Gambling

Gambling is all about taking risks, but with exhaustive sets of rules and extensive lists of terms and conditions (T&C’s), it can often be confusing as to when you should make a complaint or who the complaint should be made to. Thankfully the vast majority of gambling transactions are settled correctly to the satisfaction of both the customer and gambling operator. However, there will be instances where there is a disagreement with a transaction settlement or other account decisions. This guide will explore your rights and examine common rules – giving you the information and advice you need to get your issue resolved.

General

Who can I complain to?

All gambling companies are required to provide details of their complaints procedures. These details will be available at the operator's high street outlet or on their website. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly by a gambling company, you can use Resolver to make a complaint to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service. If you feel that the ADR is unable to resolve your complaint, the Gambling Act 2005 allows you to bring your issue to court. When you place a bet with a gambling company, you are entering a legally enforceable contract with them.

Difficult terms to understand

According to the Consumer Rights Act (2015), gambling companies must provide a summary of their T&C’s, written in plain and simple language. If you feel the T&C's of the bet are not sufficiently clear and jargon-free, you should use Resolver’s free gambling complaints tool to make a complaint.

Odds and prices

Available prices

When you place a bet, you’re only entitled to the price actually available at the time – not to any price quoted or displayed in error (unless you choose to bet at the starting price on horse and greyhound racing, i.e. the odds/price decided by an independent group just after a race starts). This means that you may place a bet at a certain price, have it accepted by the cashier (in-store or online), and then find it has been paid out at a price other than that which is marked on the betting slip. Unfortunately, all bookmakers operate under rules that allow them to settle bets at the correct odds. This is done to stop collusion between shop staff and customers. You should be aware the onus is on you to ensure the price accepted by a cashier is the price that is actually available at the time the bet is placed.

On occasions where technical problems have caused the shop screens to display incorrect prices, bookmakers are still allowed to settle bets at the prices that should have been displayed.

However, bookmakers still have to pay out fairly – if you believe that the bookmaker is paying out under the correct odds, or that the bookmaker is purposefully advertising false odds, you should use Resolver to make a complaint.

Best odds guaranteed (BOG)

BOG is offered by most major bookmakers. If a customer takes an early price during the period BOG is being offered, the selection will be settled at that price unless the starting price (SP) is bigger, in which case the bookmaker should settle at the higher starting price.

You should be aware that the amount you can benefit from settlement at best odds is typically capped at around £1,000 (£50,000 for online).

Bookmakers should display information regarding this cap in any promotional material. If you feel you have been misled into making the bet as the result of unclear information, you should use Resolver to launch a complaint. You should also raise a complaint if BOG is not paid to you and you’ve not be told officially that it’s not available to you.

Accumulators and related bets

In some cases, bookmakers will have special rules concerning related bets in accumulators. These rules are known as “related contingencies” – bookmakers do not generally allow related contingencies, but they do not expect their staff to spot them when they’re accepted. This means that your bet may still be accepted, even if it is invalid – you are not, however, entitled to a pay-out if you have made an invalid bet.

An example: Phil makes a bet with Example Bookmakers. This is a £12 treble – Phil bets that England v Italy will result in a 90 minute draw at 2/1, that the game will result in an extra-time draw at 2.1, and that Italy will win on penalties at 9/1. These bets are clearly related, and aim to secure multiplied odds on what is basically a single bet. Most bookmakers would settle this bet as either three single bets at £4 each, or as a £12 single at the longest price of the three.

Another example: Chrissi places a £10 double at Example bookmakers. Chrissi bets that Rory McIlroy will win the US Open, at 12/1, and that Rory McIlroy will win the Open Championship, at 10/1. In this case, while the bets themselves are not obviously related (since, in the event that Rory wins the US Open, there is nothing to stop another competitor from winning the Open Championship), it is the case that winning the first event is likely to lead to Rory starting the Open Championship at much shorter odds. In cases like these, bookmakers will normally have written their rules to allow them to settle the bet at special prices.

Bets and betting shops

Late bets

Bookmakers usually allow customers a limited amount of time in which to make bets after the event has begun. The length of time allowed may vary according to the bookmaker in question, but it can range between a limit of 3 seconds after the start of the race for virtual races, 3 seconds for greyhound races and 20 seconds for horse races over 2 miles.

The time at which bets are closed off is determined electronically by the bookmaker’s systems. When your betting slip has been accepted and scanned, the bet details have to be manually entered by shop staff. It is only after this point that the staff can determine whether or not a bet has been placed late. If the bookmaker is particularly busy, it may take a long time for the details of the bet to be entered into the system. This may mean that it may not always be possible to inform you before the end of the race that your bet was placed late.

With this in mind, if you feel that you have been treated unfairly or that your bet has been incorrectly marked as late, you can use our free late bets complaint tool to contact your bookmaker.

The official results were wrong!

