back to article British gambling giant Betfred told to pay stiffed winner £1.7m jackpot after claiming 'software problem'

The High Court of England and Wales has ruled that bookmaker Betfred must pay a Lincolnshire blackjack player £1.7m ($2.3m) in winnings that the betting site withheld because of a supposed software glitch. In a statement emailed to The Register, a Betfred spokesperson said, "Mr Green won the jackpot three times whilst playing …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1.7 million pounds amounts to no more than advertising costs. Cheapskates. They should pay legal costs, damages, and interest too.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      The article says he actually sued for £2m to cover interest and other charges. It seems from the first sentence (but not completely clear) the high court only awarded the £1.7m winnings.

      1. CuChulainn Silver badge

        The Sky News write up says:

        "Following his victory Mr Green will finally receive his payout, plus interest."

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Nice bit of unintentional free advertising (yes I know I'm stretching it a bit) for another gambling company as well, namely Mr Green.

    3. You aint sin me, roit

      It should have been good advertising...

      Grin through clenched teeth, congratulate the lucky punter, use it as an example to encourage others - "Bet with us, you too could become a millionaire!"

      Then turn on your suppliers, get the code fixed, get damages to compensate for wonky software and slap the NDA on them.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and my legal team" who won £?

    1. Kane Silver badge

      "and my legal team" who won £?

      Who always win £

    2. macjules

      We always win ££££. We call it "You win, you pay".

    3. 0laf
      Childcatcher

      They 'win' 25% in general but don't forget the treasury who will add VAT onto that figure as well..

      So Mr Green will lose about 30% of his award unless he has an alternative arrangement with his legal firm.

      1. JoshOvki

        Which is 70% better than what Betfred wanted to give

  3. Sampler

    I feel an upcoming episode of "Who? Me?"

    ...I was working for this software firm that made blackjack apps for betfred...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Works Both Ways

    If there was a software error with the game, did they try to refund the losers, while trying to withold the winnings?

    Or was it a mysterious bug that only affected a big win?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Works Both Ways

      "Or was it a mysterious bug that only affected a big win?"

      The BBC reports:

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-56663830

      "Betfred had argued that the software glitch, which stopped the game from resetting properly while Mr Green was playing,was covered under the terms and conditions of the game.

      ...

      A Betfred spokesperson said: "Mr Green won the jackpot three times whilst playing a game provided by one of our third-party suppliers. "

      Looks like they did not test the post jackpot win reset thoroughly

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Works Both Ways

        my last post - probably better to have stated

        "Looks like they did not test the post jackpot win[game] reset thoroughly

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Works Both Ways

          One aspect I come across is the the notion of "testing will catch the bugs"

          IMHO, software should be written with the assumption that the testing will not catch all bugs, and therefore it is the responsibility of the designers and developers to use whatever means they have at their disposal to produce software that works as intended and is "free of unintended behaviour".

          The analogy is the trapeze artiste who displays without a safety net - they work on their craft to iron out the "defects" so their "product" is "defect free".

          I'm not advocating software development without testing - but it should be the safety net to good software development. Otherwise, just like the strongest link in a chain is the strength of the weakest link, the software will be dependent upon what bugs the test suite manages to uncover. Too many times have I come across test suites with glaring omissions - usually caused by testers conferring and relying too much on input from designers and developers!

          And lastly, "Remember, remember Knight Capital"

          https://www.henricodolfing.com/2019/06/project-failure-case-study-knight-capital.html

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Devil

            Re: Works Both Ways

            Surely a simpler solution.

            While the test suite is being run, the software developer sits on a chair above a tank of hungry pirhanas. If the software passes the test, then the ligths go green and a small happy fanfare is played. If the software fails the test, then a trapdoor opens - and the Bond theme plays over the speakers to partially drown out the screams...

            1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Works Both Ways

              And a replacement software developer is in the wings to take their place

            2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

              Re: Works Both Ways

              Ah I see a Betfred employee downvoted you.

            3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: Works Both Ways

              Remember the story (maybe an urban myth) of the fairground where occasional flaws (thankfully, nothing serious) were found in some of the rides post inspection.

              The rules were changed so that the first ride of the day went to the inspectors - all problems instantly stopped!

          2. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: Works Both Ways

            Somebody I know who worked in the City at the time of Knight Capital said it was good to see a High Frequency Trading firm get shafted. Even better that they did it to themselves. He said that there are very few firms that make a profit every single day trading on the markets. Those that do should be regarded with suspicion.

