Dim response from Gambling Commission over BetBright
“It is what it is” said Rich Ricci, fronting up to grillings on TV at Cheltenham from Lydia Hislop and Alice Plunkett. But it shouldn’t have been.
Just over a week before this year’s Cheltenham Festival, the online bookmaker BetBright, of which Ricci was executive chairman, sold its technology assets to online gaming operator 888 for £15m.
It did not, however, sell its sports book and associated liabilities. The deal was described as “unusual” by Ricci.
So, after agreeing the £15m sale price of for its IT platform, BetBright announced that it was ceasing trading and refunding stakes for outstanding ante-post bets and told those who already had accumulator bets with winning legs that they were going to be paid out as single bets.
Those with funds still with BetBright were given 30 days to withdraw their money.
Needless to say, there was widespread anger amongst customers who had placed bets with BetBright. Some got a degree of satisfaction when 888 said they’d honour Cheltenham Festival wagers, but not anything else such as football accas.
So what was the response of the Gambling Commission? In a word – unsatisfactory.
The regulatory body has been baring its teeth more and more in respect of gaming and gambling operators who have been found guilty of failing to have the required levels in place to detect money-laundering, or to prevent people with gambling problems from continuing to lose money with which they cannot afford to gamble. No argument there in their remit.
But when it came to the BetBright situation, they were told that the bookmaker faced “a very real possibility of insolvent liquidation”.
The Commission said it was “content” with the handling of the situation.
They were content that BetBright got £15m for the sale of its betting platform. They were content that BetBright were on the one hand accepting bets and on the other talking to 888, possibly others, about a sale. They were content that BetBright made a surprise announcement to void ante-post stakes rather than a cash-out value.
And are the Gambling Commission “content” that this seems to set a precedent for others who might not be able to meet their liabilities and can simply shut up shop with little more than an offer to refund stakes?
BetBright might not have turned out to have been a brilliant foray into bookmaking for Rich Ricci and the firm’s directors, gaining less than 1% of the market, but they never actually went bust.
In that respect, the Gambling Commission looks to have dropped its usually tough stance, and gone soft on customer protection.
No sh*t Sherlock
The PR team of one of the bigger firms of estate agents recently trumpeted that the London football grounds with the most expensive nearby property were Chelsea and Fulham. Were there any other contenders?
Let’s save them the research time with regard to racecourses and narrow it down and suggest it’s Ascot and Windsor.
With rugby league, however, they’re on their own.