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May-31-2007,
Sportsbooks Should Look to Book Transfers to Solve Their Processing Woes...By Jay Graziani

With sportsbooks withdrawals routinely taking weeks, if not months, a significant amount of money that could be contributing towards daily sportsbook handle is instead languishing in limbo. Players are skittish about leaving excess funds in their sportsbook accounts, and with good reason - this has always been a risky industry, and recent regulatory backlash by U.S. forces has increased the hazard substantially. With withdrawals taking so long to be processed, identifying books that have gone belly-up can take months, adding yet another layer of doubt in an industry plagued with misinformation. Players used to micromanaging their balances are now forced to keep a lot of money on the sidelines.

Of course, the easy solution is to keep the money offshore. The less interaction sportsbooks must make with the U.S. banking system, the better. For sportsbooks, keeping the money offshore means less hassle, less liability, and fewer fees to processing companies. For players, leaving money offshore results in less time that funds remain in limbo and less declined deposits. It also lessens the chances of Alberto Gonzales or the IRS snooping around a player's private financial transactions, for those that might be concerned about such things.

Sportsbooks should be doing all they can to encourage the money to stay offshore. One way to achieve this is to make book-to-book and account-to-account transfers the norm rather than the exception. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

Surprisingly, the list of established sportsbooks that refuse to make any kind of book-to-book transfer is stunning. Among them are two of the biggest "recreational" sportsbooks around: the VIP group and Sportsinteraction. Other books allow transfers, but make them much more inconvenient that they need be. Skybook has a minimum of $5000 for book transfers, essentially boxing out the smaller players upon which most sportsbooks depend to grind out a profit. Bookmaker (aka "CRIS for Yankees") charges an almost unbelievable $100 fee on book transfers, a service which is essentially free for them and undoubtedly cheaper than processing other deposit methods. Most books that are allowing transfers also offer it to only a limited number of partners, restricting its usefulness.

The books that are, however, encouraging internal or book-to-book transfers are reaping the benefits. Players are actively managing their accounts between The Greek and BetJamaica, or between Matchbook and WSEX. 5Dimes allows sportsbook transfers with a minimum of $1000 and no fee. The Greek lowers the minimum to $500 and also processes them free of charge. This has acted as a big incentive and has grabbed the attention of offshore players. When getting money offshore is tough, why not send it to a "one stop shop" where you can use a betting exchange, traditional sportsbook, and poker room, transferring money between all three with just a click of a mouse? Or instead, a family of sportsbooks that allows you essentially to have access to more than one set of lines with just a single deposit?

There are obviously some downsides to increased book-to-book transfers, mostly relating to players skirting the rules regarding bonuses, free deposits and payouts, and other issues commonly associated with the less savory of offshore players. These can be overcome by greater vigilance and some minor policy changes on the part of sportsbooks. There are of course other complications relating to the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the sportsbooks "settling-up" with each other, but that is not the concern of the players, nor should it be.

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the thought of sportsbook owners that they are giving away business by allowing transfers out. That is a shortsighted outlook at a time where long-term thinking is essential for the industry. While outgoing transfers may seem like missed opportunities, what it will do is encourage growth of the entire industry, a rising tide that will lift all ships (or at least the competent ships).

In the days after Pinnacle's exit from the U.S. market, sportsbooks were aggressive in trying to get Pinnacle money into their sportsbooks via book transfer, even offering bonuses to incoming transfers. It's hard to see why they wouldn't be just as aggressive about transfers today, considering the disaster that financial processing has become post-UIGEA.

With books slow to adapt to the new atmosphere, some sportsbook patrons have taken it upon themselves to speed up the process. Private messaging has allowed an underground industry to spring up in which players, meeting through online portals and bulletin boards, can communicate with each other in order to do internal transfers (from one account at a given sportsbook to another account with the same sportsbook). Players can either swap transfers, or settle up externally with other payment solutions like Paypal or good old-fashioned cash. Until sportsbooks alleviate their payment delays, expect these underground transfers to increase in volume. The irony, of course, is that these essentially anonymous financial transactions are exactly what UIGEA aimed to avoid in the first place.

With all the turmoil in the offshore world, sportsbooks should be encouraging book-to-book and account-to-account transfers as the most feasible option for the good of the industry. It would relieve much of the strain on the current financial processors, while providing convenience to the players and benefits to the sportsbooks. It is surprising that more of the large books have not joined together to essentially create their own "banking sector" outside of the reach and jurisdiction of UIGEA.

05-31-07
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com



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