Paddy Power’s boxing refund: A case for a gambling ombudsman?

Last Saturday’s light-welterweight title fight between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall ended in a controversial decision, garnering criticism from boxers, pundits and fans alike. 

Many felt that England’s Catterall had done enough to win the bout for the undisputed light-welterweight title fight – including Flutter Entertainment’s Paddy Power

The bookmaker made the decision to offer all refunds to its customers who placed bets on the previously undefeated Lancashire fighter, although many fans took to Twitter to call on other operators to do the same. 

“First Everton were robbed of a blatant penalty, and then we’re fairly sure the same VAR official decides to rock up in Glasgow to score the Taylor v Catterall fight!” a Paddy Power statement read. 

“Josh Taylor put on a great performance while trying to convince us he’d won, but we didn’t buy it and our customers shouldn’t have to either. We’re no stranger to looking after our customers and pride ourselves in our generosity when we see a hiccup happening that we deem to feel unfair for punters. 

“We famously paid out on both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to win the World Drivers Championship and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following the most controversial conclusion to a Formula One season ever.”

Paddy Power did, however, continue to pay out on all bet’s on Josh Taylor to win outright, on a points decision or by unanimous decisions.

The development comes just a few weeks after the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) updated its terms on ‘fair and transparent terms and practices’, stating that betting firm’s must provide evidence that their terms and conditions have been applied in a fair and transparent manner.

This raises an interesting debate in the betting industry in the aftermath of contentious sports results such as last Saturday’s bout – if a decision is condemned as unfair by a wide range of stakeholders in a sport, does this same situation of unfairness apply to bettors as well?

Although welcoming the UKGC’s new terms and conditions, Richard Hayler, CEO of the International Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS), noted that a system for betting industry consumer complaints – such as an ombudsman or single Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme – is still necessary for the UK.

Speaking at the time of the Commission’s update, he said: “New regulatory guidance for the gambling sector, such as this, developed out of the experience of consumer complaints fed back to the regulator by an ADR provider is a positive sign of things to come.

“Regrettably, IBAS has experienced situations where companies which believed we had acted beyond our remit have terminated registrations with and moved to another ADR supplier.”

He added: “We share the Commission’s view that terms setting out the consequences of different actions by customers should be clear and transparent so that the consequences of such actions – for consumer and operator – are understood by everyone.”

With the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) today announcing that it is initiating an investigation into the scoring of the fight, an industry ombudsman could prove to be a useful figure in betting, should the boxing regulator conclude that the result of the match was unfair.

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