In some cases, a result will be incorrectly credited by officials at the point of resolution. For example, goals may be attributed to the wrong player as the result of confusion, or athletes may be stripped of their victory as a result of drugs-testing. In these cases, bookmakers will typically suspend resolution of any bets for a period of a few hours (the length of time may vary according to each bookmaker’s rules). An amendment may be published by an official source (usually the Press Association) within this time period – if this is the case, bookmakers will typically resolve any bets according to the new outcome. If the time limit is exceeded without a clear resolution, the bookmaker will usually resolve any bets according to the first outcome. In some rare cases, the bookmaker will void any bets and issue a refund accordingly.

If there is any confusion as to the outcome of the bet, we advise you to contact your bookmaker. If you are unhappy with their efforts at resolving the matter, Resolver can help direct your complaint to an ADR.

Cash-out

Many bookmakers offer “cash-out” options on matches that are traded in-play. This can get complicated, as bookmakers suspend markets when there is a match incident (such as a free kick, corner or goal), and this will cause a suspension of cash out. In practice, this means that it will be very difficult to cash out a bet containing multiple selections. For this reason, bookmakers reserve the right to withdraw the cash-out facility at any time. If you feel it was not clear what the T&C’s were for cash out, you may be entitled to make an appeal according to the Consumer Rights Act (2015).

Coupons, betting slips and betting receipts

In cases where you have made your bet using a football coupon and the bet on your receipt is different from what you have marked on the betting slip, the error may arise from a fault in the scanning software. Unfortunately, the onus is on the customer to check that the receipt matches the bet – in these cases, the bookmaker will resolve the bet according to the receipt.

If you have marked a betting slip to present to the cashier, the onus is once again on you to check that the betting receipt provided correctly matches up with your betting slip.

I don't think the company had a gambling licence!

Every gambling company (both on the high street and online) that offers gambling to customers in Great Britain is required by law to have a gambling licence from the Gambling Commission. It must be displayed in store or on every web page. If you gamble with an unlicensed company, you do not have any rights if anything goes wrong. The onus is on the consumer to check that the company has a licence before you gamble.

I didn't understand the game I was playing

Gambling companies must provide rules for each of their products. Different types of companies may also need to provide players’ guides to their games. For example, a casino must offer a player’s guide to the house edge, while an online gambling company must provide a player’s guide to each gambling product (bet, game or lottery) that they offer. You should make sure you understand the rules before you start to gamble. If you feel that the instructions provided weren’t clear, you may be entitled to make an appeal according to the Consumer Rights Act (2015).

The game/betting machine broke whilst I was playing

The gambling company must make clear what happens if your game or bet is interrupted. Different companies will have different rules for what happens in the event of an interruption. This includes, for example, betting on horse racing, where there may be specific rules concerning postponed races or withdrawn runners. If you are unhappy with the way the bookmaker has resolved the bet, you can use Resolver to make a complaint.

Ambiguous betting slips

It is your responsibility to make sure that your betting slip is clearly decipherable. Bookmakers will settle your bet based on a reasonable objective interpretation of what appears on the betting slip – not on what you intended the bet to be. Always be certain that your betting slip is clearly understandable!

Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and self-service betting terminals (SSBTs)

FOBTs

The rules concerning fixed odds betting terminals are currently under review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The next update on this review is due in December.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns regarding fixed odds betting terminals, we recommend that you use Resolver’s free tool to make a complaint with your bookmaker. It is always worth registering your concern, as resolution may be possible.

SSBTs

SSBTs are often found in bookmakers’ shops. The assumption commonly made is that the SSBTs are operated by bookmakers, but this is not the case. The majority of SSBTs are operated by Best Gaming Technology (a gambling software company owned by Playtech). Problems arise here because the SSBTs are typically branded to match bookmakers – however, SSBT bets may not be settled according to the bookmaker’s rules. For example, many prices and offers available over the counter are not available from the terminal.

Online gambling

I lost track of time whilst gambling online and spent more than I wanted to!

Online gambling companies must give you the option to set a ‘reality check’, which is a pre-organised interruption in play. You should have the option to set the time intervals at which the reality check will appear on the screen. If the online gambling application obscures the clock on your device, the application must display the time of day or the amount of time that has elapsed since the beginning of the gambling session. Online gambling companies must also allow you to set limits on the amounts you want to spend.

I've self-excluded but I'm still receiving marketing material!

If you’ve made a self-exclusion agreement but find that you’re still receiving marketing material, you should use Resolver to contact your bookmaker. They are obliged to remove your information from their mailing lists. If they don’t they are breaking the Data Protection Act (1998), which means you can complain to the relevant regulator.

Minimum withdrawal is higher than my deposit!

Currently, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is investigating claims that some online gambling operators are running a rate of minimum withdrawal that is far higher than the minimum deposit required. Currently, you may be able to make a claim under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), as this seems patently unfair. Subsequent to the CMA’s update on the investigation in December 2017, there may be additional rights available to consumers.

Difficult to withdraw money from account!

If you find that it is unreasonably difficult to withdraw money from your account with an online gambling provider, you can use Resolver’s online gambling complaints tool to make a complaint. In the UK, the Gambling Commission supports you in being able to withdraw your money – bookmakers should not hold onto your money unfairly.

