This weekend saw arguably the biggest betting sports event of the year, the Grand National, take place. No doubt many people would have laid money on their choices for this annual event. To some of those people this would be just another race that they would have gambled on.
To be someone who dabbles in the gambling world is not uncommon these days, even more so since you can now place bets from the comfort of your own home, or even when you are busy out and about with a smart phone. Most bookmakers have apps and new ones have been born primarily on the internet. When watching any sporting event you will no doubt see an advert showing how easy it is to place a bet on your mobile phone or tablet. The amount of adverts for different bookies shows that they are doing very well with these new methods of gambling.
But this has bred a new phenomenon on Twitter; the tipsters of Twitter. Tipster accounts offer betting tips for sports, mainly horse racing and football. They post tips to their followers in attempt to win money. On the surface it seems great. A community of people earning that extra bit of money in hard times against the big bad wolf bookies.
However behind this, all is not what it seems. Yes there is a nice community feel and sometimes money is won. But this platform has spawned twitter accounts who have taken advantage of regular punters. Playing on their hopes and their wallets. Before I go on I am not talking about all 'tipsters'. But it seems that the vast majority are out to make a quick buck from the punters.
Here's how it generally works: these accounts post their 'tips' either on Twitter (sometimes Facebook) or on their website. The followers see this and place their bets on the same selections. Money is won or lost with the common sight of 'BOOM!' attached with the winner of the horse/football match in capital letters. Or if there is a losing tip, silence follows.
A lot of them will tell you of the great achievements they've had. The big winner they had the other day, the four day good run of results. This sucks you in. You think 'well I could win too'. But when you take a closer look at their websites or Twitter feeds, you find no real evidence of their results. You may find results of some of their winners, but not their losing tips. I have personally seen one tipping account set up a new website, with a results page waiting to go, only for it to be taken away from the site a month later. A losing month.
It almost seems like something you should expect from such a service. You would like evidence that if you were to place money on an event with the advice of an 'expert' you would want to find a return for your money. There should be evidence of this, yet most do not provide this. In fact I have seen only a handful of these tipsters actually post results and only one does it daily.
But this issue seems to be overlooked. If questioned about their past results a typical response would be 'well talk to our happy followers/members' with a few loyal followers who may be doing well that week chipping in telling them to politely make like a tree and get out of here.
But again this is not the biggest problem that has hit this new wave of gambling. Not only are people aimlessly pouring their money away on tips they have seen on Twitter, no, some are even paying for the privilege of losing their money.
There are now many accounts that have a paid membership service where you pay a monthly fee for tips. Their reason for charging? To pay for the hours of work and research that is put in to provide for winning tips. In other terms, to quote the Joker in The Dark Knight, "if you're good at something, never do it for free". If someone was to like a Twitter account that charges for tips and has won money from them then they will play along.
Now let's talk numbers. If say only a third of the follows of an account with 6000 followers pays a monthly membership, which is usually £10. That's £20,000 in a month. Obviously not that many people will have a membership. Say even 50 people do. That's 500 extra quid in your pocket, Win or Lose. Very lucrative indeed.
Of course this has not gone unnoticed within the betting community on Twitter. Free tipsters and followers have backlashed against paying for tips when, if you are that good you shouldn't have to rely on payment from others. Those hours spent doing the research will pay off if your tips win. So why charge for tips? A perfectly valid question. However, some free tipsters now see themselves as martyrs for not charging.
Then there is another problem. Some are actually affiliated with bookmakers. They promote their websites and any special offers that they have. Whether they get paid by the bookmakers to do this or not is unknown. What makes this worse is the hypocrisy of these accounts that use the hashtag #bookiebashing and yet work for/with them.
So what can be done about this? There is a website online that has taken some tipping accounts' tips in a league format to judge how successful they are. But is it really that clear? And there are hundreds of accounts not on this list.
Recently a betting Twitter police has arrived recently in two accounts. They have named and shamed some of the accounts that are worst for either charging or just generally losing. Once again as expected some backlash has arisen with people asking who is behind these anti-tipster accounts. Some have accused them of being punters that are hung up on losing some money, so are taking it out on them via an alias (something I somewhat expect to receive for writing this article). But for as much as I agree with what they are doing it is hard not to be skeptical about them. Who are the people behind these 'betting police' accounts. 'Who watches the watchmen?'
Incidents like scam Twitter accounts are the reason there is a taboo around gambling. I have seen family members look at me worriedly, or angrily, if I check how my accumulator is getting on or if I watch a horse race at night. The taboo exists and maybe some of it is for reasons like this.
Twitter or social networking for that matter cannot be blamed. There are too many incredible things to have come out of Twitter to blame it for people losing money. You have to also argue that these accounts are not taking money off punters from Twitter. Money is not exchanged via the little blue bird. Tips are there to be ignored in the same vein as another Justin Bieber fan account. Memberships are not bought on twitter.
For a community of people who are interested in a hobby like sports betting, Twitter has been wonderful and in some cases won people some money. But sometimes all is not what it seems and when money is involved, the house always wins.