Bookmakers, like punters, are far from infallible. They have more rigid rules for their business operations, for sure. But, occasionally, things drop between the cracks, or are simply misinterpreted. These occasions costs punters money, frustrate them, and damage the pivotal trust relationship between punter and bookmaker.
The good news is that if you think your bet has been mis-settled (and it is almost always this which leads to dispute), there is an independent mediation body. IBAS, the Independent Betting Adjudication Service, has been in existence since 1998 and covers a wide range of disputes, from gaming machines to greyhound stadia to lotteries to online betting.
After an adult lifetime - 25 years and counting - spent betting, I'd never previously had recourse to question the settlement of a wager, which is testament to how solid the trust relationship between punter and bookie generally is. Solid, but not impermeable, as I was recently reminded.
As regular readers will know, I write long-form previews of the big race meetings, and Epsom's Derby day card was one such. In the opening race, I really fancied a horse called Stravagante. I'd backed him the day before at 3/1, a price I considered huge, for a stake of £400.
Now, the first thing to say is that - again, as regular readers will know - I'm not a big time punter. That stake represented my biggest wager of the year so far. To be honest, that's irrelevant to this piece, except that it led to a situation which was sufficiently financially piquing to impel some action.
Here's why: I struck the bet with tote sport in their 'day of race' market. That market means some punters are eligible for Best Odds Guaranteed, a concession still available to me with this layer. This is important, because a) I made the bets - 2 x £200 - at 11:22am and 11:23am the day before racing; and, b) I placed them in 'day of race' markets, as per the digital slips below:
Note the "Day of Race" comments on the market part.
Here are (or, were, as I expect them to be changed now) tote sport's published rules on this:
You don't need to read them, because I can tell you that there is no stipulation excluding a bet placed early in a 'day of race' market from the BOG concession.
Why is that relevant anyway?
Stravagante, the horse I considered a huge price at 3/1, absolutely hosed up (Racing Post comment was "strong run to lead over 1f out, drifting left but ran on strongly final furlong, readily") at 7/2. He won by over three lengths.
I could scarcely believe the price, having expected the horse to be sent off around 7/4 or 2/1 favourite, and was pleased with what would be an extra £200 profit on the bet.
Sadly, tote sport disagreed and, despite my calls to their customer support team, were unwavering (and dismissive) in their contention that the bet had been correctly settled.
For the first time in 25 years, I contacted IBAS. Extremely professionally run so far as I can tell, I was perfectly happy to abide by whatever decision they arrived at, and had confided as much to friends.
Having submitted my case on 9th June, I received acknowledgement a few days later; and then due process began. That involved IBAS contacting the bookmaker in question and asking for their response to the dispute claim.
Yesterday, I received a letter - copied below in full - with the outcome of my case. [You can click the images to open full screen]
The final statement, "The Panel have, therefore, adjudicated for the customer", means the outcome was in my - the punter's - favour. I'll be honest: I wasn't at all surprised and, far from being chuffed about the money, I was actually delighted that a bookmaker could be brought to account for what I considered a very straightforward 'cut and dried' case.
Quite simply, there was NOTHING in tote sport's terms and conditions on which to base their decision. And forcing me to seek independent ratification of that was, in my view, tantamount to an expectation that I'd not do anything and they'd 'get away with it'.
It perhaps goes without saying that I'm still waiting to get paid out by tote sport, though in fairness to them they will probably only have received their response from IBAS yesterday as well.
This is not a story about my experience as much as it is an encouragement to anyone who feels hard done to that challenge can be made about a perceived bet mis-settlement. Obviously, there needs to be a base for the claim, and that will more often than not lie in the bookmakers' terms and conditions. Or, as in this case, not in the bookmaker's terms and conditions.
IBAS can only adjudicate if you're able to put a credible case together and, often enough, that's a fairly simple matter for the aggrieved to do.
IBAS can be contacted via their website, here.