            Then again I read a quote about casinos years ago in an article about money laundering. It said something along the lines of: If you don't make money running a casino then you're either utterly inept, criminal or both but should be investigated either way.

            1. SEDT

              Re: Works Both Ways

              That perhaps explains the failure of the casino owned by Don the Trump

              1. You aint sin me, roit

                Failure? Intended?

                Trump's casino failures are often used to point out that he must be a really bad businessman.

                Until you factor in money laundering and tax relief, at which point you can see why they were intended to fail.

                Allegedly...

                1. JimboSmith Silver badge

                  Re: Failure? Intended?

                  Ah you just reminded me of Marvin Roffman who made predictions about (then) Mr Trumps Taj Mahal Atlantic City Casino. He would prove to be correct but even back then Mr Trump didn't like the truth apparently.

                  https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/donald-trump-marvin-roffman-casino-lawsuit-213855/

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Failure? Intended?

                    Ah you just reminded me of Marvin Roffman who made predictions about (then) Mr Trumps Taj Mahal Atlantic City Casino. He would prove to be correct but even back then Mr Trump didn't like the truth apparently.

                    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/donald-trump-marvin-roffman-casino-lawsuit-213855/

                    Downvoting for not making the link clickable seems a little harsh.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Failure? Intended?

                  Don't know the full history, but according to his niece in the book Too Much and Never Enough if he had just stuck with one casino he probably would have been successful. However, when he saw the money it was making he though "Wow, I need more of these!"

                  So he built a couple more. All that happened was the same number of punters split between them, while the costs of running them multiplied by 3.

              2. Uncle Slacky
                Headmaster

                Re: Works Both Ways

                *Both* casinos...

          3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: "Remember, remember Knight Capital"

            Thank you for the informative link.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Works Both Ways

      There's no reason to think there would be any wrong-losers. The jackpot was triggering too often, but the rest of the game was working, apparently.

      It's an odd case because it is not disputed that there was a glitch which caused 3 jackpots when none should have happened. Usually there wouldn't be a problem, the T&Cs would clearly state that the bookie retained the right to cancel glitches. This case seems to have been solely about whether there was a mistake in the TandCs.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: Works Both Ways

        Some better reporting would have been useful: it sounds like this case was really about the T's and C's.

        Is the court saying that long, hard to read T's and C's are not acceptable?

        Or was it specifically about T's and C's which attempted to provide immunity for payouts caused by software bugs?

        Or something else about them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Works Both Ways

          According to the article -

          > High Court judge Mrs Justice Foster dismissed the company's legalese, saying it was "inadequate," and "not transparent or fair and Betfred were not entitled to rely upon them."

          Consider that it was built into the rules that three consecutive jackpots would yield said reward. That implies that such a result is possible. Moreover, the amount won is piddly compared to 2019 revenue of 700+ million on 13.5 billion pounds of betting. Also, only one person won it - so there is no evidence based on results that it was unusual (compared to, say, thousands of players winning it).

          Presumably the T&C allowed Betfred to be the sole judge of whether a win was a "bug" or not. That's a highly technical and opaque judgement. It puts the onus on the claimant to prove that it wasn't a bug, which would be impossible in a civil case. Therefore ---- 'unfair'.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Works Both Ways

        Yeah the T&C's are very important and it's vital that you get them spot on and watertight. A firm I contracted for for a short while ran a competition via social media/the company website. Without giving too much away (for fear of lawyers) they sold heavy bulky items that required assembly before use. The competition launched whilst I was away and when I returned I had an email from the marketing department. It was asking me to promote the comp please on social media. I looked through the T&C's and spotted a few glowing howlers.

        I flagged these with my boss who had no legal training but listened carefully as I explained.

        Firstly there was a delivery limit of "Great Britain" for the prize. He said we didn't want to be shipping to Northern Ireland did we. After I pointed out that legally GB included Orkney, the Shetlands, the Isles of Scilly etc he became more interested. Then it failed to mention which nation's law this game was covered by. Worse it didn't say only open to residents of Great Britain. Nowhere was it said that entrants agreed to be bound by these terms. Finally it didn't say the MD had final decision and that it was binding.

