Can You Be Forced to Pay Back Money to a Betting Company?
Sports betting and casino gaming will always provide a good time. With so much to keep you entertained, and with the potential of winning monetary rewards, what could be better? Well, perhaps it would be a better occasion if you won a lot more than you expected to from a bet. If you made a £5 bet on a casino game and expected to win a maximum reward of £50 if it was a winner, but ended up winning £500 instead, or you find the odds of something are far bigger than they should be and you back it and win. What if you just log into your account one day and find a load of money in there by mistake? All of that would be cause for celebration, right?
Well, we would definitely automatically think so. After all, you didn’t do anything wrong apart from make a bet or login to your account. The casino or sportsbook was the one that made the error in paying out more than you expected. Yet, what exactly happens in such a circumstance? It has happened before on some occasions, do players have to return the excess money they have won from this outcome? What sort of protection do gamblers have in the event that this does occur? And if you withdraw the money from your betting account in the event of being an unexpected big winner like this, are you protected even more. Or can you be forced to pay back money to a betting company if they made a mistake with the pay-out?
We’re going to be taking a look into this extra special outcome and finding out if players have been pushed into giving winnings back to a platform. Or perhaps, on the other hand, they’ve been allowed to keep it. Let’s find out more.
The Stance of the UK Gambling Commission
Bookmakers and casinos offer a wide variety of betting markets for you to engage in. Of course, from time to time – as with anything – errors can be made, be they human-based or system-based. This can see bets accepted by these bookmakers at a price that is materially different from those that are available across the general market. To put this in an example format, if a price is recorded at 50/1 when the actual price in the general market is 5/1, this stands out as being a clear error. There is even a name for this, it is known as a palpable error.
Now, the norm dictates that bookmakers have the right to rectify anything that stands out to them as being an obvious error. This will usually be stated within their terms and conditions. Of course, these T&Cs will usually differ from business to business, but sometimes sites will be allowed to void bets, resettle bets at the correct odds or resettling them at the best price available on the general market.
Of course, that all seems like a right outcome if the bookmaker notices the error prior to any wins on these errors being paid out to players. But what if the funds have already been added to your sportsbook account following an incorrect price? Well, generally, bookmakers also have the right to provide a pay-out at the correct odds, rather than the inflated odds. Although, again, this only pertains if the operator realises prior to the inflated funds being awarded to a bettor.
What About Bets That Are Already Paid to You?
It’s not uncommon for results of events to change after they have finished. Take a look at the Lance Armstrong saga, for example. He won various titles and events, which some avid sports bettors definitely won big from, before he was found to have been taking illegal substances to boost his performance. Obviously, he was stripped of his titles and accolades several months and years after he obtained them. Does that mean the sports bettors who won on his victories were also forced to pay their winnings back?
Well, once a bet has been paid out and changes occur due to disqualifications, disciplinary hearings or otherwise, the bet reward is disregarded. Therefore, in this circumstance, if the funds have already been awarded to you based on the original result, they remain in your possession. A sportsbook generally won’t go chasing up all gamblers who won due to the initial finish outcome.
Of course, the same is true of the other way. Let’s say you bet on a horse to win a race, but it comes in second place rather than first. You don’t win anything for this, but in one week, the horse that raced and won is disqualified for one reason or another. You still don’t get a pay-out even if your second-place horse is bumped up to the winner. Those bettors who backed the original winner (that was later disqualified) get to keep their winnings, despite the eventual disqualification.
Winning, Withdrawing and Then Being Asked to Pay It Back
Numerous occurrences have taken place where gamblers have wagered on sporting events or casino games and managed to win big. Yet, cases have arisen when these players have been asked to either pay back the funds they’ve won, or the sportsbook has outright refused to pay them.
One such incident occurred when one bettor won at the Betfair platform. It was in September of 2014 that a gambler was taking notice of the live football updates on Sky Sports but was also placing wagers through the Betfair app on his iPad. When the matches were drawing to a close, he noticed that the odds for one team to win had altered to 12/1, and that team were also winning by a few goals against their opponent. Only a few minutes were left of the match and this led to the player in question placing a £50 wager on those 12/1 odds.
As was expected from the event, that team won, and the bettor saw his account automatically credited with £600 in winnings on top of his £50 stake. While the player said that he believed Betfair’s system had made a mistake, it was because of this that he opted to withdraw all his winnings from the event to his bank account. That was then promptly spent on a holiday.
However, he was in for a bit of a shock when he logged into his Betfair account a few days later to see that his balance there stood at -£593. Upon contacting the customer support team, he was informed that the bet had been resettled as the wrong odds had been given, and that he would be required to pay back the £600 winnings he had withdrawn and spent. He opted to ignore the request for repayment, and initially, he didn’t hear from Betfair.
