Punters who place bets online may be gambling on their future
LONDON LETTER:Banks are beginning to take an interest not just in how much a mortgage applicant spends, but in what they spend their money on
BRITISH BANKS are beginning to look negatively at customers’ online betting habits. Almost £5 billion (€6.4 billion) will be bet on sport in the UK this year, fuelled by Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France victory and Euro 2012, while bookmakers believe the Olympics could be a focus for punters in a way that has not happened before.
Everything has changed since the Beijing Olympics just four years ago. Mobile betting is now freely available on smartphones, while Coral, for example, is offering bets on every single event, even synchronised swimming.
Spending, says Joe Crilly of William Hill, could be twice the 2008 amount. Many of the wagers will be laid online rather than in betting shops. But the paper trial this creates in deposit accounts or on credit-card statements could cause difficulties for punters long after the Olympic flame has departed east London.
Last week, it emerged that banks are beginning to take an interest not just in how much a mortgage applicant spends, but in what they spend their money on, with some now carrying out a full examination of bank statements.
Mortgage lenders will routinely order credit history reports from one of the main agencies – Callcredit, CreditExpert, Equifax or Experian – to check an applicant’s record of meeting their debts. But such checks do not tell the full story. Seven UK banks – Barclays, Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds TSB, Yorkshire Building Society and Santander – have all said they will request statements if they have any doubts.
Paperwork showing frequent payments to online bookmakers will raise eyebrows: “We have seen instances where evidence of regular gambling can have a negative impact on a client’s mortgage application,” says London Country mortgage broker David Hollingworth.
“It could prove to be a contributory factor to an application failing if the lender is worried about the borrower’s ability to manage their finances. Alternatively, it could be seen as a regular outgoing, and therefore reduce the amount that the lender will offer.”
Barclays says it reviews account patterns routinely once a mortgage application is received: “Should that review highlight a possible problem with gambling of any type then that may have an effect,” says a spokesman, adding: “The odd debit here or there is not going to be a problem.”
Despite its reputation as a buccaneering bank following the Libor scandal, Barclays has taken an interest in the details of a customer’s spending habits before now. Having identified customers who were getting into trouble with a missed direct debit here or a late payment there, it quickly contacted them. Surprisingly, despite the Big Brother-ish overtones, many were glad the bank had done so.