SBC News UKGC to probe bet settlements…but where is the Ombudsman?

UKGC to probe bet settlements…but where is the Ombudsman?

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will probe how football betting markets are settled, following concerns over wrong results being determined by bookmakers.

The Commission confirmed to the BBC that it would “meet figures in the football betting industry over claims that wrong results are being recorded”.

The probe follows consumer disputes concerning the use of inaccurate data used to settle football wagers referencing “statistics like the number of tackles or shots in a match.”

Customers have “felt robbed” due to incidents of inaccurate data being recorded by bookmakers using third-party feeds to monitor match play and to settle final outcomes.

Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the Gambling Commission, will meet with key betting data stakeholders to ensure the settlement of football markets is both accurate and fair.

The BBC’s report cited two customer disputes related to bet-builder wagers. These disputes involved misreported shots by Mo Salah and tackles made by Sunderland FC, errors attributed to Opta, the principal data collector of the Premier League.

Concerns are significant as data from Opta and other third-parties are used by bookmakers to settle bet-builders. A single match accumulator, bet-builders have gained immense popularity as they offer punters the flexibility to customise their wagers how they want.

Using a bet-builder, customers can enhance their odds by adding further market selections on the match/event outcome they are wagering on. For instance, punters can bet on the winner of the game, goal scorer, the number of goals scored, as well as the statistical events such as the number of cards, shots and corners, with most bookies allowing you to make at least 10 selections per bet within any given bet builder.

The BBC referenced disputes to Dr. Alireza Monajati, from the University of East London, who stated that in several cases, customer grievances about inaccurate data were valid.

Yet the complexities of disputes were underlined as Monajati asserted that “No data company asserts absolute accuracy,” and “even with a high accuracy rate, say 95%, it implies a 5% margin of inaccuracy.”

Consumer grievances are further stoked, as at present there is no standard appeals process or mechanism for punters to contest inaccurate data used to settle outcomes.

Stats Perform, the parent company of Opta, stands by the quality, consistency, and accuracy of its Premier League data feed, but acknowledged that discrepancies can occur between different providers.

Current licensing duties specify that operators must provide customers an appropriate complaints procedure in place and a way to refer disputes to an alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) provider. However, ADR services can only deal with contractual disputes relating to operators’ terms and conditions.

On disputes, the BBC referenced the work of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), which received hundreds of disagreements related to data inaccuracies each year.

SBC News UKGC to probe bet settlements…but where is the Ombudsman?
Richard Hayler: IBAS

IBAS MD Richard Hayler noted that “nearly 300 people” appealed football data bets last year, accounting for around 15% of its workload in dispute resolutions. Despite the subjective nature of these markets being frustrating for IBAS, it rarely overturns cases, adhering to the principle that bets should be settled based on the data provided by third-party agencies, as stipulated by bookmakers.

The growing concern over consumer grievances in both online betting and online casino puts the spotlight on the UKGC’s progress in establishing a Gambling Ombudsman.

As detailed by the Gambling Review’s White Paper, the process for the appointment of a Gambling Ombudsman was timetabled to commence in Spring/Summer 2023. Fulfilling a key requirement of the Gambling Review, the DCMS sought an ombudsman to begin handling consumer complaints within a year after the publication of the White Paper.

The funding and framework of the Ombudsman were to be determined by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which has provided no progress update to date for stakeholders.

The White Paper notes that the Gambling Ombudsman must fulfil the standards and commitments of the Ombudsman Association as a mechanism that is fully independent, credible with consumers, and which ensures a framework where all customers are treated equally.

Despite concerns, the BGC states that the resolution of online gambling disputes remains a matter for individual operators; however, the trade body recognizes that there are limited avenues for customers to challenge the data discrepancies of bookmakers.

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