August 2015 rolled around though, and he was frequently emailed by the brand, being advised that his account had a negative balance in it. This led to him making contact with various legal companies. However, he was informed that Betfair had every right to reclaim that £600, as the terms and conditions at the site state that if you win as a result of human or software error, you must repay the funds. By betting the £50 on the 12/1 odds, the player was also accepting those terms.
Betfair had every right to pursue the lost funds through court, too. Should the player have wanted to fight this outcome, he could have contacted the Betfair internal dispute resolution service and, failing that, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service.
It Doesn’t Always Work in the Betting Companies Favour
While many cases have seen the bookmaker or casino request that funds be recouped from such errors, it’s not always the outcome that occurs. For example, Sportsbet was ordered to pay around $9 million to punters after one cunning player spotted a major flaw in the site’s odds. This led to he and his friends receiving huge rewards.
In one of the biggest contested pay-outs relating to sports betting, the Northern Territory Racing Commission made a ruling that Sportsbet had to pay close to $9 million to around 2,000 bettors as a result of a nine-leg AFL multi-bet with the wrong odds attached.
Lee Kitchen spoke with the Daily Mail Australia regarding the nine-leg bet that he placed – and informed his friends on. The keen-eyed bettor said that he had noticed that banking on the overvalued market worked out to odds of $151. While that seemed a little bit high to him as individual legs, in a nine-leg multi, they quickly add up when combined with the sportsbook’s power play boost, Kitchen said.
Upon discovering this flaw, Kitchen immediately posted it to the AFL Professor Facebook Group, which centres itself on AFL analytics. The members of the group agreed that there was value in placing such bets, and they all went in on it. That tip managed to spread rapidly on Facebook, with fellow punters opting to place large wagers themselves. Kitchen made a $5, but he went on to win $750 back from it.
On the other hand, someone who took heed of Kitchen’s tip walked away with $45,000 after placing a $300 bet on the nine-leg. Ethan Zepten admitted that he pretty much suspected the bookmaker software was suffering from an error, but he went ahead with placing a bet on it anyway. However, when it came time for him to collect the winnings, he was informed by Sportsbet that he wouldn’t receive anything from it.
As with the Betfair situation, Sportsbet said that it had every right to cancel the various bets under its terms and conditions. That news was not met with regard by punters, and again, a Facebook group decided to take legal action against the platform. A complaint was sent to the aforementioned Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC), and while they did note that there was an obvious error, the bets placed were considered lawful at the time. Therefore, the NTRC ordered Sportsbet to pay all winning customers who wagered successfully on the nine-leg event.
Two Pals Win £23,400, Bookie Refuses Payment
Towards the end of 2019, two friends who had been long-time supporters of Manchester United decided to each place £50 into a combined accumulator bet on their favourite team. Gary Smeaton and Kris Shenton placed the £100 acca, backing United as a certainty to finish inside the top five of the Super League at odds of 8-1. To add to this, they doubled up by betting that outsider Jackson Hastings would be named the League’s Man of Steel, with odds of 25-1 on him.
Oddly enough, both of those bets came to fruition, as it was Hastings who assisted the team with finishing in third position of the Super League before winning his individual Man of Steel award. With both of those being the outcomes, Smeaton and Shenton were set to cash in £23,400 in winnings.
Yet, their joy at realising this was very short-lived, as bookmaker William Hill refused to pay the sum out to them. The operator cited that the bet shouldn’t have been placed at all because if one of the bets came in, the other was a lot more likely to follow as a certainty. This is known as a related contingency. Essentially, it stated that if the Red Devils finished high enough in the Super League, Hastings being rewarded as Man of Steel was a lot more likely than the 25-1 odds the pair were offered. In similar fashion, if Hastings is voted player of the season, Man U also have a better chance of a good season. Therefore, the two bets were deemed to not be mutually exclusive, according to William Hill.
Smeaton, who placed the bet via a William Hill store nine months prior to the final outcome of both, said that he and Shenton, “never dreamed that it would ever come in”. Yet, instead of the £23,400 that the duo should have won, William Hill stated that it was regarding the bets as two separate £50 wagers each and was prepared to hand £1,700 to both men. Smeaton said he wasn’t going to settle for that outcome, though. William Hill claimed it was due to human error that the bet was able to be placed, and when Smeaton went back to the betting shop he’d placed the wager at, the person who allowed him to place the acca in the first place said he was “half asleep” at the time of accepting it.
The bookmaker proceeded to strike the accumulator as a result of human error and correct it so as to reward both men with £1,700. “At no point was the double on offer before the start of the season”, said a spokesperson for the bookie.
Smeaton proceeded to take the case to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, claiming that the bookmaker’s explanation of human error would not pacify him.