When do bookies have to pay out? Can they refuse to hand over winnings for bets they have accepted? Your rights explained
The World Cup may be over, but gamblers across the country are continuing to try their luck with Britain’s bookies.
For the majority of those putting a stake on their favourite team or a lucky horse, the betting transaction goes off without a hitch.
But what happens when a bookmaker refuses to pay out?
And how might the small print prevent you from picking up a winning bet?
Below, MailOnline explains your legal rights to claim your winnings:
When do bookmakers have to pay out my bet?
Under the 2005 Gambling Act, a bookmaker must pay out a winning bet and punters can take them to court if they fail to do so.
According to the Gambling Act 2005, a bet is defined is a transaction that ‘relates to the outcome of a race, competition or other event or process’.
A bet, therefore, could be placed on the outcome of a horse race, a sporting competition or any other event or process.
When a customer place their bet with an operator, they are technically agreeing to enter into a legal contract with the bookmaker for the result of that contest.
Upon doing so, the customer agrees to abide to a specific framework of terms and conditions, as does the betting operator.
Should the customer win their stake, the betting company would be legally obliged to pay out.
Under the 2005 Gambling Act, a bookmaker must pay out a winning bet and punters can take them to court if they fail to do so
Can a bookmaker refuse to pay out my winning bet?
In short, no – provided a customer has conformed to the rules of the betting operator’s often expansive terms and conditions.
Should a bookmaker refuse to pay out a winning bet, they would technically be in breach of contract with the customer.
However, a gambling operator could legally refuse to pay out in a number of situations, including when a bet breached their terms and conditions, was accepted in error or was based on incorrect pricing.
For example, should a gambling firm find a customer has more than one account with them, they could refuse to respect the result of a customer’s bet.
One of the most common reasons behind non-payouts is where a betting company has voided a bet after making an obvious error within the pricing of a bet or within the wider betting market.
In some cases, multiple wagers cannot be combined into one substantially larger bet because they are what are known as ‘related contingencies’ – i.e. the outcome of one bet affects the outcome of another.
In other instances, albeit rare, online bookmakers have refused to hand out winnings to punters when blaming ‘software errors’ on their web-based games.
The first available option is to contact the bookmaker directly and provide them with evidence as to why you believe they have made the incorrect decision.
Specialist solicitors are available to act for customers who have been victims of breach of contract by a betting operator.
You could also submit an appeal with the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS).
A third-party organisation, the IBAS was founded in 1998 to settle disputes between gambling firms registered with the independent adjudicator.
The organisation can only become involved in a dispute after both the gambling company and the customer(s) have made attempts to resolve the issue themselves.
Should a deadlock remain and either party remains unsatisfied with the result, the dispute can then be reviewed by IBAS.
Has anyone ever taken on the bookies and won?
Blackjack player Andrew Green, 54, took Betfred to the High Court in a true David vs Goliath cash after the bookmaker refused in January 2018 to deliver his winnings, claiming there had been a ‘software glitch’.
The single parent was ‘ecstatic’ when he triggered a massive sum on Betfred’s online casino game, Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack.
Mr Green said he started with £100 and almost lost it all before hitting a bonus that saw his balance soar to £10,600.
Punter Andrew Green, 54, took Betfred to the High Court after they refused in January 2018 to deliver his winnings, claiming there had been a ‘software glitch’
He then continued to play the online casino game and increased his winnings to £38,000, then £76,000 before hitting £600,000.
Then the screen of his mobile displayed a flashing banner stating he had won the game’s jackpot of £1,722,500.24.
The lucky punter then ran up a £2,500 bill celebrating his life-changing win with friends and family after Betfred customer support team confirmed he had won the £1.7million jackpot.
Mr Green’s three-and-a-half year legal ordeal was brought to a close last year after he was awarded £2.3m at the High Court.
However, others who try the legal route haven’t been so fortunate.
In 2021, rugby league fans Gary Smeaton and Kris Shenton complained of missing out on more than £20,000 after a ‘human error’ in a bet they placed with William Hill.
The pair were celebrating when Salford Red Devils’ Jackson Hastings was named rugby league’s Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel after a wager they placed in January.
They thought they were in line to scoop £23,400 after a £100 double bet of Hastings winning the Man of Steel and Salford finishing in Super League’s top five came in.
But bookmaker William Hill refused to pay out, insisting they are separate bets and should never have been allowed – though they admitted it was a human error on their part.
Mr Smeaton took the bookies to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), which offers an impartial adjudication on disputes between customers. He and his friend were awarded £4,000 each due to the ‘inconvenience’ they had endured.
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