Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

There is a lot of PR surrounding the issue of problem gambling, but does reality really live up to the hype. Discuss your experiences here, e.g. self exclusion failures.
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hitman31
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Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

Post by hitman31 » Sat Apr 20, 2019 11:41 am

Good afternoon, all.

I'm a newcomer to the forum but have been lurking since yesterday and have been admiring the support that so many have been able to access from the generous advisers and moderators here.

I thought I'd post my issue, primarily because it relates to this sub-forum's topic and may therefore be of interesting reading, but also on the off-chance that there is anybody out there with experience and expertise who may be able/willing to offer advice and support. I guess by default it's an issue that many will have limited sympathy with and no one understands that more than me - but I'll write it anyway.

The main and most important piece of context is that I am a problem gambler. Problem gambling has affected my relationships, my mental health and my finances in ways that are probably irreparable. I have, of course, sought help and continue to do so but every day I wake up is a day I have to get through without gambling.

This brings me on to the issue at hand.

Some of you will no doubt be aware that the Gambling Commission has finally been cracking down in a meaningful way on bookmakers who are in breach of their Principles for Licensing and Regulation. Paddy Power Betfair was fined £2.2m in October 2018 after failing to both 'adequately interact with customers who were displaying signs of problem gambling' and 'adequately carry out money laundering checks'. This has been one of a series of heavy fines in the industry of late. In August 2017, in a similar case to the one above, 888 UK Limited was fined £7.8m for its breach of the same social responsibility code. One client I have been able to identify used a legal firm in the aftermath of this finding who were able to secure her a refund of more than £100k on the losses she had incurred as a result of 888's breach.

So far, so interesting, but of course the above cases are still very much the exception rather than the norm.

Here is my dilemma in a nutshell.

I have self-excluded from Betfair twice. Before self-excluding for the first time I had racked up losses of c£40k. I then self-excluded but lasted the minimum period of six months before requesting to reactivate the account which was easy to do by email. I then quickly racked up further losses of c£50k before self-excluding for a second time. The pattern repeated itself once more and after the six month period had expired I was able to reopen the account via Live Chat within minutes, following which I have gone on to lose c£40k in less than five months.

During this latter period, there hasn't been a single day since reopening my account when I haven't gambled. On most days I have gambled throughout the day (by which I mean I start at 00:00 and for as long as there are football matches anywhere in the world in-play then I would gamble through to 23:59). My betting patterns fit into one of the most obvious signs of problem gambling there is, that is, the consistent raising of stakes after a loss until all funds have been lost at which point immediate deposits are made to chase those losses. As such, it seems clear that my gambling is now and has historically been out of all reasonable control no matter which measure you choose to define this by.

A key consideration in all the above is that there has not been a single instance where Betfair has contacted me or interacted with me about the nature of my gambling. I received neither challenge nor questioning nor support at any point. I have never been asked to provide any evidence that my income could support this level of gambling and, in the ultimate demonstration of a failure of duty of care, after losing another £40k I was even contacted by Betfair and given a cash bonus and an offer to become a 'VIP' with access to the rewards that entails.

Importantly, whilst my problem gambling during the first period pre-dated the Gambling Commission's finding of Betfair's social responsibility breach in October last year, the most recent period of problem gambling has taken place after this point and during a period when Betfair have stated their systems and processes have improved substantially. This seems pertinent given the aftermath of the original case when Betfair admitted its failings and its CEO stated that 'We have a responsibility to intervene when customers show signs of problem gambling'. Clearly, in my case, those failings remain in place.

It's probably instructive to consider how other exchanges have responded to my problem gambling. Smarkets, for example, suspended my account after I had incurred losses of £3.4k and refused to reopen it unless and until I provided evidence that my income supported the level of my spend. In this communication they also highlighted the support available if gambling was a problem for me. I assume that this stance is based on the internal checks and safeguards they have introduced to ensure they comply with their responsibilities under the Gambling Commission's Principles. In doing so, they protected both me and themselves from further harm (although in a classic problem gambler way I was very cross with them at the time!)

And so it comes to the crunch.

I have been advised by a legal firm that my case has 'strong merit' in terms of seeking recompense and they would be keen to represent me. I have ascertained that in the first instance they do this by liaising with Betfair through its official complaints procedure to try to negotiate a satisfactory outcome. They then refer to the Gambling Commission and/or an ADR but would reserve the right to issue a claim at court (although they claim this is rarely necessary).