Free spins and bonus slots

Many online gambling firms have introductory offers that include free spins and bonus slots, as well as quantities of credit to be used on the site. Always read the terms and conditions – many bookmakers will demand that a deposit is made in exchange for the bonus. The Gambling Commission believes that you should be able to get your money back out in the event that you don’t want to gamble. If you find that you cannot do this, you should use Resolver to launch a complaint.

Opening multiple accounts

It is standard industry practice for gambling operators to permit customers to only have one account with them. There are two main reasons for adopting such a practice - firstly to prevent customers taking advantage of what may appear to be generous sign-up offers by opening multiple accounts, and secondly to prevent customers placing bets via multiple accounts where the bookmaker may wish to restrict the size of the bet the customer wishes to place. In the case of bonus offers, most operators restrict offers to one per household. If you have opened an account and accepted a signup offer yourself, you may encounter problems if someone else in your household then opens an account with the same company. You may find that not only will any winnings you have accrued be confiscated, but you may also have your account closed and forfeit your deposits as well. It is therefore important that you carefully read and understand the operator's T&C’s before agreeing to them.

Accounts

My account has been closed!

A gambling company has the right to close any account. It may choose to do so for a number of reasons, including; if there is a risk of harm, if there is risk of detriment to the business, suspicion of money laundering etc. You can use Resolver to contact the company to find out why your account has been closed.

My member benefits have been withdrawn

A significant number of gambling operators offer members’ benefits, for example; Best Odds Guaranteed concessions or freebets. All gambling operators have the right to remove member's benefits, but they must inform individual customers that this decision has been taken. You can use Resolver to contact the company to find out why members benefits have been withdrawn and to recoup any winnings removed from your account before you were told about any account restrictions.

Advertising

The content of a gambling advert was not appropriate

Licence holders must follow the rules put in place by the Committee for Advertising (CAP), the Broadcast Committee for Advertising Practice (BCAP) and industry code of practice for advertising.

The advert is aimed at children of vulnerable people

There are regulations to protect children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling. The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) is the UK’s independent regulator of gambling. It enforces the UK advertising codes, which are designed to ensure the adverts placed for gambling products don’t target children or vulnerable people.

The advert was misleading

If you feel that an advert misled you concerning the terms and conditions of a game, you should use Resolver to make a complaint.

I'm still receiving marketing information after self-excluding

If you find that you're still receiving marketing information after opting to self-exclude, you should make a complaint to your bookmaker as soon as possible. Resolver's free tool will help you stop any further marketing materials being sent to you. If they don’t they are breaking the UK’s Data Protection Act (1998) which means you can complain to the relevant regulator.

Football

Extra-time wins

Be careful to determine whether you’re betting on the outright result of the match or simply the 90-minute result. Confusion often arises regarding these bets, as the common misconception is that bets on the “match” include extra time and penalty shootouts – this isn’t the case. The “match” refers to the 90 minutes of full time, including stoppages. If, for example, you want to gamble on Liverpool to win (regardless of whether they win in extra time or not), you should bet on Liverpool “to win outright” or “including extra time and penalty shootouts”.

The bookmaker should make this clear – on some occasions, particularly regarding bets on cup matches or play-offs, this isn’t the case. If you think that a bookmaker has deliberately misled you or displayed unclear information, you can use Resolver to make a complaint.

Goalscorer betting

If you intend to bet on an anytime goalscorer, you should double-check that your bookmaker offers an anytime market. In many cases, customers write, for example, “Rooney to score”, with the intention that the bet be interpreted as a bet on Rooney to score at any point during the match. If, however, the bookmaker doesn’t have an anytime market available, they will typically accept the bet as a bet settled on the first goalscorer (depending on the bookmaker’s rules).

Be aware that own goals do not typically count in goalscorer betting.

If you feel that the bookmaker has misled you about the terms of a goalscorer bet, you can use our free goalscorer betting complaint tool to make a complaint.

The "five-minute" rule

If you place a bet after kick-off, you may fall foul of the "five-minute" rule. This is a rule upheld by most bookmakers that means that your bet will only stand if there has been no goal scored, penalty awarded or no one sent off within the first five minutes. The exact time limit depends upon the bookmaker in question.

If in-play betting is being offered online, many bookmakers will allow late bets to stand at the in-play price available at the time the bets were placed. However, bookmakers who have a five-minute rule tend to enforce it for coupon bets.

Horse racing

Rule 4

When a horse is withdrawn from a race, it becomes easier for the other horses to win. Rule 4 is a deduction that bookmakers make from your winnings when you have taken a fixed odds price prior to the withdrawal of runners. If, however, you back a horse that has been withdrawn from the race, your stake will be refunded.

Overseas racing

Customers often find that their bets on overseas racing have been settled at shorter odds than expected. This is usually because settlement has been based on the bookmaker’s own price or an industry price rather than on the pari-mutuel or Tote dividend issued by the track.

There may be multiple prices available for the same race – customers should clearly specify which price they want.

If you are concerned about your gambling, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or GambleAware on 0800 8020 133.



Gambling complaints tool

The Resolver takeaway complaints tool will guide you through preparing and submitting your complaint.


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