Graduates are turning to professional gambling as a steady career

No Dice

Some millennials are turning gambling into a career. But what about those who don't beat the odds?

27th October 2017

In 2017, the dwindling “British Dream” (yes, apparently that’s a thing) seems a long-lost relic of prosperous eras past. For so many of us, the thought of owning a home is all but a distant pipedream.

Graduates leave university over-qualified and under-skilled. Nowadays, a degree is less a ticket to a high-flying career, more a symptom of an overly-saturated labour market – one in which there isn’t enough top-quality work to go around.

The threat of rising tuition fees (despite the PM’s dubious “uni-turn”), sky-high rent and extortionate postgraduate fees are driving today’s students to look for new ways to make ends meet while at university and studying abroad.

But gone are the days of the lowly Saturday job – increasing numbers of students and graduates are turning to online gambling to ease their financial hardship.

Bonuses

There are lots of resources online for those starting out in professional gambling. “Profit maximising” sites and bet exchanges (where users act as bookies, collecting cash and paying out on certain events, known as “laying off”) are increasingly popular. Combining these methods with bookies’ introductory sign-up bonuses can guarantee a tax-free return on investment and huge profits, and cost nothing.  

Tom* used to spend a few hours a week betting with multiple accounts while he was studying abroad. He used the method of laying off bets and taking advantage of introductory offers.

He says setting accounts up took just a few minutes, inputting basic information like his name and address. “It’s not hard to find a list of online bookies and hit them one after another,” he says.

“The often time-consuming part of the set-up process is the verification which requires the user to upload a copy of their passport and a utilities bill or bank statement as a confirmation of address.”

With permission, he used family members’ details as well as his own, and estimates he had between 65 and 80 accounts on the go at once.

“The first set of secondary accounts I set up were in my sister’s name. I explained what I was planning on doing and she had no objections. Especially as I set up a new email address and free ‘pay as you go’ SIM card with a new phone number so she wouldn’t be bombarded with promotional texts and emails. Once I saw a return from the ‘new account’ promotions on the accounts in her name, I offered her a kickback.

“My stepdad has even expressed interest in getting involved and suggested setting up an office at home with multiple monitors so we could work more efficiently, as there is a lot of shifting between accounts, logging in and out, depositing etc.”

Risky

Betting companies don’t make it easy though. The terms and conditions of these free bets and bonuses often require the winnings to be re-staked multiple times before betters are able to withdraw them. Players who win a lot might also be flagged up in the bookies’ systems and have their stakes restricted.

Plus, gaming the system is risky – it’s technically fraud and can come with a prison sentence.

It took time to learn the ropes and required organisation but wasn’t difficult to master, he says. “For those who have the capacity to sit and learn a system and persevere through the difficulty of nailing down the process initially, it becomes second nature.”

it was easy money and practically risk-free

Tom says the £5,000 he made in a year was only a fraction of what he could have made, had he committed more time. “This isn’t a true indication of how lucrative it can be if a user makes the effort to spend a couple of hours a day on it. But nevertheless, it was easy money and practically risk-free,” he adds.

Owen* made about £3,000 in online poker rooms and analysing football form to make calculated bets online, which paid for a gap year.

“Jobs for 18-year olds don’t tend to be particularly highly paid or enjoyable, whereas playing poker was pretty fun and seemed a decent source of money,” he says.

Fixed odds betting machine
Fixed odds betting terminals are controversial. Image: Lee Davy

Though it was relatively easy money, Owen says he wouldn’t do it as a main income stream anymore as “it’s actually pretty antisocial and I think I’d be far too bored by it now”.

He says, though he was quite successful, it felt precarious – something highlighted to him when he won a substantial amount of money just before he went away. In fact, he thinks the gambling industry is hugely problematic.

“It’s rammed down your throat whenever you watch the football; it’s really easy to place a bet and online casinos are a complete scam, odds-wise, yet people still use them,” Owen says.

But he warns any gambler wanting to guarantee a return to stay away from things like fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in shops. “Seriously, those things are designed to pay out the minimum possible and yet people pour away thousands of pounds into them,” he adds.

Addiction

Dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling, FOBTs plague many addicts because they offer high stakes which are hard to refuse.

I have a manic high when I am gambling and I will go to whatever extreme to get money and make it happen

One problem gambler tells The Overtake how he’s unable to see a way out of his addiction. “I lose three hundred every day and I’m not satisfied until my money is gone. I have a manic high when I am gambling and I will go to whatever extreme to get money and make it happen,” he says.

“I have lost many friends and paid high stakes interest to borrow money. Life is hard. I don’t know what to do – this isn’t just a problem; this is a six-year struggle. I need help and I don’t know where to turn.”

However, campaign groups are increasing the pressure on bookies, which make billions of pounds a year from these machines, to reduce the maximum stake allowed. One individual who runs a Facebook group for gambling addicts says they think high stakes FOBTs might soon be banned.

“There is a real movement here in the UK and I think we are close to the decision. This time, the press and the gambling protection programs are in sync, and there is no way out for the bookies after 10 years of procrastination.

“Quite simply it should not be possible to walk into your town centre and choose from four, five, or 10 venues to bet £100 per 20 seconds on a machine. It’s inhumane and finally, finally – this is going to be a thing of the past.”

finally, finally – this is going to be a thing of the past

Gambling in one form or another has existed since at least the Palaeolithic period, meaning this highly addictive pastime is over 5000-years old. In the 24/7 internet era, it’s arguably harder for young people to escape than ever before, and more tempting. And whereas some claim to remove the risk from gambling altogether, for those lucky few who escape unscathed, there will be hundreds more who do not. For them, gambling is a cruel disease – one that people do not understand.

*Names have been changed

27th October 2017