Do Bookies Have To Pay Out By Law


If you are a professional bettor, then you also do not need to pay taxes on your winnings. You still need to file tax returns however, but as long as you state the income that has been paid as a result of betting, then you won’t be taxed on these amounts. The Current Tax Situation.

  • Do bookies have to pay out by law? No, they are not obligated to do so by any law. And if you ask yourself what should you do in cases like these, there are actually two ways to settle it. Either you contact the bookie via the customer support and make your complaint or you can turn to.
  • Depending on the country, bookmaking may be legal or illegal and is often regulated. In the United Kingdom, since 1 May 1961, bookmaking has been legal and has even been a small contributor to the British economy, with a recent explosion of interest with.

Bets are tricky things. Depending on what it is that you’ve placed your bet on, there are a crazy amount of moving parts that might go the wrong way at any given moment. If you’ve had a flutter on a football match, for example, then any one of twenty-two players on the pitch could do something crazy that throws your bet all out of whack. That’s to say nothing of the man in the middle who might decided to send someone off for no reason. Then, there’s the crowd, who can influence things by doing more than just shouting from the sidelines. I’m thinking, for example, of when a Sunderland fan threw a beachball onto the pitch that deflected a shot past Pepe Reina back in 2009.

If your bet involves something longer term than just a one-off match, such as an ante-post bet on the Premier League winner or which politician will win a race for a specific public office, then there are even more moving parts to consider. We accept all of this when we place our bets, of course. We realise that outside influences could cause our bets to go wrong. One thing we never really think about, though, is when the bookmakers get cocky and decide that something is a fait accompli. We all think of bookies as being money hungry, argumentative organisations that will do anything to avoid paying out unless they have to. That’s not always the case though, as countless high-profile examples from the past can show us.

Paddy Power Go Big On City

In December 2017, Manchester City had an eight point lead over their neighbours Manchester United heading into the Manchester derby. A win for the Citizens would increase that gap eleven points, with the next closest side being Chelsea fourteen points away and then Liverpool sixteen off the top. Though City’s lead was certainly impressive, less than half of the games of the Premier League season had been played when Paddy Power chose to pay out on Manchester City lifting the trophy.

At the time of writing, I’m unable to say whether the Irish bookmaker’s decision was a good one or a crazy one as the season isn’t yet over. What I can say is that Newcastle United blew a twelve-point lead that they’d built up by January back in 1996, so it’s not as though it’s a done deal for Pep Guardiola’s side. In 2004, Spanish giants Real Madrid had another twelve point lead but there were just twelve games remaining, whereas City have more than half the season left. Real lost the title that year, so might City do it again?

Why Do They Do It?

As punters, we’re never likely to complain when a bookmaker decides to pay us out early on a bet, especially if it looks like it’s still up in the air when they do so. As much as we won’t complain, though, it’s certainly not unreasonable to ask why, exactly, a bookie might decide to declare our bet a winner before it’s actually reached the state of confirmation. In my opinion, there’s one reason above all others for that particular outcome: publicity.

I don’t think it’s a big coincidence that one of the bookmakers that pays out bets early on a regular basis is Paddy Power. Paddy Power, you’ll know from reading other pages on this site, are a bookie that loves doing things for publicity. First black President in America’s history? Let’s offer odds on when he’ll be assassinated. Oil spill in the ocean? Let’s allow punters to guess which species will be the first to go extinct from it. Those are the sorts of bets that will catch the eye of newspaper editors, who will make big stories out of them and give the bookmaker that offers them a nice chunk of free publicity.

Offering tasteless bets is one thing, but that will only get you attention and newspaper column inches rather than attract customers to sign up with your company. What can bookies do that will tick both boxes? Payout early on high-profile bets. After all, you might not be tempted to bet on various species going extinct, but you certainly wouldn’t mind it if the bookmaker you used put money into your account before a bet had even been settled. You think that the bookie is willing to lose money, forgetting that they’ll have balanced the books to ensure that it doesn’t cost them anything to pay out early when compared to the business that the publicity will earn them.

