Latest Cases - June 2015

Bad bets, broken promises and toothless tigers...

4th June 2015

Good afternoon, friends,

In this issue of Punters’ Verdict….

  • Bad debts, broken promises and toothless tigers….
  • Fred Done – acting the goat with the Tote….
  • On the Grapevine….

Bad debts, broken promises and toothless tigers….

The 666bet situation rumbles on. And what a mess it is.

When the Gambling Commission suspended the firm’s continuation license earlier this year, Metro Play Limited (the company that controls 666bet) were perfectly able to continue settling customer bets and to facilitate withdrawals.

This they failed to do – and the Gambling Commission were not able to compel them to do so (this tiger has no teeth, folks).

The upshot is that plenty of customers were left owed money and with no way of getting their hands on it.

Last month Metro Play Ltd blamed the delays on not being able to get in contact with customers and, via a statement issued through the Gambling Commission, the company informed customers that payments would be made via Skrill and that outstanding requests for withdrawal of funds should be made by 24th May 2015.  

Customers continued to report difficulties in making withdrawal requests. Others reported they had still not been paid out. Customers are also reported difficulties contacting Metro Play. A promised customer support resource had not been provided by the company. 

On Friday (29th May) the Gambling Commission said Metro Play’s Chairman (also major shareholder) had been in touch to tell them he plans to make additional funds available to enable payments to customers.

The Commission were also led to understand that customers will no longer be able to access their accounts and make withdrawal requests via the bet666 website.

  • Metro Play told the GC: ‘We will be publishing a contact email on both sites from Monday June 1st for customers to contact us with queries.’ 

This hasn’t happened as of Wednesday 3rd June.

  • Metro Play added: ‘We intend to contact those customers who have not yet had their withdrawal processed and offer an alternative payment method to Skrill (most likely a bank transfer).’

We are not, thankfully, a 666bet customer so we cannot comment on whether or not this has happened. But we suspect not.

  • They went on: ‘We will contact the customers as soon as the support email address becomes available which should be over the weekend and then process the withdrawals manually when the customers provide us with the relevant information.’

We have seen no sign on the email address and assume the promised contact has not occurred.

  • Meanwhile the Gambling Commission is most concerned with distancing itself from the issue and effectively washing its hands of the affair. In a statement last week the GC said: ‘Whilst the commission is attempting to ensure that Metro Play customers are kept up to date, we can provide no independent assurance of the information we relay and cannot assist customers in recovering funds, or become involved with contractual disputes between customers and Metro Play. As we have previously set out, the Commission does not in any way guarantee funds deposited by consumers or prizes due.’

In other words, if you’re a 666bet customer then you are on your own….

If there is one lesson to take from this debacle it is this: don’t keep more than you need to on deposit with bookmakers for any longer than you need to.

If the bookmaker experiences problems there is little to compel him to pay you out and nobody out there who is going to help you to get him to do the right thing….  

Fred Done – acting the goat with the Tote….

We had cause to mention Fred Done a couple of weeks back. He isn’t making enough money out of bookmaking and has been trying to make ends meet by flogging high-interest payday loans to staff members he employs on minimum wage. Nice guy.  

Long-term readers – and I appreciate how many loyalists we have in the audience – will recall that we had Fred Done in our sights way back in June 2011 when he’d been gifted the Tote by a semi-detached chancellor, Gordon Brown. And we paid him another visit in October 2012 when he’d had over a year to show us how he planned to run what had been a national institution.

After that we lost interest. Spending too much time focused on the actions and exploits of one Frederick Done can severely depress a man. But it’s about time we had an update of some sort and luckily a Verdict reader, NS, provided it in the form of a letter recently published in the Racing Post – which I duplicate below….

‘Dear Sir, Am I the only person who feels that Betfred has not made much effort to improve or promote the Tote since it bought it for £265 million four years ago?

I have not noticed a single new idea since then. Some of the pools are laughably small. In many of the betting shops in which I have attempted to place exacta and trifecta bets the terminals often refuse to accept the bets.

Perhaps the most blatant example of Befred's attitude towards the Tote is that the screens in its shops do not even show the dividends. When I asked the Tote for an explanation why, I received the following reply: 

“The dividends are shown on the results pages that the shop staff have access to. These screens are usually located behind the counter in our shops. The shop staff will be able to give you the dividend if you request this information from them.

Unfortunately it is not possible for us to display every dividend that is declared for every race etc. as this would be too much information to display alongside the current betting for events which have yet to run.”

The second paragraph is clearly codswallop. If William Hill, Corals and other betting shops can show Tote dividends on their screens surely the Tote itself should be capable of doing the same. My overall impression is that Betfred and its management don't give a XXXX.’

On the Grapevine….

What we hear and what we see in the betting industry this week….

  • Going for a long shot – Sharp eyes are useful to punters & Julius Ndlovu displayed a keen pair when William Hill had Roger Federer up at 2000/1 to win a set against Tomas Berdych at the Rome Masters last month. He got on to 50p and when Federer duly won the set 6-3 our man thought he was in line for a £1000 payout. No such luck though. Hills voided on the basis of palpable error. Our man cried foul. Ndlovu says: ‘It's a joke, 2000/1 were the odds and I won. They can't just refuse to pay me. It's not the customer's obligation to calculate odds and customers should feel confident operators offer odds that are valid and will be honored.’ Hills pointed him at IBAS. Ndlovu is now threatening to sue the bookie. We wish him luck – but suggest he lets it go. The odds of him making a case stick make 2000/1 look like bad value.
  • The bookies promote bad-value In-Play football bets – That’s the conclusion of recent research conducted by the University of Stirling. The bets the bookies encourage you to take during live matches – the kind of bets Ray Winstone flogs for bet365 during half-time breaks – are designed to exploit known errors in decision making. Philip Newall, a Behavioral Science PhD student, says: '...by advertising bets such as 'Thomas Muller to score the first goal and Germany to win 3-1', the betting public can be tricked into buying fool's gold...’ Deep down you know he’s right. Check out the details here. Get the research paper in full here.
  • How not to ask for an enhanced price – Bookies behave badly but sometimes you have to feel sorry for them. Take the recent case from Chester racecourse where punter Andrew Woodward was marching up and down the rows of tattersalls bookies demanding prices bigger than those available about his selection. When he didn’t get what he wanted he wrestled one bookmaker to the ground. When police were called to the scene Woodward pushed one of those too and continued to protest that he was being cheated. The case went to court where it emerged Woodward had consumed the best part of a gallon of lager. He was given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £150 criminal court charge, £85 costs, a £15 victim surcharge and £50 in compensation. It goes to show you can’t beat a bookie – literally or figuratively – and get away with it.

I'll be back with the Verdict next week.

The Judge

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