Despite the UK government’s efforts to standardise and regulate the gambling industry through the introduction of the Gambling Commission, player disputes are surprisingly frequent. Resolving a dispute with an online Bookmaker or Casino can be a lengthy, stressful and drawn out process.
In this post I’ve detailed each of the steps you need to take. It won’t guarantee success — but it’ll certainly give you a decent chance.
Welcome to Online Gambling: A Rogue Industry
Before you begin, it’s worth mentioning that, as a whole, the online gambling scene is still fairly primitive in terms of it’s rules & regulations.
Even today rogue bookmakers and casinos continue to operate without a licence, or regard to the laws in place. This makes disputes extremely challenging.
The steps that follow should help you to reduce the time, effort and money you could potentially waste in trying to deal with a Bookmaker or online Casino that hasn’t honoured their side of the deal — whether that’s non-payment of winnings, voided bets, or supposed breaches of terms & conditions.
Let’s do this.
Step 1: Work Out the Root of the Problem
It’s important for you to establish precisely why a dispute has arisen between yourself and the Casino/Bookie. Are you really the innocent party?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I participated in illegal or fraudulent activity using the Bookmaker?
- Is there something that I have failed to complete, that I’m obliged to? (such as ID verification, or a bonus rollover)
- Have I taken actions that were in breach the Bookmaker’s terms & conditions? (this includes bonus terms)
These are three valid reasons Bookmakers/Casinos might have a strong case against you. Rightfully so, too.
“Fraud” In Online Gambling is Rather Ambiguous
“fraudulent activity” is a pretty loose term thrown about in the online gambling world. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have broken the law… in a traditional sense, anyway.
For example, it could relate to something seemingly harmless — such as re-claiming a signup bonus for a second time, or using a friend’s betting account. In the eyes of the Bookmaker this could be deemed as an act of fraud because you’re: “deceitfully impersonating another customer in order to benefit from an already-claimed bonus or promotion”.
That’s just one of the many grey areas in online gambling to be aware of. Often these kinds of activities breach Bookmaker/Casino terms & conditions without being illegal.
Send Documentation if Necessary
Many disputes arise from documentation requests. In most cases you’ll need to provide documents to the Bookmaker or Casino in order to withdraw your money.
Typically Bookies will ask for (1) a scan of your ID, and (2) a recent utility bill or bank statement. You can’t contest those requests — it’s the industry standard. Send it over in the format they want and don’t waste any more time.
However, many documentation requests are a blatant attempt to stall payment. For example, you may be asked to:
- Show all corners of your ID to prove that your scan is “legitimate”
- Increase the resolution of your documents (to give the Bookie the luxury of viewing your perfectly legible scan in HD, perhaps?)
- Show your face holding up the ID, to confirm that you are in fact the person placing the bets.
- Provide a notarised ID, authenticated by a Notary Public.
This last one is ridiculous. It’s highly inconvenient, and expensive. It’s practically blackmail: you effectively have to pay a notary just for the chance to obtain your own winnings. Of course, this type of request encourages disputes.
Only you can make the call as to whether a documentation request is acceptable or not. Then you have to either comply with it, or proceed with lodging a complaint. My advice is to consider the amount of money at stake, and to provide all documentation unless the request is extremely unfair, outrageous, or costly.
Most of the time gambling companies pay out once you’ve jumped through their documentation hoops. If you contest it, they’ll just throw the “money laundering prevention” card at you. Is it hypocritical that they take your money without any questions asked? Absolutely.
But in their defence, there’s a lot of dodgy gambling activity out there to contend with, too. That tends to tar legitimate players with the same brush.
Strict Terms & Conditions
Unfortunately gambling websites are very good at protecting themselves in disputes.
Check through their website and try to identify areas where you could have been in breach of terms & conditions. You may have done something unintentionally, and fallen into a trap.
