A not so Classic experience

This one came across the Fair Wagering Australia desk yesterday.

A punter writes:

——————-

My ire has been raised and I’m in the mood for a rant!

Following is the complete story of my experience with NSW regulated online “bookmaker” ClassicBet.com.au who label themselves as “Australia’s first premium betting agency”.

I first became aware of their existence through a cold call offering me a generous bonus to sign up and bet with them.

I monitored the site for few days and saw very little to excite me. Vanilla odds for sports didn’t turn me on. But given that I have so few options available to me I thought perhaps it won’t hurt to give them a try. And the bonus offer of $1,000 in free bets for a $2,000 deposit with x3 turnover was sufficiently enticing.

Their site boasts the following noble statements:

“ClassicBet strongly supports the ‘Ideals and Objectives’ as set out by the Australian Bookmakers Association … We are particularly committed to demonstrating responsibility and providing excellent service”.

(Subsequent enquiries have found that they are not members of the ABA, though they have applied for membership.)

“A premium level of service with no equal. Every client is provided a client manager who will be available to assist you in any way possible”.

(I’m still waiting to be advised of who my client manager is/was or receive any contact from him/her, or assistance from anybody.)

Frankly I fully expected that my stay would be short as I just “knew” that they’d close my account before too long. But I didn’t expect it quite so soon and with the consequences which followed.

So, I proceeded to open an account and made a $2,000 deposit. I went straight into action in order to establish the required turnover and placed a couple of bets on the footy. As luck would have it, both lost and my account balance was back to $0!

Time to place a bonus (free) bet. I found a golfer at somewhat close to competitive odds and asked for a bet on him. But I was then informed (contrary to what I’d previously been told) that bonus bets can be placed on racing only. No sports!

So, I went to check the bonus bet rules published on the site and found:

“a) For any promotion where bonus bets are received, the corresponding deposit must be turned over three times, at odds of $1.50 or greater before a withdrawal can be processed.
b) Bonus bets can be placed in any amount from 1 to 500 on any event, including multis and exotics.”

Protest lodged but dismissed.

That dimmed whatever enthusiasm I’d had for the site so it was a couple of weeks before I revisited and made a $600 deposit specifically to place a footy bet for $585 on a game which was to be played the following day.

I also spotted a decent price for a horse (7.50) which I fancied and asked for a $200 free bet on it. The response received was “Rejected (odds changed)” and it was promptly turned down to 5.00.

Yet notwithstanding that the bet had been rejected my bonus bets balance was reduced by $200!

Undaunted, I went in again and requested another $200 free bet at ‘best tote + SP’. Finally, a free bet accepted! The horse won at 3.5 and I was credited with winnings of $500.

Let’s try another! I asked for a free bet of $200 at ‘best tote + SP’. This time the response received read: “Rejected (account closed)”!

Yep, that’s right, I had three sports bets for two losses ($2,000) and one pending ($585) and a single (free) racing bet which won me $500. And that was the point at which (according to subsequent advice) they deemed my account to “not be recreational”.

Now, it really comes as no surprise to have yet another account closed but frankly I didn’t expect it quite so soon and in such circumstances.

I accept that they do have the legal (though not moral) “right” to do that. But what I don’t accept is that they have any right to deny me the remaining $800 of free bets which was a significant condition of my joining and depositing $2,000.

Further, in correspondence with Mr Ryan Kay of ClassicBet, he insisted that I had used up $600 of my free bets which of course is nonsense as they accepted only $200 and rejected $400 of my requests. I have a screenshot to prove it.

Having failed in my demand for them to honour their commitment to me I forwarded a formal complaint to the NSW OLGR.

I was suitably impressed with the OLGR’s prompt response to my complaint.

But not so impressed with their finding that ClassicBet “has not breached the Rules or Legislation” quoting: “3.1.2 Discretion of sports bookmaker. (c) A sports bookmaker is under no obligation to accept any wager from any customer or prospective customer”, and

“3.5.6 Internet betting access may be denied without notice
The sports bookmaker may cease to provide access to a customer to
the web site of the sports bookmaker to place bets via the Internet at
anytime. This may be done without notice to the customer.”

At this point I make the observation that I wasn’t denied any sports bets, only racing bets, so I’m not sure what relevance quoting that legislation has.

They then went on to refer to ClassicBet’s own terms and conditions, copying and pasting those pertaining to bonus bets:

“9. Bonus Bets
a) For any promotion where bonus bets are received, the corresponding deposit must be turned over three times, at odds of $1.50 or greater before a withdrawal can be processed.
b) Bonus bets can be placed in any amount from 1 to 500 on racing events (free bets cannot be used on sports or multis unless specified by client manager). Bonus bets are subject to the rules in Section 9. on the Acceptance of Bets.
c) Rules may vary on some promotions and any variance shall be displayed on the promotion
d) If after opening an account, clients are provided bonus bets without making a deposit, before they make any withdrawal, they must deposit at least an equal amount and turnover the deposit amount three times (after making the deposit).
e) Referral promotion. The referring client will be provided with referral bonus once the referral has deposited at least $200 and has turnover of at least $600 (at odds greater than $1.50.
f) Bonus bets are provided at the discretion of the Bookmaker and can be held back or withdrawn at any time.”

Note the differences and additions to the rules which I quoted previously?

Those changes were made only after I complained. They are not the rules which were on the site when I joined and by which our contract should be bound. I have a screenshot which proves it.

And further:

“10. Placement and the Acceptance of Bets
a) All bets on an Account are considered to be placed and received in the State of NSW, Australia.
b) Classicbet reserves the right at any time to refuse any bet or part of a bet without providing a reason or advance notification. The circumstances in which we may refuse a Client’s bet include but are not limited to:
i) Client is or may be less than 18 years of age;
ii) Client is or may be betting on behalf of a person who is less than 18 years of age;
iii) Client is or may be in breach of these Rules;
iv) Client is or may be in breach of any applicable law; or
v) Client’s proposed bet would present an unacceptable liability risk to our business. Whether there is an unacceptable liability risk to us for the purpose of this Rule is at Classicbet’s discretion.”
I most certainly wasn’t in breach of clauses i) through iv) and haven’t been accused of being so, so the conclusion therefore is that my request for a $200 free bet on a horse which was at less than 3.00 in the market represented an “unacceptable liability risk” to ClassicBet!

On a more positive note, ClassicBet did promptly pay me the balance of my account which included a dividend of $1,111.15 on the footy bet which was pending at the time they closed my account.

Additional observations I’d like to make about this experience:

1. I am advised that, unlike the TAB in NSW, bookmakers are not obliged to lay clients a horse for at least $1,500 but even if they were, there is nothing stopping a bookmaker from avoiding that obligation by simply terminating his account.

2. I have no legal qualification but in 40+ years business experience I’ve picked up a few things, one of which is my understanding that notwithstanding the strict wording of terms and conditions, the exercise of discretionary provisions requires adherence to principles of FAIRNESS.

3. Are regulators concerned only with the letter of the law? Are they not responsible for the protection of consumers and monitoring the ethics of licensed persons?

4. It is quite clear that punters in Australia have very little opportunity to obtain justice in disputes with bookmakers. The State regulators are next to useless, almost always siding with the bookmakers who effectively fund them. And for some incomprehensible reason I am repeatedly advised by Fair Trading offices that they have no jurisdiction in gambling related cases! Why ever not?

End of rant (for the time being).

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