Ahead of the 2015-2016 season, bookmakers offered odds of 5,000/1 on Leicester City to win the Premier League. Everyone who knows anything about the story knows all about it, of course, given that it was one of the most famous examples of the bookmakers getting it very wrong indeed.
In their defence, though, the mistake wasn’t so much offering the outrageous odds in the first-place but rather failing to adjust the odds that they were offering as the season went on and the Foxes remained very much in contention to win the top-flight title.
That’s an example of the bookmakers getting their odds wrong in fairly spectacular fashion, but what about when they make a mistake in the way they’ve set their odds and a punter takes advantage? Are they able to do anything about it or, as when shops advertise something at an incorrect price, do they just have to take it on the chin and suck it up?
Another question that might occur to you is what happens in the United Kingdom compared to elsewhere in the world? Is it simply a matter of every country having the same sort of rules, or does it differ from location to location?
FanDuel Mistake Punter Should Have Won $82,610
Anthony Prince is a sports fan from Newark who was at Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey on Sunday the 16th of September 2018. At the time the Denver Broncos were playing the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, with the Raiders leading as the game came towards the end of the 4th quarter. As Prince watched, the Denver quarterback, Case Keenum, made a pass down the Oakland 18-yard line that put them in position to score and get themselves back into the game.
This is when the story gets interesting, because Prince was keeping an eye on the live-odds and noticed that instead of making Denver -600 to win they actually shifted to +75,000, which is the equivalent of about 750/1. The wily bettor placed a $110 bet for the Broncos to win, which they duly went on to do by a score of 20-19. The bet meant that he stood to win $82,610, but FanDuel claimed that it was a glitch in the system and in actual fact he was only owed $18.35.
FanDuel claimed after the fact that the bet involved ‘an obvious pricing error’, stating that the machine erroneously moved the price to +75,000 instead of shifting them to the correct price of -600. With the first odds a $100 bet would return $75,000, whilst with the latter you’d need to bet $600 to win $100, which is a fairly big difference. The company’s spokesperson said that they honoured the bets according to the price that it should have been, as opposed to the odds that were offered at the time that the bet was placed.
That isn’t quite true, though, because Prince informed News12 in America that he was offered $500 and seats in the skybox for three Giants games as compensation for the FanDuel mistake. Despite threatening the company with legal action and being informed by a spokesperson for the division that the situation was under investigation, Prince looked as though he wasn’t going to get the full payout that he felt he was owed for a bet placed in good faith.
FanDuel Changed Its Mind
Having taken the stance that the system had a glitch and their terms and conditions make clear that they’re under no obligation to pay out on such glitches, FanDuel reversed their position and decided to pay Prince and other gamblers who had taken advantage of the mistake the money that they felt that they were rightfully owed.
The decision came after the company consulted with the gambling regulators in the state, suggesting that they were understandably concerned about losing any appeal that they might be faced with and therefore chose to get out in front of it and ensure that they put a positive spin on the PR. They declared that betting ‘is supposed to be fun’, which it wouldn’t have been for some customers if they hadn’t ended up paying out on the bet.
It all came in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the ban on betting on sports in the US, meaning that both states and the companies that operated in them were keen to offer decent odds to attract customers, so it’s likely that FanDuel feared bad publicity on the matter would cost them more than simply paying out the $82,000+ dollars that Prince lay claim to. That he placed the bet at the window at the racing track added to the conversation, with the company unlikely to want to put players off from betting with them if they felt that their bet wasn’t going to be paid out on.
Obviously there’s an extent to which that’s all speculation, but the fact that FanDuel followed it up by saying that they would add $1,000 to the account of 82 random customers and therefore would lose another £82,000 suggests that they saw the publicity they could gain from the situation. The change in law to allow betting appealed to punters precisely because the money would be under the protection and regulation of the state, but even then there’s a system in place to allow the regulators to void bets that were rather obviously made in error, so FanDuel could have stuck to their guns if they’d wanted to.
What Are The Rules In The UK?
Companies in America have the legal recourse to say that bets can be made void if it appears that they’re made in error, but is the same thing in place in the United Kingdom? Should punters that get offered obviously incorrect odds hold out hope that they’ll be paid the winnings that they’re expecting, or is it more likely that the betting companies will point to their terms & conditions ands say ‘sorry, not our problem’?
The good new for punters in the UK is that the Gambling Commission has very clear rules on how bets made with clearly incorrect pricing should be handled. The bad news is that the rules say that the companies are welcome to follow their own terms and conditions in how they handle said bets. The mistake has to be clear and obvious as far as the rest of the market is concerned, so a bet offered at odds of 200/1 when most other bookies are offering more like 2/1 would fit into this category.
Different bookmakers will have their own ways of handling bets, so some might pay out at the correct market value whilst others might simply void all bets made at the incorrect price. If you think you’re involved in a dispute then you should contact the bookmaker in question to discuss it before you do anything else.
As pointed out by the Independent Betting Adjudicator Service, however, bookmakers are not allowed to use their palpable error Ts&Cs to avoid paying out because of an error of judgement made by their odds setters. If a bookie simply failed to respond to a move in the market then that is something that they’ll have to own up to and the IBAS Panel set to investigate it will look to see whether it is indeed an honest mistake or an error of judgement.
There have even been cases when a payment has been made by a betting company only for them to then realise that said payment was made in error. The company then put the bettors account into negative equity and said that if the money was not repaid then they would be pursued through the courts for it. The punter had to make the decision about whether to take the matter to IBAS or simply repay the money that they knew they had received in error.