Of course, there’s also the fact that most bookies know that customers will re-invest their winnings more often than they hold on to them. Sure, paying a punter a load of money on a bet that might turn out to be a loser isn’t great, but when you know the likelihood is that they’ll just give you that money straight back, then it’s not exactly the worst idea ever. Even if only half of all customers place more bets with their winnings, then it will be enough for most bookies to consider it a successful gamble.

The final thing worth mentioning is that paying out early on bets allows bookmakers to say a market is closed without seeming like stinge bags. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘bookmakers have suspended betting’, normally on something that seems as though it’s a done deal like a manager joining a club. If bookies simply suspended betting on something, such as a team winning the league, then it would just seem like they were being tight, whereas paying out early on X winning a certain event means they can close that market at the same time as looking generous. Ultimately, it all comes down to the public optics and what will make them look the best to both current and potential customers. Paying out early will help companies keep the ones they’ve got an attract new ones, which is the definition of a win-win for them.

Examples of When Bookies Have Got Early Payouts Right

Early payouts fit into two categories: the days when the bookies get it right and the times when they get it really, really wrong. Let’s give them some credit and start with examples of when they’ve made the right call with their decisions to go early on declaring a bet a winning one.

Conor McGregor Wasn’t the Pride of the Irish

When Mixed Martial Arts champion, Conor McGregor, decided he was going to turn his hand to boxing, few gave him much of a chance. Floyd Mayweather Junior might well have been retired when the Irishman challenged him to a one-off special, but before he hung up his gloves he’d racked up a career record of fifty matches without defeat. That was against professional boxers who had trained for the entire lives to get into the ring, so McGregor never truly stood a chance. Even so, not all bookies were generous enough to pay out on the American winning before a punch had even been thrown, so Paddy Power customers were delighted when money started arriving into their account in return for their bets on Mayweather.

You might have thought that Paddy Power wouldn’t be the bookie to do it, considering McGregor is Irish and the bookmaker has long played on its heritage of being from the Emerald Isle. Nevertheless, payout early they did, combining the publicity they got for doing so with a bit of controversy for the tagline “We Always Bet on Black”. A spokesman for the company confirmed that the fact that the man that they were essentially betting against was Irish was irrelevant when they sat and crunched the numbers, saying “Patriotism aside, we are paying out early on a Mayweather victory – because we checked, and only one of them is a boxer”.

Obama Win Justifies Early Payout

Sticking with Paddy Power again, the bookie got its call right back in 2012 when they paid out on Barack Obama to win reelection. They did it two days before the United States went to vote, at a time when the polls suggested that things were pretty close between Obama and his rival for the top office, Mitt Romney. It resulted in them shelling out around £600,000 and was unquestionably something of a gamble considering that the then President’s odds had dropped to 2/9, their lowest during the campaign.

We all know what happened next, of course. The Democrat won twenty-six states, as well as Washington DC, earning nearly five million votes more than his counterpart and racking up 332 electoral college votes compared to Romney’s 206. This seemed like a case of what I was mentioning before, with the company deciding to close their book on Obama in a way that would earn them good publicity rather than bad. A spokesman practically confirmed as much, saying “The overall betting trend has shown one way traffic for Obama”.

Betfred Gets a United Call Right For Once

I’ll come on to talk about Betfred’s mistakes shortly, but they got it right in 2013 when they decided to payout on Manchester United winning the title twelve games before the end of the season. When Alex Ferguson’s side established a twelve point lead at the top of the table that was enough of a sign for the Salford-based bookmaker to believe that the Red Devils wouldn’t let it slip, so they rewarded customers who had bet on United by giving them their winnings early.

