Around 2 weeks ago the Guardian newspaper in the UK printed a story about a woman who has been fighting with Bet365 to receive a payout to her debit card that she requested in April. According to the report, an unidentified woman deposited 30,000 GBP (around 40,000 USD) to an account at Bet365 and proceeded to lose all but 7,000 GBP on horse racing the following day. She received an email from the company telling her that her limits were increased but instead of depositing more, she played the 7,000 GBP left and turned it into 54,000 GBP. According to the report Bet365 sent her a note to tell her that after looking into her account a "trading decision" was made to cut her limits to 1 GBP for horse racing or just over a buck but also told her she could continue to play at the casino for as much as she wants. She balked and asked for a payout of what she's owed to her debit card but she has yet to be paid as Bet365 apparently continues their investigation. There is some suspicion that the company was worried that she was involved in money laundering, but her bank told the company that there was no concern about the source of her funds and she provided all the documentation they requested. Bet365 sent her an email to tell her that her account is fully verified. It's uncertain why Bet365 has not paid her (this after all is a pittance to the multi billion-dollar company), but after getting the runaround for over 3 months now she decided the only recourse she has left is to take them to court. As of this writing, it appears the UK Gambling Commission has not intervened.
There's no doubt more to this story than meets the eye (after all the article was all one sided and Bet365 has not provided any sort of public statement) but it has to make players wonder what the point of these gambling commissions is. Sure they collect fees for handing out licenses, but are they there only to give some credibility to the gambling companies that pay them or are they really supposed to represent the bettors as well. Why exactly has the UK Gambling Commission not intervened on behalf of the woman that she has to take Bet365 to court?
And this isn't the only time where the gambling commissions appear to have fallen down on the job.
When the Full Tilt Ponzi scheme was revealed the Alderney Gaming Commission was left with egg on their face for not stopping the company from operating when they knew they were no longer viable. Then they tried to orchestrate a deal for the company with a French buyer who was going to stiff all of the American customers if he was able to purchase it under his terms. Ironically U.S. bettors can thank the Feds (even though they were the cause of Black Friday) for arranging for the purchase of the company by PokerStars so that U.S. customers would be reimbursed. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission stepped in and forced Absolute Poker to reimburse customers who were scammed in the infamous POTRIPPER scandal, but I received numerous complaints by email about companies that apparently have tried to weasel out of paying wins on the reserve and the basic attitude there has been "not our problem". The Antigua Gaming Commission was completely useless when WSEX stopped paying customers after they ran into financial trouble and when Eddie Hadeed ran off with player's money at Alladins Gold and when Caribi abruptly folded. And regulators were useless when Charlie Therwanger ran off with customer money at Aces Gold/Sports Market in Curacao and there are numerous examples of scam books that ran without any assistance from the gambling regulators in The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Belize.
Paul Fairhead, who runs the website justiceforpunters.org/ and was quoted in the Guardian article, said he sees one case like this every day. He and his group are critical of the UK Gaming Commission and he told me that he gets was swamped with people wanting him to fight for him to get money back. And the UK Gaming Commission is supposed to be the most reputable of all the gambling regulators:
"The problem in the UK is that the UK Gambling Commission are not fit for purpose, and are utterly useless when it comes to protecting gamblers from being treated unfairly.
I have spent the last six years offering assistance to people with betting disputes, and I do so because the industry's preferred Alternative Dispute Resolution service, IBAS, do not consider the fairness, or indeed legality, of a firm's Rules / Terms & Conditions, but simply whether they have adhered to them or not.
A friend and I are doing a lot of work to try and pressurise these two organisations to do their jobs properly, but it's a painfully slow process. That said, we are encouraged to believe that things are starting to move in recent weeks, with the Gambling Commission indicating a desire to engage with us," stated Fairhead.
But trying to weasel their way out of paying winners isn't anything new and in fact has been a problem in the industry since Internet gambling started. And what's more fustrating than scams are sportsbooks or casinos that just refuse to pay out winning wagers by providing some nonsensical excuse. Below is a list of three instances from years past where bettors sent me an email complaining about their treatment by a sportsbook. The first 2 sportsbooks are now defunct while the third is still operating. While I won't mention the names, anyone who has followed the industry from the outset will recognize the 3 sportsbooks almost instantly.
