What Happens to a Betting Account When Someone Dies?

Last Will and Testament with Glasses and PenLosing a loved one is always an incredibly difficult time, not just emotionally but also because of all the bureaucracy and admin that needs to be sorted in the aftermath. Although checking for any active betting accounts will be far from a high priority if there are mortgages, pensions and other more significant financial interests involved, it is still useful to be aware of the processes in place for when a customer dies.

For more avid gamblers that pass away, it could be that a sizeable chunk of their wealth is tied up in bets or sitting in a virtual wallet somewhere on the internet. Even for those who just have a few hundred quid kicking about in various betting accounts, it is obviously better for their relatives to have the cash than to leave it to the bookies. But how can the next of kin claim their loved one’s money from a betting account?

Claiming Deposited Money,

Woman Signing Legal Form

This part should be relatively straightforward following the death of the customer. All you need to do is find out which bookie(s) the deceased friend/relative played at and inform customer services that the person in question has passed away. Of course, they will not simply be able to take your word for this so you will need an official copy of the death certificate. Additionally, you will need some proof that you are responsible for managing the estate.

Any money held inside the virtual wallet of the betting account is considered to be part of the person in question’s estate, rather than belonging to the bookie. As such, providing the necessary documentation is handed over, there should be few troubles in claiming any positive balance. Note that you can never have a negative balance with a conventional online bookmaker, so there will never be any debt to pay. The tricky part comes when trying to deal with open bets as different bookmakers can operate with different policies.

Unsettled Bets

Winner's Podium with Red Question Mark

It is not at all uncommon for a player to have one or several open bets at the time they pass away. Think of a situation in which someone has placed a wager on a team to win the upcoming Premier League season. If they were to die between August and April, then they would do so with a bet that has not yet been settled. Similarly, many horse racing fans enjoy placing what is known as ante-post bets, essentially betting on some future race before the ‘proper’ market has opened.

It is possible to place some ante-post bets months before the actual race begins. Bookies will gladly take bets for April’s Grand National in the December before, for instance. In such cases, what happens next will depend on the bookmaker and their specific terms and conditions. Some will say that all bets are void following the death of a player. This means getting the stake back for all the bets but only that. Even if a bet was on the verge of winning you would only get the upfront cost back. It does work both ways however as the stakes of other wagers that were on the brink of failure would also be returned.

Naturally, in such situations neither yourself nor the bookmaker can simply pick and choose which bets to make void. While it will inevitably create some winners/losers it does allow for families to easily extract all the money from the account, which can then be closed. As it is possible to place bets for events that do not finish for a year or even more in advance (elections, World Cups and so on) waiting for a large bet to finish can often just create headaches and uncertainty.

Account Closures & Dormant Accounts

Woman Looking at Smartphone and Laptop

Providing there are no active bets on the account, the bookmaker will be able to easily close the account of the deceased player upon request. For this to happen though, there are two possible obstacles. The first is knowing which bookmaker(s) the person in question played with. Given that some people tend to keep their betting under wraps, this can be tricky. You may think to ask around all bookmakers but this would take a phenomenal amount of time. Not just because of the sheer number of bookies out there, but because you would need to supply paperwork before any information could be shared due to privacy rules and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It is therefore much quicker to check through the deceased player’s emails and/or bank statements to see which betting companies they have been dealing with. The other obstacle is having someone actually willing to sort something like this out. For someone that dies without any close friends/family, it is very likely that much of the bureaucracy that usually comes with someone’s passing will not be sorted out. With nobody informing the bookies of a player’s death, there will be no reason for them to close the account.

For betting accounts that are left untouched for a minimum of 12 months, they will most likely be considered ‘dormant’. Bookmakers are allowed to charge a maintenance fee on dormant accounts, often to the tune of £5 a month, although it can vary. This fee will apply either until the balance on the account reaches £0, or the account is closed/reactivated. So, if nobody takes care of the account then money will eventually be eaten away and end up effectively becoming a donation to the bookie. More on dormant betting accounts can be found here.

Active Promotions

Blurred Spinning Roulette Wheel

As well as having active bets, a recently deceased player may also have had active promotions they had not quite fully qualified for. The most common example would be a promotion that has a wagering requirement. To get a particular bonus, let’s say an offer has a 10x wagering requirement but a player, prior to their death, has only turned over the amount 8x. In such situations, we would expect the bonus(es) to simply be marked as void.

Honouring active bets is one thing but allowing a relative to benefit from progress made towards a promotion seems unduly generous. Depending on the bonus, it might be that the bookmaker is willing to pay out a proportion of the overall amount, depending on how much had been completed, but this is no guarantee. It is not something you would tend to find covered in the bonus terms and conditions either so it is hard to know exactly what would happen.

Collecting Bets Placed In-Store

Blurred Shopping Street

So far we have focussed purely on bets placed via an online account but given that many (especially older) punters prefer the high street experience, it is worth broadening our investigation. For the family of the deceased, knowing about in-store bets is trickier because they would normally not know what bets are currently active. To do this, they realistically will need to find a stash of betting slips. Although a winning betting slip can be cashed in, the bookmaker should really be informed that the original bettor has deceased, with the relevant paperwork being presented.

You will still end up with the money but by following the proper process, it will take a fair bit longer to receive it. On the off chance you happen to know of a bet that was placed but cannot find the betting slip, being paid out is still possible. You would again need to head down to the branch the bet was placed, explain the situation and hand over copies of the relevant paperwork. While having a betting slip makes life much easier, it is still possible to be paid out without one in certain circumstances.