Fred Done is a Manchester United supporter and demonstrated his faith in his club’s ability to see off their rivals with his early payout decision, saying “…with United 12 points clear with just 12 games left the title race is over”. Unlike on previous occasions, he got his prediction spot on. In the end, his club side won the title on the 22nd of April after a 3-0 win over Aston Villa, four games from the end of the campaign rather than the twelve Done had made his decision at. He did get something wrong, though, as United actually won it by eleven points rather than twelve. That was to be Alex Ferguson’s last year in charge of the club; something that the bookie had failed to predict.

Examples of When Bookies Have Got Early Payouts Wrong

Let’s be honest, it’s nowhere near as much fun when bookies get their early payout decisions right as when they get them horribly wrong. As punters it’s always great to see bookmakers get snotted, but when it’s their own fault there’s definitely a bit of schadenfreude about it! Here’s a look at when they’ve made big mistakes:

Betfred Get It Wrong on United. More Than Once…

As I mentioned a moment ago, Betfred haven’t always got their calls right when it comes to Manchester United’s ability to see off strong opposition and claim the title. In fact, they’ve got it wrong twice during their existence, starting with the 1997-1998 season. United were twelve points clear of their nearest rival, as they would be fifteen years later, but the difference was that back then Arsenal had three games-in-hand on Alex Ferguson’s side. They won all of them, whilst United dropped points at home to Liverpool and Newcastle. That handed Arsene Wenger his first Premier League title by a point, with Betfred losing £1 million in early payouts.

You would think that Fred Done would have learnt his lesson there, especially considering that the Manchester United manager told him ‘never to payout early’ on his side again after the 1998 debacle, believing that it jinxed the players. It was not a case of once bitten twice shy, however, with Betfred once again paying out early on a United title win in 2012. They were five points clear of rivals Manchester City at the time, but losses to Wigan Athletic and City themselves meant that the season went down to the final day. Anyone who has ever watched a Sky Sports football trailer will know what happened next, with United’s away win at Sunderland made pointless thanks to Sergio Aguero’s winner in the last minute of the game. The pain for Done was doubled, with City winning their first title and him having already paid out on a losing bet.

Paddy Power Gets Trumped

Back to Paddy Power, then, and one of their biggest losses in recent times. The Irish bookmaker was so convinced that Hilary Clinton was going to win the US Presidential Election in 2016 that they paid out on her doing just that, only for Donald Trump to win the electoral college and become the leader of the free world. Their decision to payout on Barack Obama’s victory two days before the election was a risky one, but it made some sort of sense thanks to polling by the likes of FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver suggesting he had something like a 90% chance of pulling it off. They paid out on Clinton three weeks before a single lever was pulled, though, at a time when the polls were still within the margin of error.

The decision to payout early on Clinton cost the bookmaker close to £800,000, with a company spokesman saying “Despite Trump’s Make America Great Again message appealing to many disillusioned voters, it looks as though America are going to put a woman in the White House”. As we know now, that confidence was floored. FBI Director, James Comey, wrote a letter to congress eleven days before voting got underway, declaring that he was reopening the investigation into Hilary’s use of an unsecured server. It’s believed by most commentators to be the turning point of the election, playing into voters’ mistrust of the Clinton family and giving Trump the perfect weapon to attack her with, despite the allegations of sexual assault levelled at him. A heavy loss for both Paddy Power and the United States.

Greek Vote Leaves Bookie Red-Faced

Paddy Power has dominated this piece, so it’s only right that we finish the article by talking about them one last time. This early payout involved the Greek vote at a referendum on whether or not to accept the terms of a bailout deal. The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, believed that he could persuade his people to accept the bailout offer as long as certain conditions were altered, but Germany refused to make the said alterations. Paddy Power believed that the referendum would result in a ‘Yes’ vote, only for the Greeks to resoundingly disagree with them when they took to the polls.