The first instance was in 2001 when an American online gambler decided he could do better on the other side, believing that bookmaking was a licence to print money. This gambler, set up shop and convinced a posting forum that he was legit and as a result attracted some clients. The new owner then spent most of his time on sportsbook forums bitching about people that wagered with him and dared to beat him. The one sport he particularly hated was NASCAR which he claimed was bet only by sharps and team insiders and that it was a guaranteed 75% loss each week. A gambler emailed to tell me that he won a wager on a NASCAR bet but this new owner refused to pay him saying he was part of the pit crew on a NASCAR team so he bet with insider information which was against the rules. Of course when checking the rules and regulations on the sportsbook's site there was no such rule listed but more importantly the bettor was not part of a NASCAR team at all. He worked as a mechanic at an Indianapolis Pep Boys but the owner argued that Pep Boys was a side job. And this was not a $500 wager at 50/1 odds but rather a $100 bet on a matchup at even money. Nevertheless, the new bookmaker absolutely refused to pay on a matter of principal. And again the country's regulators were useless. The bettor eventually just chalked it up to a bad sportsbook owner and vowed he would only play with long standing reputable books. It's uncertain what happened exactly to the sportsbook owner but the sportsbook himself although he posted a notice on a posting forum in 2002 announcing the company was insolvent, blaming an investor, the bonuses it provided (which were nothing special), the reduced vig glines (which weren't any lower than other sportsbooks at the time) and best of all the bettors themselves because they were too good. Another very reputable sportsbook agreed to take over the accounts and salvage much of the outstanding balances. The NASCAR bettor obviously was out of luck.
The second occurance was in 2004 when a sportsbook that had a separate site devoted to horse racing (unfortunately I forget the exact name of the racebook) offered odds on all races and provided a rebate. They claimed it was all in real time so there was no cutoff time for bets made prior to the start of the race. The bettor who emailed me wagered a $1 trifecta box on a race at Mountaineer that won and paid close to $2,500. Each of the horses was double digits to one. The racebook informed him the bet was invalid because it was wagered after the start of the race. The truth is that the bet was made almost 5 minutes prior to the race and the bettor sent the charts from Brisnet and The Daily Racing Form as proof. The sportsbook/racebook continued to argue and told the bettor as well as a sportsbook posting forum that was fighting for the bettor that the times shown at both DRF and Brisnet were wrong!! The fight went on for almost 2 weeks but the site refused to pay. The posting forum said they would take the fight to the country's regulators if need be and the site's owner actually laughed the posting forum's owner and told him he didn't have a clue how things work. It became a moot point almost 2 weeks later when the site abruptly shut down the racebook never to be seen again.
The third instance ocurred in 2008 when a sportsbook that still exists today refused to pay a bet claiming it was an incorrect line. While that isn't unusual and is a good reason for actually declining a bet, what made the non payment inexcusable is that the sportsbook knew about the line long before the game started and only cancelled the bet once the game was over. The person who emailed me actually put the wager up on one of the posting forums and posted an email he sent to the sportsbook asking if the line was correct. They assured him it was. He sent a second email to confirm the line wasn't wrong and the clerk at the sportsbook wrote back saying that after checking with management she could assure him the line is correct and will be honored. Needless to say when the bet won they then refused to pay it and the manager of the site said the emails sent by his clerks was irrelevant and they overstepped their boundaries by agreeing that the bet was good. The bettor argued that if asking the book beforehand if a line is good and they say yes then trying to renege on that promise after the game is completed is underhanded and wrong. And to make matters worse the line (which was offered at -3.5 when the rest of the industry was offering -1.5) wouldn't have mattered anyways because the underdog won the game outright. As well the bettor noted other instances where he lost on a line that was different from the industry average at this same book but the bet was never cancelled or refunded.
So it's not surprising that many bettors get angry and frustrated when a supposedly reputable book looks for an excuse not to pay. As for the Bet365 case mentioned at the beginning of the article the outcome isn't known. Bet365 isn't giving interviews since the dispute is before the courts, but it's hard to imagine what possible reason they could have for not paying. Regardless this will be a good test to see if the UK Gaming Commission actually does have some regulatory power and steps in on behalf of the bettor or if they are just a puppet for the sportsbooks that pay the licensing fees as is the case in many other juridictions.