If you can’t find the precise terms & conditions from the date(s) your complaint relates to, then try using a site like archive.org to see if there’s a older version of the web page saved.
You should be able to determine whether you’re:
- In breach of terms & conditions. Your case is going to be harder to win. Don’t give in just yet, though. You just need to spend a little more time trying to identify any vague or conflicting terms that could help strengthen your argument. Screenshot them.
- Not in breach of terms & conditions. You’re in a strong position to win your case and should contest every possible angle that supports your argument. Screenshot the terms that best highlight your innocence.
Still here? Think you have a strong case? Good.
Let’s move straight onto Step 2…
Step 2: Give The Bookie/Casino an Ultimatum
Aim to get the Bookmaker to state, in writing, precisely what they think you’ve done wrong (even if you have a good idea of what that is). It’s a lot easier to win a dispute if you know what their side of argument is.
In order to do this it’s best you email them so that you’ve got a record of the correspondence. Fight your corner, plead innocence — but remain polite, assertive and calm. Avoid giving them a reason to ignore you. Push them to present you with evidence or reasoning, that justifies the trouble they’re causing you.
For non-payment of winnings from a Casino it’s common for the vendor to deflect from giving a reason. Or to try their luck with an ambiguous excuse such as “betting patterns”, “suspicious activity” or “breach of terms”. Don’t get frustrated — poor, unjustified excuses could help your case.
Eventually, if you’re getting nowhere, give an ultimatum: a reasonable timeframe at your discretion (e.g. a week) to resolve the dispute with you. Threaten to escalate your case further by contacting third party mediators — including their regulator. Make it clear that you don’t want to waste any more time if it’s avoidable.
If there’s no resolution here then you need to get your hands dirty.
Onward to Step 3….
Step 3: Compile a Detailed Account of Events
If reasoning hasn’t helped matters and you’re still convinced that you have a case, then you should follow through with your threats of escalating the complaint.
To do so, you need to compile a report of everything that’s happened, with a very clear timeframe of events.
Step-By-Step Guide to Compiling a Report
- Open up your favourite Word Processor (e.g. Google Drive, Microsoft Word).
- Start by noting down the dates of when everything occurred, and then pad out each date with explicit details of what happened and what was said. Point out where you believe the vendor to be in the wrong / you in the right.
- Look for supporting content: screenshots, emails, chat logs — anything that backs up your case. Gather it together and file these images into a folder on your computer. Refer to the images in your case (so use simple image titles!).
- Now you’ve established a clear timeline, you need to ensure that your case has a readable title and introduction. It has to be immediately obvious what the dispute is all about. If it’s relating to a large sum of money then it’s worth mentioning this in the title as it may be given priority e.g. “£6,000 withdrawal dispute. Wrongfully accused of breaching T&C’s”
- Proof read everything you’ve written. Not just the spelling and grammar but the tone, too. You need to come across as reasonable, level-headed and, of course, coherent. Don’t use exclamation marks, foul language or abuse. Try not to appear too desperate or arrogant, either.
You Could Take Your Report Straight to a Lawyer…
I received some criticism from someone who claimed that my advice on this post misguides readers. He strongly felt that players should always go straight to a lawyer (step 4) and avoid all other attempts. My initial thoughts on this are as follows:
- Some cases do not warrant legal expenses. If your dispute is for £200, then I can’t imagine any lawyer (in the UK, anyway) being cost-effective.
- You still need to provide a lawyer with full details. Just because you hire someone doesn’t mean you won’t have to put in the time to compile a detailed report. Nobody is going to understand your case without your input.
- Many people don’t have sufficient funds to pay for a lawyer. Pushing players to take the legal route presumes they have the money to do so; an assumption I haven’t made in this post.
If there’s a lot of money riding on it, then yes, perhaps it’s more efficient for you to go straight down the legal route from here. That’s your choice.
