Online bookmakers are signing up teams of social media tipsters to partnership deals in which they make money when they post bets that lose.
Social media teams are receiving 20 to 30 per cent of money lost by gamblers
The practice may be in breach of consumer protection laws. The Facebook and Twitter accounts are part of “affiliate deals” that pay tipsters 20 to 30 per cent of the money lost by gamblers who open accounts with bookmakers or place bets after following links. The social media accounts often post up to ten bets a day and suggest how much should be gambled on each one.
The phenomenon has become increasingly popular in the past two years and some accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers. Most accounts do not make it clear if they are an affiliate of betting giants or that it can be in their interest to post losing bets.
John Carroll is the chief executive of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland, which has published guidelines on companies using third parties to promote them on social media. Mr Carroll said there was an onus on both the company and the person running the account to ensure that people knew the relationship between the two.
“When engaging with influencers, it is unethical and illegal to pay for space, endorsement or positive comment without that being clearly declared as such,” Mr Carroll said.
“In particular, it is illegal under the Consumer Protection Act for editorial comment to be used to promote a product if it is not made clear that the promotion is a paid promotion.”
Chris Meredith, who runs the Casual Gambler website that reviews tipsters, has said that half of all online tipsters are affiliated with betting companies while others who charge fees for gamblers to receive information are not.
Mr Meredith has been critical of a number of accounts affiliated with major bookmakers, which he claims lose on purpose. He said that the only way for affiliated accounts to make any money long term was for their followers to lose.
“I can take a tipster who loses on the odd occasion, but if their only intention is to take advantage of their followers and make money from their losses they need to be ousted,” Mr Meredith said.
Mr Meredith has also highlighted cynical practices of some tipsters deigned to maximise the money they make from their followers losing.
One such tactic is to encourage followers to reinvest small wins over and over again in order to create a larger bankroll, which is then wagered on a high-risk bet. If the bet does win by chance the account can then use that credibility to encourage their followers to bet the bigger amount again, ensuring they get a cut of the eventual loss.
Another source, who monitors the accounts of online tipsters but did not wish to be named, said that some people who ran accounts willingly misled punters to make it seem as though they were in profit in the long run.
“They lie and encourage irresponsible gambling that way and by retweeting slips of those who stake huge amounts on tips that win. One account claims to have made a certain amount on a chain of low-odds bets but that total never changes. It hasn’t done for months in spite of huge losses,” the person said.
“There are so many out there who are earning from bookies they’ll do almost anything to get people on board — loads of matey, blokey banter and slick marketing. Just like the bookies in fact.”
Another source with knowledge of affiliate deals and who works with a large bookmaker said that the deals were originally made with sports sites and blogs to encourage them to post links directly to bookmakers.
“The deals were largely pointless unless all the stories on the site were punting related. Now they’re used by social media accounts who only post about punting so it’s a different game,” the source said.
“A sports site or blog isn’t going to ruin their credibility by posting losing bets all the time but with a Twitter account you can just start a new one. To be honest it doesn’t even matter if you post losing bets all the time because some of the worst accounts still have the most followers.”