Are Gambling Contracts Legally Enforceable?

Money ContractThere will be a good chunk of people that are totally unaware of the fact that when they place a bet with a bookmaker or betting company, they’re effectively entering a contract with the company that they gamble with. The contract is designed to protect both parties, ensuring both that the bettor pays their stake and that the company that they’re gambling with pays out on any winnings that are owed.

Where things become tricky is in the fact that the contracts aren’t always the same, differing from company to company. They each have their own small print, which means that it’s important to ensure that you read up on what, exactly, it is that you’re signing on to when you place a bet. The main thing to remember is that they are contracts and they are legally enforceable, giving you somewhere to go if a company refuses to pay (assuming you are betting with a licensed site, if you choose to bet with unlicensed sites you have no protection at all).

Bets Are Contracts

man looking at a bet slip with surpriseAny company that has been given a licence by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission has to agree to certain rules and regulations as part of the licensing process. One section of this is that each bet placed is the signing of a contract between the bettor and the company offering the bet, with each part agreeing to meet certain requirements. Whether you’re playing online poker, placing a bet on football or having a go of roulette, you’re entering a contract when you do.

Because you’re signing a contract, the company that you’re placing a bet with have to ensure that the terms and conditions of said contract are readily available to all those that are signing up for it. In other words, the contract will be clearly visible and nothing will be done in a sly or clever way to trick you into anything. It is good practice to be extremely familiar with the terms and conditions of the contract, but it is fair to say that most punters really aren’t.

That is, in part at least, because the terms and conditions are not only unique for each bet that you place but also to each bookmaker and betting company. The terms that are offered by one site will not be the same as the terms offered by another, which makes it difficult to ensure that you’re always in the know about the contract that you’re ‘signing’. There is a degree of commonality, however, so you can at least have a rough idea.

The fact you are entering into a contract is one reason why someone else can’t give you money to bet with, you can’t place a bet for someone else and someone else cannot use your account to bet.

Complaining About Bets

ibasThe UKGC’s wording on the matter explains that all customers have to be given a means by which to complain about the bet’ that they’ve placed. The idea behind this is that it ensures that the industry remains as fair as possible, but the reality is that you can’t really complain unless you know that the betting company you’re complaining about has actively broken the terms and conditions of their own contract.

There’s certainly an argument that the industry is set up to the advantage of the gambling companies, given that the first port of call when making a complaint is to speak to the gambling company directly. Indeed, the likes of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service will not even look at your complaint unless you can show that you have attempted to resolve it with the company directly first and foremost.

Complaints will likely be rejected unless it can be proven that the terms and conditions of a betting company’s contract were ‘unclear’, misleading or ‘unfair’. IBAS will do its best to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties, but can only do so up to £10,000 without the gambling company being able to appeal the decision. Anything over £10,000 and the company has the right to challenge the ruling in court.

The very fact that bets are legally binding contracts means that both parties can take the other to court if they think that the contract has been broken. Though it’s unusual for either party to take this route, owing to the expense and difficulty of doing so, it has been known to happen from time to time. Again, before taking a betting company to court it’s worth ensuring that you’ve firstly followed their complaints procedure.

Examples Of Betting Companies Taken To Court

There are numerous examples of punters taking their betting company to court over a situation in which they believe that their contract has been broken. It’s worth having a look at a couple of them and explaining what happened, why they went to court and what the end result of the legal battle was.

Andrew Green & His £1.7 Million Blackjack Payout

legal explanationIn January of 2018, Andrew Green was playing on the Frankie Dettori Magic Seven Blackjack game on Betfred’s mobile site when he triggered the jackpot. The result was a win of £1.7 million, leading Mr Green to extend his overdraft and celebrate with family and friends. In the days that followed, however, Betfred refused to payout the winnings and said that the game had not been operating properly at the time.

Mr Green challenged Betfred’s decision and at one point was offered a ‘goodwill gesture’ of £60,000, providing that he never talked about it again. He refused, taking his case to the High Court, where Betfred argued that an incidence of a ‘software glitch’ was covered by their terms and conditions. Mrs Justice Foster disagreed, saying that the wording of the clauses in the contract was ‘inadequate’, siding with Mr Green and ordering the payout.

Bruno Venturi Gets Nothing

LegalThese things don’t always work out in the favour of the punter, however. In 2009 a punter named Bruno Venturi thought he’d won £650,000 of just three hours of betting, but the website that he was betting on claimed that a software error had allowed that to be the case. Venturi started the day with just €20, turning it into around €707,000 whilst playing on EuroBet’s Sixty Seconds game.

The company initially congratulated him, but was then refused his payout on the grounds of a software malfunction, which EuroBet said was covered in its terms and conditions. Judge Simon Brown QC sided with the betting company, saying that the fact that there was a virus in the software that meant that he didn’t pay for all of his bets was indeed covered by the terms and conditions, so Venturi got nothing.