Green v Betfred – What are the implications for gambling companies who refuse to pay winnings?
The High Court recently found in favour of a customer (“Mr Green”) against Betfred over unpaid winnings of £1.7m, which Betfred claimed had been won due to technical errors with their website. The ruling is a welcome decision for customers seeking payment of winnings from betting operators who simply rely on their often lengthy, and somewhat ambiguous terms and conditions as a means or excuse to not pay out to their customers.
What happened in the case?
Mr Green had been playing an online casino game on Betfred’s website. Whilst playing he accumulated on-screen bet chips which were worth a total of £1,722,500.24, but was unable to withdraw the chips into his cash account. Mr Green contacted Betfred who congratulated him on his win but, later informed him that due to the size of the win, it would need to be checked by the third-party online game provider.
The third-party provider found a technical error with the game, in which the longer a customer played, the greater their odds of winning became, which was not Betfred’s intention. As a result of this error, Betfred told Mr Green they would not be paying him his winnings, they allegedly instead made a ‘goodwill gesture’ offer of £60,000 to Mr Green. Betfred sought to fall back and rely on their Terms and Conditions, and exclusion of liability for malfunctions along with the contractual principle of mistake, in order not to pay out to Mr Green.
Was Betfred able to rely on their Terms and Conditions?
Mr Green argued that a number of the Terms and Conditions he had accepted upon registration were “inaccessible and unclear” as well as that it was “irrational for Betfred to have believed he had accessed, read, and understood them, and accordingly, they were not incorporated into the contract between the parties”.
Mrs Justice Foster commented on the Terms and Conditions that “The layout and the terminology used in the Terms and Conditions does not make clear in my judgment exactly what a player is obliged to agree to, nor where to find it” and “the language used in the Terms and Conditions is obscure and unclear”.
The judgment found that Betfred’s Terms and Conditions failed to deal with the circumstances of the case and that the interpretation of the clauses was inadequate to exempt Betfred from their obligation to pay out the winnings. Furthermore, the court found that Betfred was unable to rely on the Terms and Conditions relating to a “malfunction” as there was no definition given and the normal meaning of the word did not apply to the circumstances, given the game still appeared to work as normal to Mr Green.
Further consideration was given to whether the Terms and Conditions were incorporated into the contract itself. Mrs Justice Foster found that the Terms and Conditions which sought to exclude liability to pay Mr Green had been “inadequately drawn to his attention in order to do so” and was not incorporated into the contract between the parties.
The Terms and Conditions were also deemed not to be transparent or fair, so that even if they had been adequate to deal with the circumstances and to have been incorporated into the contract, they could not have been relied upon. Mrs Justice Foster also found that, due to the game still being able to continue being played, and that the error with the game was no fault of either party, the doctrine of mistake could not be relied upon by Betfred.
What does this mean for gambling companies who won’t pay a customer’s winnings?
For a long time now, Gambling Companies have sought simply to rely on their Terms and Conditions as a means not to pay a Customer’s winnings. Mr Green’s case provides a positive authority for many customers who are in similar positions, and where gambling companies are seeking to rely on terms and conditions which are not fair or transparent, and have not been sufficiently brought to the attention of the customer.
The judgment comments on how Betfred’s Terms and Conditions are industry standard, so for it to be found they were not adequately incorporated and not able to be relied upon has potentially far-reaching implications for all gambling operators, and provides customers with a High Court authority from which to argue that they should be paid their winnings in such circumstances or cases.
How can Ellis Jones help you?
Ellis Jones has a specialist betting and gaming disputes team to assist anyone who has a dispute with a gambling company, relating to pay out of winnings.
We have experience in dealing with and resolving a wide range of matters in a number of different ways, and have been successful in recovering in excess of £3million for clients in recent times in relation to betting and gaming disputes.
If you think that you have suffered losses as a result of a betting operator refusing to pay out and relying on their terms and conditions as a fallback, then please get in touch with Paul Kanolik on 01202 525333, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your case and how we may be able to assist you in recovering your losses.
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