What are dormant betting accounts?

A December 2010 report, by the then Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, looked in detail at dormant betting accounts and unclaimed winnings and whether the money involved should be used to fund better sports provision.

The term “dormant accounts” usually only applies to online or telephone betting. When a customer signs up to these services, they must create an account and verify their age.

Dormant or abandoned accounts can occur for a variety of reasons including:

  • customers creating numerous accounts, finding a favourite, but not formally closing other accounts
  • customers moving their activity between operators to take advantage of special offers and loyalty schemes – meaning some accounts are not used very often
  • changes in financial circumstances or lifestyle
  • forgetfulness
  • the death of the account holder

How much money is involved?

This isn’t known. In the course of preparing his report, Don Foster asked the betting operators he spoke to for a financial breakdown of the amounts of money involved in dormant or similar accounts. The majority refused, either on the grounds of commercial confidence or because they claimed to be unable to produce the figures.

What happens to the money at present?

If a customer hasn’t used his account for a period of time, the betting operator will make contact and encourage him to reactivate the account. If this doesn’t happen, the funds in the dormant account will revert to the operator’s profit line.

Don Foster’s report concluded that:

there is a strong case to be made that as long as every reasonable effort has been taken by the betting operator to contact the person and get them to activate their account or to collect their winnings, that good causes have a better call on those sums of money than the betting operator’s profit line

A number of more detailed recommendations were made.

Coalition Government response to the report

The then Government said that it would consider the recommendations of Don Foster’s report once it had legislated on remote gambling (i.e. the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 which came into force on 1 November 2014).

In March 2015, the Coalition Government said that it would consider the recommendations once the changes introduced by the 2014 Act had “bedded in”.

Government position

In February 2016 the Government said that it “keeps under review ways to support investment in good causes, including the recommendations of the Use of Dormant Betting Accounts Report”.

Further Reading

Debate packs are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issues being debated and identify any relevant briefings including press and parliamentary material. A more detailed briefing may be prepared for a Member on request to the Library.

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