Exclusive Lawyer speaks about client s 1 7m Betfred dispute
Betfred could be the subject of an 18-month battle in court, with a customer suing the operator over its refusal to pay a £1.7m ($2.2m) jackpot.
Andy Green won the jackpot playing Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack, but was notified four days after his victory Betfred would not be paying out, due to a malfunction in the game.
Peter Coyle, Green’s lawyer, has told Gambling Insider the malfunction came from Playtech software and Betfred has “no contractual entitlement” to ask Playtech to disclose evidence of the error.
Coyle and Green appeared on UK television channel BBC One last week to discuss the case, revealing Betfred offered £2,500 to reimburse the costs of Green’s jackpot celebrations, plus an additional £60,000 – which came with a non-disclosure agreement.
Coyle spoke to Gambling Insider about the case after a court session on Monday. Read the full interview below, including responses from Betfred and Playtech.
What game was Andy playing and what was the nature of the jackpot?
He was playing the Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack game on his phone. There were published odds of 7,777/1. Over the course of six hours, Andy won the jackpot at those odds and won £1.7m.
He was roundly congratulated for four days and then told: “Sorry, we’re not paying you after all.”
What was the outcome in court today?
Today was the application simply for Betfred to disclose evidence of the malfunction on the game, which we’ve been asking them to do for 10 months now.
Effectively, on the basis of the sworn evidence they submitted this week, they basically say they haven’t got any. The evidence belongs to the game developer, Playtech. They say they’ve got no contractual entitlement to ask Playtech to disclose the evidence.
We’ve asked Playtech and they are refusing to disclose it because it’s terribly confidential. We’ve got two huge companies now just conspiring with each other to prevent any disclosure of this malfunction.
How do you feel about what transpired?
It was frustrating today but, in the long term, it’s actually very helpful. If they have no evidence, it’s difficult to see how they can defend themselves when we’re suing them for £1.7m. They say “we’ve got no evidence but you’ve just got to believe us” – that could lead to a very short trial.
Outrageously, they’ve asked the judge to make an order for costs against Andy today. They wanted him to pay them £12,000 because he’d made an application for the documents. That was laughed out, I’m pleased to say.
That’s really a measure of the way they approach this. They just try to bludgeon him – and I suspect others – and say it’s the Betfred way or no way.
What kind of timescale are you looking at now?
Because of today, we’ve been forced to just sue them for the £1.7m. We’ll get that issued this side of Christmas – which has a £10,000 fee. It could be a 12-18 month process before we get before a judge with all the wigs and the gowns.
It’s a shame, because we’re hoping they still come to the table and say “we’ve got it all wrong, can we please do the right thing?” But they’re showing no signs at the moment of doing the honourable thing, so we could be looking at an 18-month battle.
What are the next steps for you and Andy?
We issue a claim form, which used to be called a writ, before the High Court. We’ll put a claim in against Betfred for £1.7m, plus interest, plus costs. They then get a chance to defend it, there’s an exchange of evidence, witness statements and a trial.
Has Betfred’s approach surprised you?
I think they got a bit of a kicking on the One Show last Wednesday. I think their form of defence is attack. We were all hoping that a bit of media pressure would lead them to negotiate a way out to reputationally help themselves.
They’re doing themselves no favours by not paying out to a punter who won in good faith and giving no rationale for doing it. It is surprising, but we’ll get there in the end. We’ll play hardball and won’t give up until we get justice for Andy, who’s been really badly let down.
If Betfred had produced a more appealing settlement offer, would you have advised Andy to accept it?
You’ve always got to be willing to compromise. I don’t know exactly what the figure they offered was, but £60,000 is an insult. If it was a more reasonable figure that properly reflected the risk to Andy of litigating but also the fact he’s in good faith won that money, then we’d do a deal.
How common are these cases in the gambling industry and have you dealt with any before personally?
It would be unfair of me to comment beyond Betfred, but all of the betting companies have the same terms and conditions that allow non-payment for computer malfunctions.
Whatever the outcome, will this case set a precedent going forward with regards to bookmaker terms and conditions?
There have already been moves to change the way betting companies operate so they have to be governed by UK consumer law rather than foreign law, as that’s materially unfair.
That is going to change, I think. The sooner, the better, frankly. Under UK law, you’re entitled to a service free from glitches. It really has been appalling treatment of Andy, but I’ll make sure he gets the best outcome.
Gambling Insider contacted Betfred for comment and a spokesperson said:
"Betfred loves to pay out all our jackpot winners – both big and small. Unfortunately, and as Mr Green is aware, a new game release by Playtech, a leading game supplier of ours, suffered a software malfunction in January this year and no legitimate jackpot win occurred. Given that Mr Green is currently exploring his legal options, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."
Gambling Insider also reached out to Playtech and the supplier said:
"Playtech processes over one billion transactions a day and we work tirelessly on the integrity and reliability of our software. On this occasion, there was a technical issue and we worked with our partners to respond as quickly as possible, fix the issue and restore the game to full functionality. We regret any distress caused to Mr Green but, given that this is now a legal matter, it is inappropriate for us to comment further."