Do Bookies have to pay out by law is a question we often get asked, and the answer is yes. However, it’s always important to check the terms and conditions of each bookmaker you bet with, as these may vary greatly in some areas. There are also other caveats that may stop bookmakers from paying out, such as when a genuine palpable error has been made. There have even been rare occurrences involving collusion between parties that have tried to cheat the bookies that have resulted in the non-payment of winning bets.
The Gambling Act Of 2005
Gambling debts were not always enforceable by law, but the Gambling Act 2005 was passed in the UK to try and ensure a variety of objectives, mainly that gambling in the UK is conducted in a fair and transparent way. This includes gambling on horse racing, sports, etc. This act also states that gambling debts are enforceable by law. So, if you’ve placed a bet at the correct odds, without trying to cheat in any way, you should get your winnings from the bookies without any trouble.
What Is A Palpable Error?
A palpable error made by bookmakers is normally when an obvious mistake has been made regarding a punter receiving higher odds than they should have or being allowed to place a bet that clearly shouldn’t have been allowed to.
I can remember being in a bookmaker’s shop with a friend who was thrilled that the favourite he was hoping to back at 6/4 was suddenly available at 16/1 on the screens. He rushed to put £50 on it and the inexperienced teller duly gave him 16/1. Seconds later, whoever had programmed in the odds realised their mistake and corrected it.
The horse duly won, and my friend spent a good half-an-hour arguing that he had taken the 16/1 odds in good faith and that he should be paid out at those odds. But the bookmaker was having none of it and refused to pay him any more than 6/4 the horse was returned at. The bookmaker was totally within his right to do this and, let’s face it, would you really expect anything else?
Bets Accepted In Error
There are some bets that bookies simply do not allow you to place, and this is when one event may have a significant impact on betting for another event. These are sometimes referred to as contingency bets.
For example, a bookmaker may be offering odds for a horse to win the 2,000 Guineas and odds for the same horse to win the Derby. But you will not be allowed to combine these two bets into a double. That is because, if the horse wins the 2,000 Guineas, it is likely to be much shorter odds to win the Derby.
If a bet like this is taken by accident, a bookmaker is normally within their rights to void this bet or settle it at reduced odds (depending on their terms and conditions). If you want to place a bet for the horse to win both races, the bookmaker may have odds for that or may offer you a price when you ask.
Another example would be a football match in which the outcome of one bet would significantly shorten the odds of another outcome. The perfect example would be if you tried to double two bets on a team to be winning at half-time and full-time.
For example, Liverpool may be 2/1 to be winning at half-time but only evens to be winning at full-time. You can’t double these bets to make a 5/1 double, as if Liverpool were winning at half-time, they would be much shorter to be winning at full-time. Again, if you try and put this bet on and the teller takes it by mistake, you won’t get paid out at 5/1. If the bookmaker was offering a bet in which Liverpool was winning at half-time and full-time, your bet may be settled at these odds. (Again, you’d need to check the terms and conditions of the bookmaker you’d placed the bet with.)
Breaching Terms & Conditions Of Bonuses, Free Bets, And Offers
If you’re the type of punter that likes to take advantage of bookmaker bonuses, free bets, and offers (and why not), it’s paramount that you check the terms and conditions of each offer. While bookmaking promotions have become more transparent in recent years, there’s still a chance that you could forfeit your winnings from a bet if you do not adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of any promotional clauses. These may include wagering requirements, time limits, etc.
If you try and cheat the bookmaker by deliberately trying to break the rules, then you should expect to not get paid if you get caught.
One of the most popular ways that punters try and get one over on the bookmakers is by having more accounts or claiming more bonuses than they are entitled to. A bookmaker won’t mind if you do this and lose, but they will clamp down on you if you win. Pay careful attention to rules such as, only one account/bonus per address or shared IP address.
Beware Of Maximum Payout Limits
Bookmakers will have maximum payout limits, and these may vary greatly from one bookmaker to another. Payout limits on certain sports or bets may also vary greatly at the same bookmaker. You might be able to win a life-changing £1 Million at some big bookmakers, while small independent high-street bookmakers may only payout a maximum of a few thousand pounds.
For example, having filled in an online bet slip with a Cheltenham Festival ante-post lucky-63 that states that the bet will pay £2 Million, you’ll still only get whatever the maximum payout is. If you find yourself in this position, split your bet into smaller stakes and place it with a variety of bookmakers. This way you could win that full £2 million.
One of the most famous bookmaking disputes of all time was when Barney Curly masterminded a huge gamble in 2010. Four horses he either owned/trained or had previously owned/trained where punted as if defeat was out of the question from massive prices into favouritism, but not before a lot of shrewd money had been invested on them in multiplies.
The coup won over £4 million but could have cost the bookmakers another £20 million had they all won. Betfred refused to pay, saying that Curley had colluded to cheat the bookmakers, but they eventually had to fork out after a court case.
If you ever have a dispute over winnings with a bookmaker, the best place to start is by contacting the bookmaker’s support team. Most disputes can be rectified this way.
If this doesn’t work, the next step is to contact IBAS, which is the Independent Betting Adjudication Service. If IBAS doesn’t rule in your favour, you can ask the Gambling Commission to help, and they have been known to persuade Bookmakers to make payments when they may not have had to.
The final option is to take the bookmaker to court but, if it goes this far, you’d better be prepared to be able to pay the court costs if you lose. Obtaining specialist legal advice is the best option in such a scenario.
We hope that’s answered your question, do bookies have to pay out by law. If you’re looking for more betting advice, you’ll find lots more free-to-read articles here on the Betting Gods blog.