Latest Cases - December 2011

 Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters' Verdict....

  • Mixed BOG signals from Betfred....
  • The distinction is not sufficiently clear....
  • The Judge advises....
  • In praise of Ladbrokes?      

Mixed BOG signals from Betfred....

If you place Best Odds Guaranteed bets on the horses with Betfred
then you need to be aware of exactly how Fred Done operates his best
Odds Guaranteed concession... or you could be in for a nasty shock.

Verdict reader MK writes in to tell us that he has a phone and
Internet account with Mr Done's company. Prior to August 22nd he'd
used both accounts on numerous occasions to bet horses.

Whenever he'd used the phone account to place his bets he'd assumed
they were Best Odds Guaranteed bets - after all the races were
clearly advertised as BOG races on the Oddschecker odds comparison
site.

But where Betfred - and, apparently, Oddschecker - are concerned it
will pay you not to assume anything at all.

On August 22nd MK used his phone account to place a bet on Smart
Violetta - at 15/8. As far as MK was concerned he was on at Best
Odds Guaranteed. He certainly wasn't told he wasn't by Betfred's
phone jockey. And on the market page for the race in question on the
Oddschecker site Betfred had the little orange 'B' icon above his
logo - denoting the race as a BOG race.
So there was no obvious
reason to believe otherwise.

Smart Violetta won - sent off at 11/4. She'd drifted in price from
the point where MK bet her at 15/8. But that wasn't a problem. He
was on the horse at Best Odds Guaranteed and expected to be paid out
at the bigger SP.

But he wasn't paid out at 11/4. Betfred paid him out at the shorter
15/8 instead. MK got on the phone to find out why. He was told by a
phone operator that the race was NOT a BOG race for phone customers.

Betfred offer only a few selected BOG races for phone customers each
day (who can even begin to fathom the machinations and motivations
behind that one?) - and, that day, Smart Violetta's race wasn't one
of them.

The distinction is not sufficiently clear....

It was the first MK had ever heard about this distinction between
Internet account BOG races and phone account BOG races.

And, on the Oddschecker site there was little to indicate that the
advertised Best Odds Guaranteed status of the race only applied to
bets placed via the Internet... not without taking the kind of time-
consuming and detailed due diligence steps perhaps only lawyers
would recommend....

.... If you hover over the 'B' icon above the Betfred logos on
Oddschecker's race market pages then a box appears containing the
following text: 'Betfred are offering Best Odds Guaranteed on all
daily UK and Irish racing for all bets placed on the Internet....' 

I'm quite sure that's sufficient to cover Fred's backside in this
instance. But whether or not Fred's backside is protected from flak
isn't really the point....

The text in the box doesn't say that his all-encompassing BOG
conditions don't apply to phone users. Not expressly or explicitly.
And it needs to... to avoid the possibility of punters like MK
placing bets with Fred mistakenly and with false expectations that
are only shattered after races have been run and when wrongly-placed
bets can't be voided.

Unlike with bookmakers, there is no palpable error rule for punters
to fall back on. Once a punter strikes a bet the bet stays struck -
whether he made a mistake in placing the bet or not.

There needs to be some clear mention on Oddschecker (preferably not
somewhere hidden from view that only a detective could find) that
only selected races are BOG for Betfred customers betting with
telephone accounts as opposed to Internet accounts.

And on individual market pages there needs to be clear and open
indication of whether or not that specific race is BOG for Betfred
phone customers or not.

Just because a punter uses Oddshecker to compare prices and
bookmaker offers it can't be assumed that he will bet via the
Internet. That appears to be the assumption on Oddschecker right
now. And that's something that needs to change.

The Judge advises....

There's clearly an issue with what's being advertised on the
Oddschecker site.

MK took the case up with Oddschecker. They conceded that there is a
point to be addressed and said they would take the matter up with
Betfred.

Whether or not this has happened or will happen is debatable.
Certainly nothing has changed between August and now. The situation
is still - potentially - as confusing as it was back in August and
before that.

I plan to take this issue up with Oddschecker myself. To see if we
can't make a difference. Oddschecker can't be allowed to sit on
their backsides doing nothing to rectify this situation simply
because they are dependent on bookmakers for their income and afraid
to rock the boat. They have a responsibility to punters too. And
they have to be encouraged to make good on that responsibility.
 
In the meantime if you're betting the horses over the phone with
Betfred you need to take action to confirm that the bets you are
placing are indeed Best Odds Guaranteed.

You should specifically ask operators to confirm you are on at Best
Odds Guaranteed as part of the bet readback - BEFORE you confirm and
effectively strike the bet.

That way the verbal contract is recorded for posterity - as all
calls to bookmakers are - and it's your backside that is protected
for a change.

In praise of Ladbrokes?

I'm all for a balanced hand and this week Verdict reader JB writes
in - to offer something of a witness statement on behalf of
Ladbrokes:

'Back in the early 90s my regular Saturday bet was a 30p arkle
(consisting of 4 selections in 4 patents and an each-way 4-fold).
The bet cost £9.60. One Saturday a colleague asked me to place a £10
bet for him. I wrote his bet out first and when it came to writing
my own the '10' from his £10 stake was still in my mind and I
unwittingly wrote my bet out as a 10p arkle instead of a 30p arkle.

Three of my horses obliged that afternoon at 33/1...9/1 and 8/1.
Rubbing my hands with glee I called at the bookies to collect what
amounted to almost a month's wages... only to have my error pointed
out...

The counter man said he knew I ALWAYS did a 30p arkle...and that my
total stake was for a 30p arkle....but the fact was I had written a
10p arkle and he really had to stick by what I'd written...

However, he agreed to refer the case to head office. After nearly
two weeks of going back and forth I finally got a decision....just
this once Ladbrokes would make an exception and pay out on a 30p
arkle! I drew nearly was £800+ as opposed to £100+ I would have got
back for a 10p arkle...so I say three cheers to Ladbrokes!'

That's a heartwarming story from JB. I guess the law of averages
dictates that we can expect even a bookmaker to behave generously
once every two decades or so... even a bookmaker with a reputation
as low as the one enjoyed by Badcrooks.

But let's just hang on one moment. I'm not one to pour cold water on
a bookmaker's supposed good deeds but is this really a case of a
bookmaker acting in a spirit of generosity? Or was the bookmaker
merely doing what was right and proper - and maybe unavoidable -
under the circumstances?

The most instructive line in JB's correspondence could very well be
this one: 'The counter man said he knew I ALWAYS did a 30p
arkle...and that my total stake was for a 30p arkle...'

Here the bookmaker appears to be admitting that he accepted the
stake for a 30p arkle despite the fact it was a 10p arkle on the
slip. In other words the counterman was in error - overcharging the
customer for his bet.

Had the bet gone down would the counterman have been chasing JB up
the High Street to correct his mistake and return the surplus? I
doubt it.
Maybe under the circumstances Ladbrokes head office had no choice
but to pay out on a 30p stake.

The alternative was to admit that their shop manager didn't check
bet slips properly and that customers in his shop were permanently
at risk of being overcharged - and maybe had been, goodness knows
how many times, in the past....

Even Ladbrokes realize that being seen to be good is better for
business than being seen to be bad. Or maybe I'm just an old cynic.
Whatever - a very nice result for JB. Here's to more of them.

I'll be back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

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