Despite the UK government’s efforts to standardise and regulate the gambling industry through the introduction of the Gambling Commission, player disputes are still alarmingly 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.
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 for the laws in place. This makes some 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: Diagnose 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?
There are three main reasons a Bookmaker or Casino can justify not paying out:
- Suspected fraud or illegal activity
- Documentation not supplied
- Breach of terms & conditions
I’ll address each of these one by one.
1. Suspected Fraud or Illegal Activity
Gambling companies will freeze accounts and refuse to pay out if there’s reason to believe fraud or illegal activity has taken place using their site.
It’s important to note that “fraudulent activity” is a very loose term thrown about in the online gambling world. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have broken the law. But it’s a grey area, nonetheless.
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 at the expense of the company”.
Illegal activity is a whole other thing. For instance, money laundering, signing up for an account while under age, or opening accounts under false details.
You stand no chance of being paid out if you’re found to be doing something illegal or fraudulent. So the remainder of this article is only aimed at those wrongly accused of either.
2. Documentation Not Supplied
Many disputes arise from documentation requests. In most cases you’ll just 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. It’s pointless to 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 only encourages disputes.
Either comply with ridiculous requests, 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. Which is highly hypocritical since they take your money without any questions asked.
(But in the Bookmakers’ defence, there’s a lot of illicit activity to contend with, too. That tends to tar legitimate players with the same brush).
3. Breach of Terms & Conditions
Unfortunately gambling websites are very good at protecting themselves. Often their fine print gives some form of get-out clause for any dispute.
Many disputes arise from bonus rollover requirements and promotional terms. Often players take bonuses without realising exactly what they’re getting themselves in for.
Check through the vendor’s website and identify areas where you could have been in breach of terms & conditions. You may have unintentionally 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.
If you determine that you’re in breach of terms and conditions, your case is going to be harder to win. But if you feel the terms are extremely unfair or that the Bookmaker/Casino is blatantly trying to keep your money without any real justification, you’ll stand a stronger chance of success. Either way, don’t give up.
The important thing at this stage is to do some investigative work. Take a screenshot of any vague or conflicting terms & conditions that could strengthen your argument. If you’re not in breach of anything, then screenshot the terms that prove your innocence. Keep these safe.
Still here? Think you have a strong case?
Good. Let’s move straight onto Step 2…
Step 2: State Your Innocence (In Writing)
Now that you’ve done your research, gathered the relevant terms and conditions and established you have a strong case, it’s time to give the Bookmaker or Casino a chance to come clean before esculating your case.
You want 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.
Always email them so that you’ve got a record of the correspondence. In this email chain you must:
- Plead innocence, and state that you opened an account in good faith.
- Remain polite, assertive and calm.
- State that you have not breached terms and conditions.
- Present evidence using the screenshots you’ve gathered
- Reiterate that you have willingly complied to documentation requests.
- Push them to present you with evidence that justifies non-payment.
In non-payment of winnings from a Casino it’s common for the vendor to deflect from giving any reason. They often try their luck with an ambiguous excuse such as “betting patterns”, “suspicious activity” or “breach of terms”. Don’t get frustrated by this — poor, unjustified excuses may help your case.
If you’re getting nowhere, give an ultimatum:
- Threaten to escalate the situation to their gambling regulator and other third party mediators. Make it clear that you don’t want to waste any more time if it’s avoidable.
If there’s still no resolution here then you need to follow through with your threat.
Onward to Step 3….
Step 3: Compile a Detailed Account of Events
If reasoning with the vendor 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. It’s the only course of action.
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,
- Fill 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.
- Add in any supporting screenshots: emails, chat logs, t&cs — anything that backs up your case.
- Now you’ve established a clear timeline, 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 thenmention 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 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. My 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.
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 them to sell gambling products to the public. Both parties need each other. So when a customer makes a complaint it puts the regulator in an awkward position. Hence, 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 mediators in the meantime.
Third Party Mediators
There’s two very well-known mediators you should at least be aware of. Truth be told, I don’t recommend them.
Well-known Mediatiors (Not Recommended)
- CasinoMeister. This website works very closely with online Casinos. While 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.
- 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.
Other Mediators (Recommended)
Below are the 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 personally familiar with this site, but I’ve heard only positive things.
Failing to reach a resolution using one of these mediators 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 5: Seek Legal Assistance
There aren’t too many complaints that go this far unless they involve very large sums. There are a few professional services you can turn to for help.
- Lawyers with an expertise in gambling (they do exist. Google it for the city you live in)
- Small Claims Court
- Advertising Standards Authority (if your complaint relates to an advertised bonus/promotion).
Taking legal action against a Bookmaker is most effective — but it’s expensive. There aren’t quite as many success stories involving the Small Claims Court and ASA for gambling disputes, but it may be 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 sadly won’t be heard.
Until gambling regulations tighten up and enforce more transparency within the industry, 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 some frustration, and helps you to resolve 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. If you don’t, they’ll take full advantage until you escalate the matter.
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