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Bookies can’t lose on Mastercard punts – The Sunday Business Post 07/06/2009

Bookies are sometimes characterised as being sharks who will take your money quickly and skilfully. One way of getting punters’ cash, though, is unquestionably objectionable. It is the two-faced system pertaining to Mastercard accounts on bookies’ websites.

For reasons best known to itself, Mastercard (and its issuing banks) has implemented a fatwa on bookmakers and casinos re-crediting Mastercard accounts with prize money.

However, the credit card company has no objection to its customers spending money with bookies (as it then earns interest on late payments).

Knowing this restriction, how have bookmakers responded? Have they put a big notice on the front page of their websites saying: “Attention: winning bets from Mastercard transactions cannot be refunded to Mastercard accounts’‘? Have they put such a notice anywhere on any of their websites? Not a bit of it.

Instead, unsuspecting Mastercard punters are told the following when trying to claim their prize: “We require you to fax, post or e-mail detailed proof of identity information, including a passport or driver’s licence, a copy of the relevant credit card and a recent utility bill.”

Of course, anyone with a cursory knowledge of identity theft knows that this is a recipe for privacy disaster. And even if it’s a safe transaction, the hassle of having to dig out a passport (or re-applying for one if yours is out of date) and a utility bill is surely something that bookies should inform their customers about in a prominent fashion.

Funnily enough, no consumers’ rights organisation in Ireland seems particularly troubled by all of this. A spokesman for the National Consumer Agency said that, while the practice was “potentially misleading’‘, it was not a matter that it could deal with, referring the complaints to the Financial Regulator instead.

Calls to the Consumer Association were not returned and a small organisation known as Value Ireland said that it had no position on the matter.

Adrian Weckler

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