A bettor from Loughborough is planning to take the bookmaker Betfred to the Independent Betting Adjudication Service after an error that he made on his betting slip cost him £189,000. In the end, it actually was a winning bet, but he was only offered £23,000 rather than the £212,000 he was expecting. This because he wrote the wrong horse’s name down before handing the slip over to the teller at the betting shop.
David Smith selected six horses for his accumulator but wrote down the name of Bailarico as part of his selection instead of Bialco. When Bialco won his race at Perth alongside the other five horses also being winners, Smith expected to be paid out at £212,000 but because the horse that he actually wrote down the name of, Bailarico, came third in its race at Goodwood he was only paid a fraction of the winnings he was expecting to receive. It poses a question about whether bookies should pay out on the spirit of the bet over the reality.
Mr. Smith of Loughborough made his selections for his six horse accumulator, which were as follows:
- Ardera Cross (40/1)
- Indian Temple (7/1)
- Shanroe (9/2)
- Pennsylvania Dutch (15/2)
- Sir Busker (4/1)
He had intended to place his bet on Bialco, who was due to run in the 2.15pm race at Perth and wrote both ‘2.15 P’ and the horse’s odds at the time down on his slip. The problem was that there was another horse called Bailarico that was running in the 3.40pm race at Goodwood.
How Shop Staff Reacted
According to Mr. Smith’s report on the matter, he had left the shop after placing his bet and returned at a point when a couple of his selections were winners. He noticed that he’d put the wrong horse’s name down and informed staff working in the shop as soon as he’d spotted his error.
At the point that he told them, Bialco had won his race but Bailarico had yet to run at Goodwood. Smith claims that the staff working at the time accepted his explanation and informed him that the bet would pay out on Bialco being his selection if the entire accumulator won. Indeed, when the bet was a winner he was told that he would be paid £212,000 but that the shop needed to refer it to Betfred security because of the size of the payout.
When the decision came back from Betfred security, however, the settlement amount had been altered to £23,000. Part of Smith’s complaint revolves around the manner in which Betfred handled things, with nobody able to explain to him what had happened. He also believes that the bet would have been corrected at the time he placed if the manager had been working that day as Smith is a regular and the manager usually checked his bet for him.
Should Betfred Pay Out The Full Amount?
The question of whether or not the bookmaker should pay out on Smith’s bet is a tricky one to answer. On the one hand, he did appear to indicate that he meant to bet on Bialco given that he’d written down the horse’s odds and the start time of the race it was running in, as well as the initial of the track that the race was taking place at. On the other hand, however, accepting the bet would leave Betfred open to all sorts of future problems if people did something similar.
What would stop a nefarious bettor from writing down the name of a horse similar to that of another horse running in a race at a different time and writing the starting time and initial off the racecourse down on their betting slip, only to claim they meant to bet on a different horse if the one with a name they wrote down was a loser? Betfred are responsible not just for looking at this bet but also the future ones that they might have to deal with further down the line if they set themselves a precedent.
There Might Be A Compromise
Betfred’s spokesperson was unambiguous in his response on the matter when talking to the Guardian newspaper, saying, “Unfortunately the customer had written Bailarico on his slip which was running in a race at Goodwood that day and finished third. Our rules state that we settle on the named selection”. That is almost certainly going to be the decision that IBAS come to when the case is presented to them in the coming weeks.
There is, however, something in the Betfred small print on bets that might be seen as something of a compromise that will please both parties. According to Paul Fairhead, who works as an online campaigner for punters, Betfred have a rule that allows them to split the stake over the two horses if a bet on a horse is deemed to be ‘ambiguous’. This would mean that Smith would be paid £90,000 instead of the £212,000 he thinks he’s owed, which is still an improvement on the £23,000 that he is currently in receipt of.
Should Bookmakers Follow The Spirit Or The Bet
The question that IBAS have to answer is whether or not bookmakers should follow the spirit of a bet or the bet as it’s actually placed. It’s a difficult one to answer, given that Betfred is a business and has to think about their own bottom line first and foremost. After all, had Bialco lost its race and Smith’s bet become a loser it’s unlikely that he would have told the bookmaker that he’d intended to bet on the horse and they shouldn’t pay him anything.
That being said, is there an extent to which Fred Done, the owner of Betfred, has made a rod for his own back thanks to past decisions? He is famous for paying out early on league title wins for Manchester United, for example, even on occasions when the Red Devils have failed to lift the trophy at the end of the season. Why is it that football fans betting on the team that he supports get to receive a payout but a horse racing punter doesn’t receive a similar level of generosity? Ultimately Smith wrote the wrong name of the horse on his betting slip, so paying out on that leaves Done and Betfred open to all sorts of future issues.