Withdrawals of Large Balances

Latest posts by Man of Mystery (see all)

The recent SBR report about a Betfair slow pay of over $3million gives plenty of food for thought. (This article is about the first half of the video only.)

The first thing to say is that I don’t think Betfair are really in the wrong here. It’s not their job to offer financial advice, and if someone wants to let their balance increase to 3 million or more and then withdraw the lot in one transaction, if their T&Cs allow it (many bookies don’t) then they should follow that instruction, and that is what they did. The issue is with the payment provider (not named by SBR), and it is not hard to see why.

Moving large amounts of money around is not easy due to money laundering regulations. The definition of “large” varies between different financial institutions, and even changes at the same one from time to time. There was one point last year when I wanted to move some money between 2 of my own accounts at different banks, and was faced with an upper limit of £5k a day unless I was prepared to pay a £25 fee. £5k is not even enough to reach the current cash ISA limit – imagine if you wanted to move enough money to buy a house! The bank concerned (HSBC) has since increased the limit to £10k. 3 million is in a completely different ballpark.

There is an added complication in the SBR case, which they only hint at, but which could well hinder matters further, and that is currency conversion. Quite why a Russian player is using pounds I am not sure – maybe he was playing poker and opened an account in pounds, but it certainly wouldn’t help.

While none of us are particularly likely to ever have the problem of how to get £3million out of Betfair, there are some lessons to be learned from this. Like anything else a degree of common sense is required. In the current global financial situation, unless you can’t help it because you are in the middle of a WR, I would be very wary indeed of keeping a balance above about 1k in any single bookie. If you are arbing you are clearly going to need more at the exchange but I would keep this as low as you can reasonably manage. I would personally be unhappy with more than about 10k in Betfair.

Planning ahead is a good idea. Be aware of the bookie’s withdrawal limits and policies. Many bookies allow one free withdrawal a month, so if you are building up a big balance, use the month’s withdrawal to take out a sensible amount of money so that you don’t get left with a large balance to withdraw all at once from an account that has been limited. People sometimes ask whether a withdrawal will flag your account – I have no evidence either way, but leaving an increasingly large amount of money in a bookie doesn’t really look like punter behaviour to me.

Most bookies will only allow you to withdraw to the place you deposited from, although some allow deposits by card but require withdrawals to be by bank transfer. You should always consider which is the best deposit option for each bookie – this will vary depending on whether there is a bonus with restrictions, what methods they allow etc. If all else is equal moneybookers is usually faster than debit card for withdrawals, but you should be aware of any outgoing limits on your moneybookers account and consider applying for VIP status if you are moving a lot of money about.

Betfair is unusual in that you can have upto 3 different cards registered and can also use other methods to deposit and withdraw. The only caveat is that you can’t withdraw more to one payment option than you have deposited until all outstanding deposit amounts have been returned to other deposit methods. So if you deposit 5k by moneybookers and 5k by bank card, and have a balance of 7k, you can only withdraw 5k to either one of these and have to use the other method for the remaining 2k. However, once you have covered all your deposits you can withdraw to any method you like.

If I had been that Russian, and a Pro player should really know this, I would have split the withdrawal between several different payment providers. He may still have hit limits with such a large balance (he probably should have thought about this as his balance was increasing and taken action), but it is likely that he would have got back much more of the money much faster this way than by trying to withdraw the whole lot to one place in one go.

My advice, which you will have heard before, is never allow a balance at any bookie (or exchange) to get out of control. This advice also applies to services such as Paypal, Moneybookers and (when you are talking about very large sums) to banks. I would personally be reluctant to keep more than a couple of k in Moneybookers for example, apart from for a short time when the money was passing through from one bookie to another. Moneybookers does not have the same FSA protection as a UK bank – I believe only 1k is protected, although I stand to be corrected. The current protected balance in a bank is £85k – see this article for more details about what constitutes a “UK bank”. Spread your money about – its much safer that way for all sorts of reasons.

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