In the end, the result was 61 percent against accepting the bail out deal, which wasn’t too far off where polling suggested the vote would go. A few days before the vote a ProRata institute poll showed that 54% planned to oppose the deal, with only 33% being in favour of it. This seems to me to be about as clear a case as you’re likely to find of a bookmaker paying out early purely for the publicity. They lost a five-figure sum over the early payout, which was unlikely to be much compared to how much they’ll have earned from new customers. A spokesperson said, “Paddy Power is feeling a little red faced this morning after calling the Greek referendum wildly wrong”. Red faced, but very much in the black.

Many people often ask whether bookies are legally obliged to pay out when a punter wins a bet. Most people would assume that bookmakers are held to the same standards as other businesses as gambling is now – in the UK at least – a fully regulated and licensed industry. In the same way that a consumer has rights when they buy something from a shop or online store, it would seem logical to presume that betting sites also have legal obligations to us punters.

For a long, long time bets were not legally enforced, nor was there any independent regulatory body. However, much changed when the 2005 Gambling Act was passed. This piece of government legislation had a range of objectives, one of which was “ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way”. The Act covered many different aspects of betting but one of its key elements was the creation of the Gambling Commission, a non-departmental public body.

Part of the government, the UK Gambling Commission was responsible for regulating, licensing and supervising a host of gambling activities, including bets on sport (and other events such as the weather, TV and so on).

Crucially the 2005 Gambling Act meant that gambling debts became legally enforceable, in theory at least, meaning that yes, bookies do indeed now have to pay out by law. There is lots of small print around this issue, however, and lots of “ifs”, “buts” and potential caveats. Before we explain more about those, let us first look at why gambling was not initially an issue with which the government concerned itself.

Before 2005 Gambling Debts Were Unenforceable

In the words of the legal experts, Pinsent Masons, the Gambling Act 2005 “replaces legislation dating as far back as 1845”. Amazing as it may seem, before that Act much of the legalese surrounding gambling was more than 150 years old! Rtg no deposit bonus codes.

One of the key aspects of the 1845 Gaming Act was to make bets legally unenforceable but instead they were considered a “debt of honour”. These provisions were covered in Sections 17 and 18 and although they were tweaked a little over the years, essentially they remained in place until 1st September 2007 (when all parts of the 2005 Act came into force).

This may seem incredibly odd to the modern reader but the reasoning was that by making bets non-legally binding the working classes would be discouraged from gambling. Gambling in betting houses, on horses and on other events had grown a lot and was increasingly being viewed as a social ill.

The government believed that this approach would give the police greater powers to restrict the betting habits of the working classes whilst simultaneously allowing the upper and middle classes to indulge in their favoured pursuits. It also removed the government from involvement in this area, allowing them to concentrate on what they considered more important matters than settling petty gambling disagreements.

So, If Bets Are Legally Binding, the Bookie Has to Pay?

Whilst the situation is much-changed since the 2005 Gambling Act, sadly a winning bet is not always a winning bet. If everything is above board and done fairly then a bookie is obliged to pay out and gambling debts are now legally enforceable.

However, what the bookie, the regulator and independent adjudicators think is fair might well differ from what you as a punter think is right and proper. Let us look at some reasons why a bookmaker might not pay out.

Palpable Error

One of the most common reasons a bookie may refuse to pay out on a bet, or more likely will pay out but at reduced odds, is when they have made an obvious error with their pricing. What constitutes an “obvious” error may not always be clear but perhaps the most common cause of a “palp” is when the bookmaker has got the odds for the teams or players the wrong way round.

Example 1

For example, hypothetically, if you saw that an FA Cup game between Man City and Scunthorpe at the Etihad and Man City to win was showing at odds of 33/1, with Scunthorpe odds-on favourites, it would be very clear and obvious to anyone who knew about football that these odds were the wrong way round. You could back City at 33/1, get your bet fully confirmed and see it stand for several hours or even days but almost certainly, at some stage, the bookie would realise their error.

In this instance they would be entirely within their rights to refuse payment at the accepted odds and instead pay out your bet at the price they should have been offering. Such palpable errors are not uncommon in tennis and other head-to-head sports, where due to a human or technical errors, the odds are inputted the wrong way round.

