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Testing Disputes Could be Heading to Court - Betting Business October 2007 - Monday 1st October 2007

The betting industry can expect to see test cases in the courts started by gamblers with disputes after the Gambling Act became law last month, according to the chief executive of the betting adjudication service IBAS.

Chris O'Keeffe believes changes to the legal status of gambling and the effect of contract law will mean disputes between will inevitably end up in the courts.

"I am hoping bookmakers and others will understand ther new situation they are in," said O'Keeffe. "Contract law is going to change the rules and make it hard for bookmakers to use palpable error rules to void bets.

" I am really interested to see what difference it makes to complaints. I am quite sure there will be test cases as the legislative framework settles down and there will be cases going through the courts. I am not saying it is a big tsunami but they will have to think about contract law and look at their terms and conditions."

His comments come as IBAS (Independent Betting Adjudication Service) is set to sign up a range of new sections of the gambling industry to its services, including greyhound racing, lotteries and the pools business.

The Gambling Act requires a large section of the betting industry to sign up with an independent arbitration service as part of their license conditions-and most are now working with IBAS. Agreements have been set up or are being discussed with a number of bodies and organisations and pilot projects are underway. O'Keeffe said the aim was not only to provide fair, independent adjudication but also to help avoid disputes in the first place.

Currently, IBAS receives approximately 4,500 inquiries every year, with around 1,500 eventually needing a ruling. In around 90 per cent of cases, IBAS rule in favour of the bookmaker'because they know their own rules'. When they rule in favour of a customer, the bookmaker almost invariably accept the ruling.

Although IBAS does not have any enforeable powers, the Gambling Commission has now effectively made it the first non-statutory tier for gamblers to go to if they have a dispute. The two organisations have been in discussions about adjudication issues for the last two years and have developed a close working relationship. That will continue, with an on-going information sharing agreement while IBAS will also provide statistical data to the Commission on the number of cases and rulings.

O'Keeffe believes one of the reasons IBAS has worked is that there have been only three de-registrations in its entire existence. Now it is expanding its services beyond the 700 bookmakers and exchanges it already represents to include greyhound racing, lotteries such as those run by football clubs and charities, Littlewoods and Vernons pools and betting intermediaries such as Betbrokers. IBAS is also looking to provide its services overseas, including Gibraltar and Alderney.

Sectors where IBAS have not yet secured any adjudication deals include the bingo sector, casinos and amusement arcades. "The idea is that we have a really robust one-stop shop," explained O'Keeffe. "Over the last nine years we saved gamblers about £2m which has enhanced consumer rights. We are not a punter protection organisation but we are in dispute prevention.

"If we have a respected robust organisation like IBAS it gives the industry more respect and confidence. If you know you can get a fair hearing that has to be good. But it also means that we will be under more scrunity ourselves and IBAS will have a higher profile."

IBAS is also updating its terms and conditions and its website as it goes through a period of transition itself after the implementation of the Gambling Act.,/p>

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