There are two problems for me here. Firstly, they are expensive and whilst they may be willing to represent me on a 'no win no fee' basis there is still a substantial up-front sum for them to commence work. Secondly, given the process they follow appears to be just the same as the process I would follow as an individual, is the value they would add likely to be worth it?

If there is anybody who has any thoughts, advice or suggestions about what I've written I would be very keen to hear from you.

And to the vast majority of you who are responsible gamblers who have been treated unjustly due to bookmakers refusing to pay out winnings or voiding bets, I can only say sorry for my inability to instil the same levels of control in myself. I understand my problem gambling is an illness but not an hour goes by when I don't wish that I could turn back time and reboot my life from a period prior to gambling.

With good wishes to you all.

Jimmy Justice
Site Admin
Posts: 665
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:16 am

Re: Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

Post by Jimmy Justice » Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:48 am

Hi,

Many thanks for your post and having the courage to explain your situation in public.

J4P does provide a free service for people in your situation. We do not do this if a person has already signed a contract with a legal company, because are volunteers and would never suggest we can do a better job than a fully qualified professional.

We always try to be 100% honest, so what follows is not easy reading at times, but hopefully does provide some hope?

The climate is slowly changing and we have secured some refunds for people (listen to BBC Radio 4 'You and Yours' if you can: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09nrsbb). Nevertheless, you must not underestimate the time and difficulty in fighting. These companies never give in easily and sometimes use internal legal staff to frighten people when they are at their most vulnerable. I can only explain the situation honestly and then you have to decide what you wish to do.

If you do decide to go ahead you need to build a case as to why a gambling company has acted inappropriately.

We can provide provide access to legal advice later if needed. This is not free, but they are people who are experienced in fighting cases like yours. Very few lawyers are.

I'm actually on holiday at present, but if you wish to progress anything with J4P email me at info@justiceforpunters.org near the end of this week and I'll respond in full asap after that.

JJ

Del
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Re: Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

Post by Del » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:33 am

Hitman31 - It's always difficult to advise people as to if they should go down the lawyer route with this because given the amount of info out there now across the web, it is possible to largely negotiate your own way through the legal hoops without the huge lawyer's bills. JFP are excellent in this respect of helping people help themselves through the process as they've got experience across many cases.

Unfortunately these days, it's tricky to put too much info on forums, because everyone is watching but I think it's great place to get initial pointers and offers of offline help.

Your situation will ring a lot of familiar bells and it's definitely a case of their failing procedures that have allowed you to continually find your way back onto Betfair's site. The public cases you mentioned will provide you with some useful public statements from the operator that will strongly back your case. I'm sure JFP will be able to help you and you sound as if you are more than capable of putting your case if you need to go to the civil court process. That process is almost certainly going to be needed, because these companies know how to play the game and they won't make it easy for you. But they won't easily go to court either.

Best of luck and I hope you get a significant portion of that money back. Though I would just add, if you haven't conquered your gambling demons yet, then getting the money back will not do you any favours in the long run. It is very much about getting to grips with that issue as well.

hitman31
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Re: Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

Post by hitman31 » Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:04 pm

Dear JJ and Del,

Many thanks to both of you for your constructive comments and advice. It is very much appreciated.

Since I posted my initial message I have spent some time putting together a comprehensive and evidence-based complaint, supported by numerous exhibits that stand as supporting evidence. I have not contracted with a legal firm but having put together a full case I have taken soundings from three firms about their initial assessment of its merits (for my own assurance as much as anything else). Each firm has expressed a view that the case is clearly strong enough to proceed with a claim and I'm therefore determined to seek justice here, no matter how long the fight and irrespective of whether I am required to put the case in court.

I would truly welcome the support and guidance of JFP along the way and I shall email you this week with further information, understanding of course that you will not be able to reply until a later time.

With thanks once again and best wishes.

H

Jimmy Justice
Site Admin
Posts: 665
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:16 am

Re: Betfair - systemic breach of provision 3.4.1

Post by Jimmy Justice » Tue Apr 23, 2019 7:36 am

Do keep us informed and we're here if you need help.

JJ

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