Example 2

Another fairly common example of a palpable error is similar and might arise due to a simple typo. For example a bookmaker might mean to offer odds of 10/1, but inadvertently offers 100/1, or even 1000/1. Once again, if you back this, even innocently, unaware that you are really getting odds 10 or more times what they should be, the most likely outcome is that the bookie becomes aware of their mistake and pays out your bet at the correct price.

The Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) – a dispute resolution service that adjudicates on customer disputes in the gambling industry – is very clear about betting sites not abusing this clause.

IBAS state that:

“‘Obvious error’ or ‘palpable error’ rules must not be used to protect operators from errors of judgement or movements in the market they have failed to detect and respond to.

What that means is that a bookie cannot void a bet or pay at reduced odds just because they got the odds wrong, or were slow to react to changing information.

Looking at that second point, let us consider an example where a bookie prices Liverpool at evens to beat Chelsea, with the visitors available at 5/2. If, by a terrible slice of fortune, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Mo Salah all get injured in the warm up, a quick-off-the-mark punter might pile into the Blues at 5/2. In this instance, the bookie would not be able to claim this was a palp and the punter would get paid. And we suspect Jurgen Klopp would be having serious words with whoever led the pre-match exercises!

The Hole in One Gang

We turn to a very famous golf bet to illustrate the difference between a genuine pricing error, when the bookmaker has incorrectly assessed the market and a palpable error where they have made an “obvious” mistake. As said, a bookmaker cannot refuse to pay out when “errors of judgement” have led to the odds being wrong, and in 1991 (admittedly before debts were legally enforceable but the point still stands!) Paul Simmons and John Carter took advantage of this.

As reported in the Guardian newspaper, these two experienced punters calculated the odds of a hole in one in a professional golf tournament. They strongly suspected that the average independent bookmaker would expect aces to be far less common than they actually were. They were proved right to the tune of more than £500,000.

The pair toured the country checking what odds a range of bookies would give them on various hole in one bets covering five big tournaments. It is thought they placed a number of wagers at odds of up to 100/1, on an outcome now estimated to be more like 30/1 (on there being at least one hole in one in all five events).

The bookies made a big mistake and to some it may even have seemed obvious, at least in hindsight. However, it was a fair bet and a genuine error of judgement and so most of the bookies paid up.

Do Bookies Ever Pay Out for Palpable Errors?

Whilst betting sites do not need to pay out on such occasions, there have been times when they have. One of the most famous such instances was in the US and involved another potential cause of such errors, a technical glitch.

Back in 2018, FanDuel decided they would honour a bet they could have “palped” and paid out a very tidy sum of $82,000 after initially saying they wouldn’t. For 18 seconds they offered odds of 750/1 on the Denver Broncos to beat the Oakland Raiders, despite the true odds being 1/6. One lucky/clever/sharp punter managed to get $110 on the Broncos but was initially told he would not be paid as the odds were “an erroneous price over an 18-second period.”

Whether they did this due to pressure from the US regulator, out of a sense of fairness, or because they believed the publicity would be worth more than the liability of the bet is unclear. Newark-based punter Anthony Prince, and 11 other FanDuel punters who backed the Denver side probably don’t much care about the reason!

With FanDuel a relatively young company with cash to burn, most suspect they paid up to make the most of good publicity and avoid the bad publicity that would have come had they not. However, other bookies are concerned this may have set something of a precedent and may encourage punters to try and seek out such errors in the hope of still getting paid.

Right now any change in the UK approach to palps seems unlikely but if bookies ever were compelled to pay out for such errors they would simply have to recover those losses in another way. More than likely that would mean lower odds and fewer offers, so for the average recreational punter the current rules may actually work best.

From time to time though you may find that a bookie will still pay up even though the bet could have been voided (or paid at the “correct”, reduced odds). This might happen for a number of reasons. The bookmaker may decide the bad publicity or customer sentiment isn’t worth it in the case of a small amount, they may feel it was a borderline case or they may not even have spotted the error.

