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IBAS Tenth Anniversary Dispute Resolution - Racing Post - Tuesday 4th November 2008

THIS week marks an important anniversary for the betting industry. It is ten years since the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) was set up.

Ibas is a non-statutory organisation charged with delivering authoritative adjudications to the gambling industry. Importantly, at its launch, it received the public endorsement of the Home Office and the approval of the trade associations.

In recent times Ibas has formed a close working relationship with the Gambling Commission, soon to culminate in an information sharing agreement.

The commission understandably appreciates the help that an organisation like Ibas gives to the delivery of one of the key objectives of the new Gambling Act, namely that gambling is both fair and open.

Ibas takes its role in raising the bar of standards in the industry very seriously, regularly contributing to government consultations and advising registered bookmakers of deficiencies within their rules.

Before the formation of Ibas, the options for a punter who thought that their bet had not been correctly settled were very limited. For off-course bets there was only the Green Seal Service provided by the Sporting Life newspaper. For on-course bets a limited service provided by Tattersalls Committee.

Both of these were conceived in an earlier era and were unsuited to the demands brought by the growth of the gambling market beyond the traditional boundaries of horseracing, and the demand for effective adjudication by the modern-day betting consumer.

Ibas chief executive Chris O’Keeffe said: “Back in 1998 the need for modernisation in adjudication in betting clearly existed, given the flourishing state of the industry and the ever-growing variety and complexity of bets available.

“Ibas’s existence and increased status is due in part to the recognition of the betting industry of a need to provide better services to their customers, to a similar standard of that in other spheres of the retail sector.”

However, the most powerful endorsement of the Ibas scheme has been the inclusion in the latest Gambling Commission licensing conditions and codes of practice that makes it a legal requirement that gambling operators have an external independent adjudication body in place. IBAS has over the past ten years recruited panellists with a long and wide ranging experience of the gambling industry.

It is important to Ibas that its investigations into disputes are thorough and its rulings are comprehensive, assuring both parties that the Panel has independently examined all documentation. Anything less will encourage disputants to challenge rulings in the courts.

O’Keeffe believes that litigation in betting disputes would be lengthy, costly and uncertain while justice can often be better achieved by a good layman fully conversant with betting procedures and conventions.

Reflecting on the past ten years he said: “Ibas has come such a long way since our launch in November 1998. It is now has a reputation for delivering effective dispute resolution procedures and is the organisation of choice for all leading gambling operators.

“The scheme is user friendly and has extended its services to online, exchanges, pool operators, lotteries and most recently the on-course greyhound industry.”

Dispute resolution has only been part of the story. The service has also made a significant contribution in the dispute-prevention area through various channels encouraging a common approach to bet settlement.

O’Keeffe added: “I am particularly proud of the dispute prevention initiative which has been a concentrated team effort. The service’s expertise and experience must be exploited on all levels. This is clearly the right approach and the way forward in avoiding unnecessary disputes.”

Ibas has resolved a wide variety of disputes ranging from the definition of a snowflake to a complex £1 million golf dispute. Unsurprisingly, horseracing and football disputes have dominated their postbag.

However the betting incident that caused an avalanche of disputes across both retail and online sectors was the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2005.

The nub of the dispute was the point at which a race is deemed to have started. Many bookmakers had a rule that stated the start of the formation lap in a Grand Prix is the start of the race for betting purposes.

While others, in line with the governing body (FIA), considered the start to be when the official starting procedure had been executed.

When pressed on what were the real funny stories and party stories over the past ten years, O’Keeffe declined to expand explaining: “They’ll be in my book which hopefully will not hit the stands for at least another ten years.”

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