The House Doesn’t Always Win: £1.7M Jackpot Win Upheld In High Court
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘the house always wins’, well this rare victory for the punter proves that is not always the case. In early 2019 Andy Green thought he had won a massive £1,722,923.54 jackpot in a late night blackjack session on Frankie Dettori Magic Seven with Betfred. He began celebrating immediately, including spending two and half grand from his overdraft celebrating with friends.
For five days Mr Green believed he had won the jackpot until he tried to withdraw his winnings where he found his payment request was denied, this was followed by a communication from a Betfred director days later who told him there had been a software error and that the win was voided due to a malfunction, as stated in their 49 page T&C’s. The company offered him £30k compensation, which Andy rejected, followed by £60k, that was also rejected.
For most people when a game error occurs and a payout is denied the company will point to their T&C’s, perhaps offer a small payment for the hassle, and send the customer on their way. After all most game errors that result in non-payouts are for small amounts of money and generally people will not go through the hassle or expense of taking further action.
This was a whole different ball game though and Andy Green was not about to let a £1.7M win slip through his fingers so he decided to take Betfred to court. Luckily he was clever and took a screenshot of the big win to back up his case.
Why Wouldn’t Betfred Pay Out?
Betfred defended the case on the basis that a glitch caused the jackpot to be paid out three times over and that they were only informed later by the third-party software provider, in this case Playtech, that runs the blackjack game in question. They argued that pays and plays on the game at the time of the error should be voided in line with their terms and conditions.
The high court ruled that the 49-page terms document provided by Betfred was “inadequate” and “not transparent or fair and Betfred were not entitled to rely upon them”. The fact that the company also took so long to contact Mr Green about the error was also factored in, with Mrs Justice Foster, the judge in the case, ruling that they “did not seek at this point to suggest other than that he was a big winner” and she was “of the clear view that these clauses in the terms and conditions are inadequate to exempt Betfred from the obligation to pay out on an ostensibly winning bet or series of bets”
Mr Green will now be paid the jackpot in full plus accrued interest he would have earned over the last 3 years, taking the total payment to around £2 million.
Petfre, the parent company of Betfred, stated that although they feel the issue was with the software company and they acted in line with their terms that they would accept the ruling and not appeal the decision. Interestingly they chose to fight the case on their own and not involve Playtech.
What Does It Mean For Future Game Errors?
This case will now set a precedent and in law precedent is one of the most powerful factors for future cases. The fact is thousands of online games are played every day, with millions of individual sessions and tens of millions of spins/hands. No matter how robust a game is errors do happen and some result in incorrect payouts. Playtech themselves are one of the biggest and most experienced games developers there are, showing errors happen.
The argument here isn’t that the error didn’t happen, rather that it wasn’t dealt with appropriately and in a timely fashion. Mr Green was lead to believe he had genuinely won the money for 5 days and acted accordingly with retrospective voiding of those winnings days later not in-keeping with the usual procedure following a game error.
Playtech also made an mistake by not reporting the game error to the UKGC as a ‘key event’, which they are supposed to do in these situations. The glitch meant the game was more likely to pay out bigger wins than intended.
The bigger repercussion from this case regards the terms and conditions themselves. All betting companies have terms documents that amount to thousands of words and tens of pages and these are far too complicated and involved for a typical player to read and understand. This means that in future customers may be able to take action against betting companies even if they are covered by T&Cs, if those terms are not sufficiently transparent. That could be for a game error or any other of a number of things covered in these terms.
In reality this isn’t going to change what happens in 99% of game errors and incorrect payouts in future. Most of the time operators and game providers act quickly to void pays and plays and the customer is not mislead for any period of time. If, however, something like Mr Green’s case was to happen again then it is now highly likely to lead to court action and a positive result for the player.
One thing to take note of here is that Mr Green took a screen grab of his win. If you ever have a big win take a screenshot, it could end up being your main form of evidence if something does go wrong. You can take a screenshot on mobile devices easily that is then saved to your photos or by pressing print screen ‘prt sc’ on a keyboard and then pasting the screenshot and saving it.