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Aussie Bookie Sportsbet to Pay Bets Unfairly Cancelled

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An Australian online sportsbook has been forced to pay out millions in winnings to bettors whose wagers were cancelled by the platform. Sportsbet was issued a ruling by the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) that states it must pay winning wagers to its customers who took advantage of an error in the odds displayed on the platform. After noticing the error with the odds, Sportsbet chose to cancel the wagers by bettors – a decision that the NTRC says was unfair.

Sportsbet Ordered to Pay Out Cancelled Wagers

Undetermined Number of Players to Receive Payout

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With the date of the final decision being Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, Sportsbet has now been ordered to pay out winnings to an undetermined number of bettors who had made wagers on a specific market during the 10th round of the 2019 Australian Football League (AFL) season. The market wagered on was whether any player would have 40 or more disposals during that round. A “Disposal” refers to a player moving the ball legally to another player on their team.

This was a market that punters of the Sportsbet platform swiftly took advantage of, selecting the “no” option. And their bets were almost positively guaranteed from the onset, considering that in previous AFL rounds, there were just four matches in which any single player made 40 or more disposals. Yet, those bets would never come to fruition due to the fact that the sportsbook opted to cancel them prior to the first game in the 10th round. This, Sportsbet said, was legal for it to do as the platform has a right to revoke any wagers that are based on “obvious or manifest errors,” which it said was precisely the case.

We can see the section of the Sportsbet Rules, Terms & Conditions page that the company was invoking to get off the hook for these bets:

1.12.1. Sportsbet makes every effort to ensure that no errors are made in setting markets including but not limited to errors in prices offered, available selections offered, bets accepted on an Account or any errors in exclusions for certain selections. However, we reserve the right to correct any obvious or manifest errors [emphasis added] and to void any bets where such has occurred. Should this occur, Sportsbet will endeavour to contact the Member by email or telephone.

Of course, round 10 saw all nine legs proceed without a single player going above and beyond the 40 disposals offered by Sportsbet. However, bettors who had taken advantage of the sportsbook’s error were naturally unhappy with the fact that their almost-guaranteed payout never came. This was what led to them filing complaints between May 24 and July 11 with the NTRC, which operates as the regulatory body for Sportsbet.

NTRC Rules Individual Pricing Issues Were Not an Obvious Error

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After gathering and pondering on all the evidence and explanations, the NTRC made its decision on the action needing to be taken. In the official document, signed by Chairperson of the Racing Commission Alastair Shields, the NTRC said that “it would not be outrageous to see the prices offered in error on offer.” Therefore, because of this, it was the view of the regulatory body that each of the separate individual pricing errors did not meet what was described as its “threshold requirement” to be able to uphold any finding of “obvious error.”

Due to the findings and the ruling made, any person who placed a winning bet on the Sportsbet sportsbook “on any or all nine Sportsbet AFL +40 betting markets” are actually entitled to receive the full payout amount from their wagers.

For the moment, it isn’t clear how many bettors the sportsbook has to provide payouts to and how much exactly they’re owed altogether. However, estimates from previous weeks have suggested that around 2,000 members of the site placed bets on the market with up to $9 million Australian being necessary to pay them out collectively.

Sportsbet Website ImageThe Website of Australian Bookmaker Sportsbet

More Detailed Ruling Info

After considering all of the data and information provided, in its official ruling on the matter, the NTRC stated:

In examining the evidence before it, the Commission is satisfied that prices offered by Sportsbet on each of the nine Sportsbet AFL +40 betting markets were offered in error and were not the prices that it intended to offer at the time the disputed bets were struck.

It is clear to the Commission on the evidence before it, that there was an obvious increase in the number of Sportsbet customers who placed a bet on one or more of the nine Sportsbet AFL +40 betting markets…However, the Commission is not of the view that an increase in the number of customers placing a bet as a stand-alone indicator, allows the Commission to form the view that the price errors were obvious errors in that they were clear to the mind of the Sportsbet customers or plain to see.

As a result, the Commission has determined that all bets struck on the nine Sportsbet AFL +40 betting markets for round 10 of the 2019 AFL season are lawful bets pursuant to section 85(1A) of the Act.

Sportsbet Accepts the NTRC Ruling

Following the decision, Sportsbet took to its Twitter account to state that it accepted the outcome. The sportsbook also stated that it would be “topping up the accounts of the affected customers” before saying that it would be in touch with those same affected punters as soon as possible.

Sportsbet Tweet About Losing NTRC Ruling

Previous Rulings Involving Sportsbet

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Despite the fact that the NTRC has ruled against the sportsbook this time, this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the regulatory body has been quite supportive of Sportsbet in previous months.

It was only in August that a bettor from the site complained about 16 of his multi-bets that were placed on AFL and National Rugby League (NRL) matches being cancelled by the operator. Sportsbet stated that the odds being offered were completely incorrect, and the NTRC concluded that the platform was well within its rights to cancel those wagers. That didn’t stop the regulatory body from admonishing the online sportsbook for not making any kind of effort to inform the bettor of its decision to void his bets at the time.

Sportsbet can’t really be considered as an unjust or untrustworthy sportsbook overall though. Alongside accepting the decision of the NTRC wholeheartedly and agreeing to pay up, previous instances have seen it have bettor’s interests at hand.

At the beginning of October, the platform offered refunds to football fans who had placed bets on the Canberra Raiders to beat the Sydney Roosters in the NRL Grand Final. The match saw several referee blunders work against the Raiders, and Sportsbet offered what it called a “Justice Refund.” In a Tweet sent out by the sportsbook, it promised to refund more than AU$1.2 million as bonus bets to those who had wagered on the Raiders winning.

Sportsbet Tweets About Justice Refund

Sportsbet Closing in on 27 Years of Operation

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The Sportsbet brand was founded in May 1993, when it became the first licensed bookmaker in Australia. It was acquired by Paddy Power in December 2010, which was then rebranded as Flutter Entertainment PLC in February 2016 (which is also the same company that acquired The Stars Group in October of this year).

By 2012, Sportsbet was officially the biggest Australian corporate bookmaker. However, even though this is the case, it hasn’t had the greatest history as far as legality is concerned. In November 2012, Sportsbet lost a legal case over its decision to install betting terminals in pubs and clubs in Australia’s state of Victoria. At the time, the appeals court found that Tabcorp had the exclusive rights to do so within the state.

Further to this, a legal dispute with the Victorian Government took place in February 2013 over whether or not Sportsbet had breached a state law. The law in question prohibits bonuses from being offered to new players joining a betting site. However, Sportsbet is based in the Northern Territory, and consequently, Victorian law may not apply to sites outside of the state’s borders.

Thus, we can see that it's not only offshore and unlicensed brands that run into trouble with Australian law. Even those entities that possess the demanded licenses often find themselves uncertain as to what their obligations are, and they're susceptible to sudden changes in the legal climate.

Aussie Sports Betting Licensed, but Not Other Gaming

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At least in the case of sportsbooks, it's possible for them to obtain licensure and conduct themselves in accordance with all relevant Australian laws. However, since the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill in 2017, other gaming providers, most notably online poker and casino operators, have been basically banned from the country because no licensing apparatus exists for these forms of wagering.

Fortunately for Aussie punters though, international corporations exist that are willing to run the risk of flouting the overly restrictive laws against online gaming. They're based in outside jurisdictions that are beyond the reach of the bureaucrats in Canberra. And the players themselves are totally safe, from a legal point of view, because all of these statutes penalise those providing the games rather than those who merely play them.

If you're looking for a place to play card games online, then check out our rundown of the best Australia-friendly internet poker sites. You're bound to find one or several that are right for you.

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