In relation to this last point, if you do ever see odds you think are definitely and obviously wrong you have two choices. You could place a bet and hope the bookie pays out or, if you are more honest, or simply want to play it safer, you can let the site’s customer service team know. If you ask nicely they’ll often give you a free bet for pointing this out and it’s definitely worth a try asking for one!

Bets Accepted in Error

Another example of a bet that a punter believes should be paid but that might not be is when a bookmaker or betting site accepts a bet in error. Once again, this does have many grey areas but also once again, does not include an error of judgement or bookmakers being slow to change their odds in the light of new information or a big market move.

Two examples of such errors, that could take place both in a bricks and mortar betting shop and also online are:

  1. Bets accepted after an event has finished
  2. Bets on related contingencies

The former is fairly self-explanatory. If a match or event has finished but, for whatever reason, the bookie still shows odds and confirms a bet, they will usually void the wager and return your stake. Perhaps a little confusingly, when it comes to bookmakers leaving in-play markets running longer than they should (for example on a correct score after a goal has been scored) bets will usually stand.

Do bookies have to pay out by law school

Related Contingencies

The second example, related contingencies, is one that some bettors will have heard of but many won’t. Related contingencies usually relate to accumulator bets and describe selections where the outcome of one leg, or contingency, is related to the outcome of another.

Example 1

An example might make that easier to understand in betting terms, so let us look at a hypothetical game of football and a hypothetical punter. Mrs Noob decides she wants to place a double on Dinamo Minsk to win and Dinamo Minsk to be winning at half time (yes, this was written during the dark days of the coronavirus when the Belarus premier League was one of the few things available for us to bet on!). She checks the odds and sees that:

  • Dinamo Minsk to be ahead at half time is 15/8
  • Dinamo Minsk to win is 11/10

She’s confident, being an expert on Belarusian football (like most of us rapidly became!) and so bets £100 on this double. She expects this to return a very tidy £603.75 including her stake, equating to handsome odds of just over 5/1.

She wins and goes to check her account, only to see a somewhat meagre, in comparison at least, balance of £360. This is because the two selections within the double were related. If Dinamo Minsk are ahead at half time and the first leg wins, they are then a lot more likely to go on and win the game, meaning that the odds for the second leg of the acca would be much lower than the 11/10 quoted.

As most football betting fans would know, the bet that Mrs Noob wanted to place would not be an acca but a single bet on the more specific half time/full time market. Here she would have found odds of 13/5, much lower than the 5/1 she was, wrongly, expecting.

Example 2

In theory, the bookies’ systems should not allow such a bet to be placed and should spot that the selected legs are related. However, sometimes such wagers do slip through and one famous example where the bookies refused to pay concerned a punt on it being a white Christmas back in 2009.

Southampton punter Cliff Bryant was expecting to be paid more than £7m but, as you might imagine, was somewhat miffed when Ladbrokes offered him just £31.78! He placed two £5 “accumulators” on there being snow in a number of UK post codes on Christmas Day 2009. The first bet included the following selections:

  • Darlington
  • Bradford
  • Newcastle
  • Leeds
  • Durham
  • Harrogate
  • Huddersfield
  • Halifax
  • Wakefield

However, anyone with the slightest grasp of northern geography and the weather would know that if it snows in Leeds there is a strong chance it will also snow in Bradford. Indeed, snow in any one of these towns or cities makes the chances of snow in the others far better.

Ladbrokes said that the rules for this particular market stated that only single bets were accepted, not accas. The reason for this was that these were related contingencies. Each single was probably priced at around the 5/1 or 6/1 mark and that is what Ladbrokes paid out.

Had the wager been referred to Ladbrokes’ trading room they may have priced the selection as a single bet, covering snow in all nine areas. However, the odds this would have been far, far lower than the nine-fold accumulator, with 10/1 or 15/1 perhaps being a fair price.

