Dear Denise

Let me start by saying I’m a fan of your business, and I have been a happy customer for many years. While at times it will not seem like it, I promise that I write to you today from a place of hope and positivity.

I don’t generally endorse gambling companies on my blog, but I have frequently (albeit reluctantly) endorsed your brand, and I would like to see it continue to thrive.

I’ll pause there, Denise, because I already sense your hackles of suspicion rising. I won’t insult your intelligence by continuing with this obvious subterfuge, you are too successful not to notice when you are about to be fed a sh!t sandwich.

Yes, I’m afraid that opening paragraph was the first delicious slice of fresh-baked sourdough before I start to spread on some thick brown layers of displeasure. I’m sorry, Mrs Coates, but that filling isn’t Nutella.

Let’s start with your recent lobbying attempts. I don’t mean the handful of greedy second-job-having MPs that you’ve gathered on your books and in your pocket as “consultants”. That is a transparent and (inexplicably) legal ploy to influence the law. It has all the laughable subtlety of a child breaking the rules of a backyard ballgame when their little monkey brain senses defeat.

I’m actually referring to the much more underhanded attempt to influence the law by circumventing elected officials and talking directly to tax people in the civil service. Those were meant to be secret meetings that did not have to be declared. You are trying to get your dirty way whilst ostensibly keeping your mucky little mitts clean. Naughty, Denise, very naughty.

Essentially your company is conspiring (alongside the flotsam at Flutter and Entain) to commit espionage against society. Your people snuck into Whitehall and whispered “be nice to us or you won’t get your taxes”. It is not very far short of extortion, and it comes at the direct expense of the British public.

Now this may seem unfair, Denise, but I hold you to higher standards than your competitors. As PLCs they are legally bound to try to maximise profits for their shareholders. That doesn’t make the behaviour any less abhorrent, but it does give them an exasperating excuse.

You, on the other hand, are in charge of a private company – it is within your power to pursue good or evil as you see fit. Not only that, but you and your family are also extraordinarily wealthy.

I love that you willingly pay so much tax and can afford to donate generously to good causes. Why waste hundreds of millions on building a good reputation and then stoop to these levels?

If safer gambling regulation hit your bottom line to the tune of say, £200M, then nobody would need to lose their job or bonus, and you would still have enough money to fill up your stadium with pound coins and Scrooge McDuck money-swim until next season kicks off. Even better, the poorest in society would still have £200M in their pockets to spend on food and shelter.

Okay, let’s pause for breath and slap down another slice of that tasty sourdough. I am, after all, a fan, and I don’t want you to feel that I’m being overly negative.

Your commitment to improving the lives of the people in Stoke is truly admirable. When living in a cesspit, there is only so much comfort that can be gained from being quite near Alton Towers and hosting that Channel 4 show about pottery. Plus whatever benefit is to be gained these days from association with Robbie Williams.

Trust me on this, I’m from High Wycombe. We would love a wealthy benefactor to make the town less crap. Nobody is about to make a light entertainment TV show about the defunct chairmaking industry and our celebrity claim to fame is James bloody Corden. We would kill to finish 14th in the EFL Championship table. Stoke owes you an enormous debt of gratitude.

That said, what the f#ck happened on Grand National Day?! When I finally managed to get a response from your website, long after the race had finished, I was told I was in a 15 hour queue to access my account. Did you not anticipate a bit of extra traffic and make plans for a spike in demand?

The failure of your servers on the gambliest day of the year was absolute. And that was after a day where all the favourites only looked fit for a Tesco lasagne. How bad would the issues have been if the good horses had won?

I’m minded to think that it wasn’t technical issues at all. Maybe the office just shut down for twelve hours so you could all jump in champagne-filled Swarovski hot tubs bought with the day’s profits.

The morning after I had hoped there would be some acknowledgement and apology for the issues, maybe even some compensation for the inconvenience caused. It is possible to turn these little disasters into positive experiences given the will to do so, but alas no. Your leadership team were clearly too busy having pillow fights with cases stuffed with £50 notes.

I’m ranting now, aren’t I? Sorry Denise, I had meant to be constructive. For the sake of brevity I’ll spare you the final layer of bread-flattery. After all, if I make this metaphorical faecal butty too big then you won’t be able to get your mouth around it.

Let’s talk about promotions. Now, I’m going to get a bit more technical here because I’m afraid I’m a bit of a CRM geek.

I recently asked your Support Team to remove me from whatever marketing program was giving me free bets for Saturday horse racing. You see, while I like to bet on the two big races, and occasionally take a punt on a dodgy insider tip, I don’t actually like horse racing. Hence, I prefer not to be encouraged to bet on it, even with your money.

I was told I could either receive all promotional offers or none, and there was no way to select which I received. That may indeed be true, but it surprises me that your technology is not sophisticated enough to handle that minimal level of complexity.

Given the choice, I’d only really want to receive promotions for football, cricket and golf. By opting in for those, I don’t think you should have carte blanche to send me any other offers you fancy. To be fair, you haven’t really abused this privilege, but now I know that you could, and I don’t like it.

I also don’t like your Bet Boosts. Initially I was a big fan, because I’ve previously written about the benefits of enhanced-odds promotions. I was excited to see the concept extended to existing customers and installed on a permanent daily basis. What a clever way to indirectly encourage daily play, I thought. You crafty minx, Denise, bravo.

But, within months, it’s all gone rubbish. At first I noticed how the prices for your Bet Boosts would gradually drift in as an event got closer. A result that was increased from 10-1 to 14-1 would become 10-1 from 8-1. What was initially a boost was now just the original price being labelled as a boost. Not cool, Coatesy, not cool at all.

It’s gotten worse though. The boosts are gradually being replaced by a selection of shonky accumulators. I don’t use emojis when I’m writing pretend letters in my blog, but if I did you could be sure there would have been a little vommy face after that last sentence.

Previously I could get a bit of extra value on a plausible final score. Now you want me to back Harry Kane to score 2.5 times with exactly eight corners in each half and more than 5mm of total rainfall. You and I both know that they are readymade mug bets and it is disingenuous to claim otherwise.

Okay, that’s it. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my gripes. I realise that as Chief High Empress of Sportsbetting you don’t have a lot of time to read fan mail.

I hope you are inspired to make a few changes to keep a long term customer and occasional advocate happy, because you should know that my loyalty is not unshakable.

I can often be found in Argos paying 10% more for stuff I don’t need because I refuse to give Jezz Bezos any more money, and I’ve turned down holiday opportunities if the only flight option involves squeezing into one of Ryanair’s blue and yellow misery tubes.

Please don’t make me gather up my scattered principles and go elsewhere.

All the best and warm regards,

Bobby

PS Say hi to Ray Winstone for me!

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