookmaking, not just in Australia, but across the world.
With a highly visible marketing strategy across racing and major sports, they quickly established the Ladbrokes brand down under, as well as acquiring and maintaining local brands in Betstar and bookmaker.com.au.
All of which was great, unless you were one of those punters with half a clue.
In the age of much-maligned ‘risk management’ practices by corporate bookmakers – limiting and closing accounts of anybody who dared win a bit of cash – Ladbrokes have been one of the worst offenders.
They’ve quickly earned a reputation as a ‘mugs only’ operator, swiftly cutting off anybody who showed a bit of judgement. It’s perhaps not surprising given this method of operating is known as the ‘UK way’ of doing business, and Ladbrokes’ history is deeply rooted in Britain, where they were formed all the way back in 1886.
When we ran our Betting and Bookmaking Survey back in March, Ladbrokes rated worst among punters in this area.
Asked to mark each bookmaker out of five on their willingness to take a bet, punters gave Ladbrokes an average score of 2.6. This ranked equal last with ClassicBet amongst the twenty bookies included.
Furthermore, when asked if each bookie had ever closed their account or limited their bets, a whopping 57% of punters who had a Ladbrokes account responded in the affirmative: the highest total of the 20 bookies.
Banned for winning
Such was my own experience with Ladbrokes. After a winning run a couple of years ago, I was informed that my account had been restricted: no fixed odds betting would be offered on racing, sport or anything else.
That was the end of it. There was no further explanation offered.
I couldn’t even bet on NSW Racing, which at the time was the only state with minimum bet limits in place. When I protested this, I was told my account could have NSW racing fixed-odds restored after I had gone through a verification process (despite the fact I had held the account for some time already, and had gone through the initial ID checks).
I had to provide further certified ID documents, and provide statutory declarations that I was, in fact, who I said was – and who’d I’d always been when betting with them.
My account was finally re-opened for MBL racing, though it’s pretty clear the whole tedious, unnecessary process was a delaying tactic used to try to ward off unwanted punters.
From there on I barely had a bet with Ladbrokes. We’re not exactly short on bookmaker options in Australia, and it was rare that Ladbrokes had the best available price on NSW racing anyway. My dealings with them were largely confined to sniggering at the ‘Up for the challenge’ and ‘Who will you bet against!?’ advertising.
Until last week.
Change of heart
I noticed Ladbrokes were promoting on Twitter that they were now accepting bets to win $100,000 on the 2018 AFL and NRL premierships… which I found pretty odd. So I decided to ask the question again:
I see you’re betting to win $100k on footy premierships (10 months out), are you ‘up for the challenge’ of a $5 bet on today’s races @ladbrokescomau? Or do you have to be dragged kicking and screaming with min bet laws? Logged out v logged in pic.twitter.com/bJxexLcPSj— Mark Haywood (@hayw0od) December 13, 2017
It was just a whinge, basically. I certainly wasn’t expecting a reply. But to my surprise, I was soon contacted by a member of Ladbrokes management to inform me that my fixed odds had been switched back on.
I took a look, and so they had. Amazing. I’m again able to bet pretty much anything on Ladbrokes… for now anyway!
Win for the punters
There’s been reports of similar things happening to other punters recently, so it looks like a genuine and very welcome change of approach by Ladbrokes Australia.
Why? Who knows? But we can speculate.
We do know that Ladbrokes Australia’s results have been largely positive of late, with solid growth in revenue. So it’s of course possible that there’s more room to move on wagering margins, and the company can afford to be a little fairer when it comes to taking bets.
Also, as we’ve spoken about recently, there’s a fair bit going on in the marketplace at the moment. The looming TAB-Tatts merger is finally set to go ahead, creating a betting behemoth. Neds has also arrived, which is sure to provide strong competition to Ladbrokes in particular – it’s been set up by former Ladbrokes Australia CEO Dean Shannon, who has some former Ladbrokes staff on his team.
Competition is stronger than ever, so to ensure continued growth, perhaps some bookies are looking at ways to secure a share of the market that they’d previously dismissed?
Whatever the reasons, it’s a very welcome change and hopefully will provide punters with another genuine bookmaker who’ll take a bet. Frustrations remain, but things have come some way in the past few years.