But if you’re still keen to try your luck with ‘cheaper’ routes, step 4 awaits…
Step 4: Escalate Your Case to Third Parties
Ok, you’ve stood your ground and it didn’t work out. You’ve put together a neat little case file. Now it’s time to delegate your complaint to people with more clout.
This is the first (and most obvious) third party to send your complaint to. For UK Bookmakers it’s the Gambling Commission. But unfortunately, in my experience, regulators aren’t as helpful as one would assume.
To some extent regulators have a business relationship with the Bookmakers & Casinos. They issue an expensive licence to Bookies/Casinos that that meet their requirements, enabling to sell gambling products to the public. Both parties need each other. So when a customer comes along and makes a complaint it puts the regulator in an awkward position. Hence why it often feels like a losing battle.
Nonetheless your complaint should be sent to the regulator first. This can be done here if you’re in the UK. Response times can be fairly slow, so I also recommend submitting disputes to other, more enthusiastic third party mediator as well…
Third Party Mediators
There’s two very well-known mediators you should at least be aware of. Truth be told I don’t believe they give you the greatest chance of success. However, there’s no real loss in submitting your complaint to them (except for your time, I suppose).
- CasinoMeister. This website works very closely with online Casinos. Whilst the website is likely to steer you well clear from some of the world’s seediest gambling sites, it’s essentially an affiliate site disguised as a third party mediator. You can file a complaint, which they call a “pitch a bitch”, but most aren’t entertained; thus reaffirming my belief that they don’t particularly side with the players. I admit, my trust in CasinoMesiter was crushed a few years back at the LAC (London Affiliate Conference) when I attended a conference hosted by it’s owner. He essentially endorsed [illegal] gambling for the American market. Lost me right there and then.
- eCogra. Online gambling sites bearing their seal are supposedly subject to constant monitoring, annual inspections and reviews. For the London-based non-profit organisation it’s their seventh year of operations. My experience with their dispute resolution process wasn’t a positive one, as from the outset they seemed to assume that the Casino was in the right. I pursued other avenues.
Below are the (better) mediators that I highly recommend submitting your complaint to.
These sites provide an efficient, personal service. Please only use one at a time so that you avoid your complaint being followed up from multiple sites at once; this won’t speed up the mediation process!
- Sportsbook Review — a long-standing mediator with a reputation for honesty.
- Ask Gamblers — one of my favourite gambling review websites. Excellent advice.
- Gambling Grumbles — a popular, well-established website with a great success rate on dispute resolution.
- The Pogg — accredited by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC).
- IBAS (Independent Betting Adjudication Service) — I’m not familiar with this site, but I’ve heard only positive things.
Failing to reach a resolution using one of these mediators when you’re clearly in the right would suggest that you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn Bookmaker. If you still feel that you have strong grounds to settle your dispute with a positive outcome, then don’t give up, continue to the next step…
Step 4: Seek Help From Professionals
There aren’t too many fully-legitimate complaints that go this far (unless they involve very large sums). There are a few professional services you can turn to:
- Small Claims Court
- Lawyers with an expertise in gambling (they do exist. Google it for the city you live in)
Advertising Standards Authority (if your complaint relates to an advertised bonus/promotion).
Taking legal action against a Bookmaker is effective — but can be expensive. There aren’t quite as many success stories involving the Small Claims Court and ASA for gambling disputes, but it’s worth a try.
Beyond legal action, there aren’t many more options available. You can shout to the top of your lungs about a Bookmaker/Casino ripping you off — but you won’t be heard. Anything that involves gambling tends to mute most ears. So until the regulations tighten up, and enforces more transparency, player disputes will continue.
The Twitter account @BettingScams is a good place to network with other players that have experienced disputes just like yours.
I hope this post saves you (at least some) frustration, and helps you in resolving gambling disputes. Many of you will come to find that Bookmaker/Casinos will back down provided you can adequately argue, and prove, that you did nothing wrong. Otherwise they’ll take full advantage.