What About Free Bets & Offers?

Another example of when the technology a bookmaker uses should prevent an error but sometimes doesn’t is free bets, bonuses or offers. With all free bets, it is really important to read the terms and conditions carefully. These days the most important terms are made very obvious but sometimes in the more detailed explanation there may be something crucial.

For example, some free bets might only be valid for use on a certain specific game or a particular sport. Alternatively others might only be usable in-play, or pre-match. On the other hand, the offer may not be available to all customers, and only to recipients of a particular email. Or it may be open to all, apart from those previously excluded from such offers (and if you are a punter that uses many different sites it is easy to lose track).

In theory, it should be impossible to use, for example, a football free bet, on a horse race. Equally, you would hope that bookies would not allow banned customers to claim an offer they weren’t eligible for.

However, in practice sometimes a site might allow this initially before something flags it up. Ideally this would happen before the event has started and the bookie can simply return your free bet. However, it is possible that they may only notice when it comes to paying winnings and if this is the case they may not pay out.

Breaching Ts & Cs

Whilst using a bonus offer on the wrong sport would probably be an innocent mistake, breaching some of the more serious terms and conditions a bookie puts in place is another reason why you might find they don’t, and indeed don’t have to, pay a winning bet.

Such terms are usually in place to try and stop people taking advantage of free bets and offers in an unfair way. They are not there to catch out normal punters betting for fun, even if they do land winners. We want to make that clear because more often than not bookies do act fairly and above board, especially the biggest and best of them.

That said, it is possible that you could accidentally come a cropper even when you were just an innocent recreational punter. Few people like to read every bit of small print and whilst sites make the most important bits very clear, it is still far from hard to miss something.

Ways Bookmakers Terms Could Be Breached

Inadvertently or not, the following are just some of the ways that you might breach a bookmaker’s terms and, possibly, see them refuse to pay out on a winning bet:

  • Most sites allow one customer per address, household or shared IP address
  • All sites only allow you to hold one account
  • Most free bets include a term prohibiting strategies that guarantee a profit (for example backing under 2.5 goals and over)
  • Some sites do not allow Courtsiding

Maximum Payout

Another part of a bookie’s small print that many punters are not aware of concerns maximum pay outs. All betting sites have a cap on the amount you can win and this varies between sports and events. Whilst the biggest games, for example the World Cup final in football, or a big Premier League game, might have a maximum win of £1m or even more, for more niche sports and events it might be as little as £50,000, or even less.

Perhaps unfairly, a bookmaker will still accept a stake knowing that it would produce a win above their threshold. This is morally dubious but it is an example of knowledge being a powerful thing.

Returning to our disgruntled White Christmas punter, even if the accumulator had been legitimate, Ladbrokes would not have paid out the £7m+ that was quoted in newspaper reports. Let us assume the maximum payout on this novelty market was at the lower end, for example £200,000. Let us also assume for the sake of simplicity that it was a single £10 bet, rather than two bets of £5 each.

The Southampton-based punter risked £10 but could only stand to win £200,000. He could have achieved that same £200,000 win by staking just 29p! In other words, he risked an unnecessary additional £9.71 with no potential upside.

When a Winner Isn’t a Winner

Yet another example of forewarned being forearmed relates, once again, to the terms and conditions of the bookmaker. In this case we are talking about the rules that govern a bet. Experienced punters will be well aware of common potential pitfalls but our previous punter Mrs Noob, and indeed many less knowledgeable bettors might not.

We’ve already said that a bookmaker might not pay on a winning bet so you can be sure they won’t pay on a losing one, no matter how convinced you were it was a winner. The following are just a few of the ways in which a bet you thought had won might not have, or at least it had returned lower odds than you expected. Note that some of these we cover in great depth in dedicated articles on that topic so if you aren’t sure what we mean, check out that specific feature.

