Working as a bookkeeper for an online betting company is akin to flying a drone. Customers are colour-coded based on their betting history, giving the bookies a visual point of reference for every punt that comes in. Red means you’re a professional, which results in punitive restrictions over how much you can earn, while blue—VIPS, or softs—are the hard-gambling incapables, who are let on to bet as much as they want under the assumption they won’t make it back. Worse, once they lose, you’ve got them on the chase, and they’ll keep betting, “no longer punting, just gambling”, with the odds resting firmly with the house. The bigger firms go even further: they’ll observe a punter’s preferences and, in the case of real high rollers, offer box seats to sporting events to maintain goodwill while they fleece people’s pockets.
The offices are open plan, and the bookies share with customer service and one person—who usually works from home—whose job it is to pursue company debt. Customers are allowed on with credit, and those who fail to make their repayments are passed on to legal, but my contact doesn’t know what happens then, they work on a different floor. The desks have four computer screens, on which all the data for the races and the incoming bets are displayed, and employees have been known to pass on tips to friends when the other better companies are slow to react to a change in odds. The bookies do not use telephones—phone betting is small, and accessed through an offsite call centre, and when I asked my friend what he thought of that he replied:
“Not having any interaction makes it a lot easier, because there’s no face to it. It feels good when you’re winning and you’re up twenty grand, but on the other end there’s some poor bastard who’s lost 20 grand, and I don’t think I could do that if I had to sit across from him and take his money.”