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Betting watchdog collects record amount for punters - Thursday 3rd June 2010

THE betting industry’s primary disputes watchdog collected a record amount for punters in 2009 with the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (Ibas) saying that bookmakers were increasingly conceding in such cases.

The sum of £385,044 recovered represented a 21 per cent increase on the 2008 figure of £318,044, while the number of adjudication forms requested (2,921) and returned (2,145) both went down by around two per cent.

Ibas chief executive Chris o’Keeffe said he believed that the figures in the annual report, which is available online from today at ibas-uk.com, indicated that bookmakers were “conceding more readily than ever before”.

O’Keeffe pointed out that last year 40 per cent of cases that reached the Ibas adjudication panel were either conceded before a ruling or were eventually found in favour of the punter.

He added: “I believe this is in some part due to the new regulatory and litigation channels now available to the customer, and in part due to a greater commercial awareness that exists across all sectors of the industry.

“At times, a senior member of staff will intervene during the process to overrule customer service managers or agents, when all aspects of the case and the consequent negative implications begin to unfold.”

Ibas chairman Michael Messent, who took over from Jeremy Reed in May 2009, noted that despite the Gambling Act being in existence for more than two years, there has not yet been a High Court ruling on the application of contract law to betting disputes.

Messent added: “Until there is clear guidance, the Ibas panel will continue to apply an informed, practical approach to the disputes that are placed before them.”

O’Keeffe said: “The many intricacies of contract law, and its application to betting disputes, will need to be debated and picked over by lawyers, not adjudicators.

“It will be interesting to see the changes in bet settlement that may eventually emerge from the higher courts, particularly in the contentious areas of prices laid in error – at times referred to as palpable error – and late bets.”

Until the courts do take a hand, O’Keeffe said: “Our terms and conditions govern the way in which Ibas will handle and adjudicate upon disputes.

“They set out what we expect from customers and operators in order that we may achieve consistency and certainty, so that both parties can place reliance on our processes."

The report notes that unwillingness to abide by the Ibas terms resulted in a firm of Irish bookmakers – whom the board had declined to name – being deregistered.

While Ibas improved its turnaround of cases from 34 calendar days to 29, the internet sector showed a further increase of 11 per cent in cases, as football remained the most disputed medium with 32 per cent of cases, and horseracing’s share fell by four points to 22 per cent.

Gaming machines accounted for 23 disputes – “a small number when considered in the context of 20,000 machines throughout the UK,” O’Keeffe noted.

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