  • Rule 4 – In racing, a late withdrawal may mean a reduced payout
  • Dead Heat – Where a number of horses, teams or players tie, dead heat rules will usually apply
  • 90 Minutes Only – In football, the vast majority of bets apply to 90 minutes (plus added time) only, so extra time goals will not count. Note the same applies in other sports such as rugby
  • Draws & Ties – Some sports differentiate between a draw and a tie and equally some markets offer the draw as a bet whilst others don’t (in this instance, if the game ends level, for example with a handicap of +1, it is a push and your stake will be returned)
  • Own Goals – In football, own goals do not count for many goalscorer markets
  • Postponements & Abandonments – If a game is postponed, curtailed or abandoned some bets will stand, some will move forward to the rescheduled date (usually if it is replayed without much delay) and others will be voided

What Can I Do If a Bookie Doesn’t Pay?

No matter what the reason a bookmaker is refusing to pay what you believe to be a winning bet, the first place to start is always the bookmaker themselves. Get in touch with their customer support team and you may well find a valid explanation.

This may be that it was simply an error on their part and they’ll pay up, if you’re lucky. If you are less fortunate they may explain that it was an error on your part and you may well see why they are right not to pay up.

If neither of those things happen and you continue to believe you should be paid whilst the customer service representative doesn’t, the next option would be to escalate the issue within the business. It might not be easy but try to speak to a manager who may understand your issue better or may even be able to credit your account “as a gesture of goodwill”, depending on the circumstances.

Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS)

If you are still not getting anywhere then the aforementioned Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) is a good next port of call. They state the following stats on their site for 2019, which shows they are far from powerless.

  • Total Value of Payments Awarded or Conceded to Customers: £634,426
  • Total Requests for Adjudication: 6,282

Their site is easy to use and the process is simple enough, although it can often move at the pace of a tortoise with three bad legs. That said, if you get the end result you were after, it will probably be worth the wait.

If IBAS do not find in your favour their process does allow for you to request they review their decision. If you are still unsuccessful then another route to explore is the Gambling Commission. They usually advise using IBAS or a similar body so they may not offer much help, however, depending on the nature of the issue they may be able to advise. It is worth noting that IBAS state that:

The Gambling Commission does not conduct an investigation in the same way as IBAS (i.e. with a published final decision) nor does it ever make financial awards to customers. However, on some occasions the outcome of a regulatory investigation may either persuade an operator to make a payment to the complainant or provide grounds for the complainant to take the matter to court.

So, whilst the Commission cannot compel a bookmaker to pay your bet, their opinion may make them change their mind. If they won’t, it could at least help with your next option: court.

Taking a Bookie to Court

Taking a bookmaker to court is a last resort and history suggests that if neither IBAS nor the Gambling Commission can help, you may be fighting a losing battle. None the less, if you feel strongly about your case and feel you have wrongly been denied your winnings then you can go down this avenue.

Do Bookies Have To Pay Out By Lawn

There are some legal firms who specialise in such matters can advise, although of course this is never a cheap option. Depending on the value of the claim the small claims court may be a good idea. Indeed, starting proceedings in this way may encourage the bookie to pay up as for a small amount they may decide it is not worth their time and effort (although if that was the case one might argue they would have paid up sooner).

Whatever legal process you opt for, as said, the stats don’t indicate your odds of success will be good. There are many examples of punters losing cases in court against betting sites, including one in which a former bookmaker sued Coral. In contrast there are far fewer reports of bookmakers being the losing party in the courts.

One bookie did settle out of court in a £1m case, although they are believed to have paid out around £200,000. In addition, there have been cases where bookmakers have lost in court but these have involved failing to properly protect problem gamblers or other similar issues.

Do Bookies Have To Pay Out By Law Enforcement

Sadly, however, when it comes to forcing a bookie to pay a bet they don’t want to, it is almost unheard of for a punter to win. They don’t want bad publicity so more often than not will pay up. If your decent, honest request has been rebuffed, and the Gambling Commission and IBAS have all failed to get you a result, perhaps you should accept defeat.

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