How to prevent your BetFair account from being suspended over “business” usage

You have probably heard horror stories of BetFair unexpectedly suspending or even closing users’ accounts overnight for no good reason.

There is a lot of uncertainty over these cases, and people tend to attribute these incidents to the usage of bots. Are bots in themselves so evil that BetFair will punish you for using them instead of their good old website? Is there anything you can do about this? Let’s look into this together.

That ill-famed email from BetFair

Normally the affected users receive an email with text similar to the one below:

With regret to inform you, we have restricted your Betfair account with a delay to Exchange market data (odds and volumes). The restriction is in accordance with our Terms and Conditions; in particular the intellectual property clauses with reference to Betfair data. […]

Your data usage profile represents that of a commercial user. Note that usage of Betfair Exchange market data by any user in a commercial context requires a data licence. […]

Should you wish to consume data for testing and or analysis, please use delayed data as applied to your account or the historical data services -

‘6.     Cancellation, Termination, Suspension and Breach

We may restrict your access to Betfair, suspend or terminate your account, withdraw your offers for bets, void any bets outstanding to your account, cancel any unmatched bets or cancel and void any outstanding or matched bets in our absolute discretion without cause at any time including if:

v: ... your account’s ‘public market data’ usage (‘public market data’ includes market prices, traded Volumes and market depth) could represent ‘business usage’ (‘business usage’ includes any use by a betting operator or any use by an individual or organisation supplying data or services to a betting operator)’

Kind Regards

Betfair Limited

Upon receiving this email, your account becomes “restricted” in that you start receiving delayed market volumes and prices. Because of these inaccurate data, placing bets becomes effectively useless and impossible.

If you have no clue as to what’s happening or you continue doing what you have been doing prior to that ominous email, your account gets suspended for the alleged commercial usage of data.

How do you know if your account receives delayed data?

If you are using BetFair’s website to place bets, you will probably notice that you can’t make your bet matched even if the price is right.

Unmatched bet

The next thing to observe is how the Matched Volume is changing over time. Under normal circumstances, it will always increase. This makes sense: bettors can only add to the total volume of matched bets, as they cannot cancel a matched bet. At best, it will stay the same, but never decrease.

If your account is fed inaccurate data, however, the Matched Volume figure can jump all over the place:

Inconsistent matched volume 

If you are using MarketFeeder Pro to monitor markets and place bets, it is easy to tell if the market’s data are delayed. Just open the market information and look for the red label telling you that much:

This market's data is delayed 

And even if you don’t look into that window, you’ll notice that prices will jump up and down, creating tell-tale sawtooth waves on the graph:

Sawtooth graph 

What are the reasons?

Granted, there are multiple reasons over which your account may be restricted or suspended. In this article, we will focus on a single reason and assume that you have not abused any of BetFair’s terms and conditions. It is always a good idea to check them from time to time:

BetFair Terms and Conditions

The case we will look into is the “business usage of data.

The alleged business usage of data implies that you consistently harvest market data from BetFair through various means – either their website or specialized software – to either use it for analytical purposes or sell it to someone else. BetFair has every right to protect their intellectual property, and if you are after their raw data, you should purchase their Historical Data Licence. By raw data, I mean the actual values of prices and matched volume for each selection recorded in real time.

If you are looking for consolidated historical data or for strategy simulation, these are available through some services, such as BFStats.

How to avoid being classed as a business user?

Follow these simple rules to reduce the chances of your account being flagged for business usage of data.

Monitoring options

  1. Reduce the rate at which you refresh market data. For example, football, tennis and basketball markets are much less dynamic than horse racing. Refreshing them at 15-20 seconds will be sufficient for any strategy. For horse races, consider refreshing markets less often before the off, especially if you do not do any kind of scalping.
  2. Immediately delete the markets or events where you no longer intend to place bets. For example, if a match does not work for you because of the lack of liquidity or a race is of the wrong distance, delete it using a trigger action delete market or delete event (if you have several markets of the same event).
  3. If you need to keep the market, then instead of deleting it, simply stop refreshing it. Either use the Monitoring Options suggested above or create a trigger with the action stop refreshing market.
  4. Start refreshing the market at exactly the time you intend to start betting or monitoring it ahead of the betting, and not a minute before! The default setting is 10 minutes before the start, but you are welcome to decrease it down to 0.5 minutes.
  5. If you absolutely need to refresh a market, then bet at least £5-£10 per hour. You can close the bet at once with a green-up or stop-loss bet using a trigger or the Auto-Greenup feature. You will look like a legitimate exchange user if you show some useful activity. BetFair encourages you to place real bets.
  6. Do not abuse market search with Market Locator. Set the scheduler to search for new markets no more often than once an hour.
  7. Reduce the number of markets the program will refresh simultaneously to keep BetFair-bound traffic under control.
  8. Finally, you can test your betting ideas and strategies offline, without staying connected to BetFair all the time. Use such tools as Time Machine to run triggers against real historical market data.

Bet responsibly and stay out of trouble!

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