        Boss oddly looks very happy and is quickly on the phone. Minutes later the marketing head (AKA HoM) and the legal bloke have joined us. After my explanation the legal bloke asks why he wasn't consulted before this was posted anywhere. Marketing bloke says didn't seem necessary and legal bloke asks how much this could cost us. I got a quote from our usual shippers to the furthest north postcode I could find (Shetland). This was well over £2K which made Mr Marketing nearly faint. It was broken down as three days driving there and three back not to mention the ferry journey. Then there was the costs of tying up two people with installation knowledge and one truck for days including a weekend, overtime, accommodation en route etc. I then twisted the knife by asking if the HoM had ever heard of Hoover?

        I pointed out this was a worst case scenario and the winner could live next door but the legal eagle wasn't happy. An email went round half an hour later informing the company of new rules regarding competitions even internal ones. Luckily for the marketing team there were no entrants outside the home counties but could have been a very costly mistake.

        Turns out my boss didn't like the HoM (arrogant over promoted prick apparently) and this was very welcome news.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Works Both Ways

          You'd have to be mad to use the ambiguous term "Great Britain" in a contract. In the political sense it certainly includes the Shetland Islands, and in the geographical sense it certainly doesn't

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Works Both Ways

        "... it is not disputed that there was a glitch which caused 3 jackpots when none should have happened"

        The rules of the game presumably advertised that such an outcome was a possibility. Was that false advertising?

    3. macjules

      Re: Works Both Ways

      Sounds awfully like Fujitsu are involved here somewhere.

  5. Peter Galbavy

    Slowly, far too slowly. is a responsibililty creeping up on the mainstream software industry to produce functional and error free products. It's only going to be with more legal precendents being set - and awards that have any significance - that attitudes will change and the "MVP" approach may start to wither and finally be consigned to the grave it doesn't even deserve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Minimal Viable Product

      I've been converted to the MVP approach after a managing a couple of Agile of Projects over the past few years, As a PM it just brings forward the inevitable cropping of unnecessarily features which occurs on most projects as go live approaches and development is not complete.

      What this does demonstrate is how important to get the MVP definition right at the beginning.

      I would expect the game initialization and reset functionality to be developed in the first few sprints, not tacked on at the end. There's also no indication that this product was developed using an agile methodology.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Minimal Viable Product

        >>> unnecessarily features

        Like testing and documentation?

        1. uccsoundman

          Re: Minimal Viable Product

          > unnecessarily features

          >> Like testing and documentation?

          No, those would be called "Unnecessary Costs" and/or "Unnecessary Delays". Since we're Agile, we don't need to test.

          1. fobobob

            Re: Minimal Viable Product

            I see you've read some of O'Reilly's latest works:

            "Just Getting it Out the Damned Door"

            "Leveraging Your Customer QA Base"

      2. Dr Dan Holdsworth
        Boffin

        Re: Minimal Viable Product

        The product is a gambling product. It therefore has to behave in a prescribed fashion:

        Firstly, on average the House must always win.

        Secondly, the game must provide the player with small rewards from time to time, minimising the monetary impact of these rewards. This is to keep the victim hooked.

        Thirdly, it must be possible to win the jackpot, just really, really unlikely.

        This game erred in that the player was permitted to accumulate money, and given an unlikely set of circumstances could therefore earn a big pay-out. It therefore was infringing the first principle. It also had tediously huge legal disclaimers, which the judge essentially threw out for not being clear enough.

      3. Peter Galbavy

        Re: Minimal Viable Product

        You may have a idilic view and definition of MVP but most meat headed PHBs focus on the middle initial "viable". This is translated in PM terms to "what can we get away with before ticking the box marked ready-to-ship" and it will always be thus.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Used to be minimum non-viable product

      Regrettably the software industry learned decades ago that the vast majority of customers did not know how to feel the quality, would pay for any old shit and blame themselves for using it wrong when it did not work then buy an upgrade for twice the price (that did not fix any bugs) from the same supplier because it was what the staff knew how to use.

      The number of customers with a clue has been slowly increasing (outside government) resulting in occasional improvements in average software quality.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      that attitudes will change and the "MVP" approach may start to wither and finally be consigned to the grave it doesn't even deserve.

      Not quite. All you need to adjust is what the "V" means. "Viable" means different things to different people. To Marketing and some VPs it means "it doesn't exist yet and I haven't cross checked my idiotic idea with anyone but we can start selling it anyway", to a responsible engineer it means "we've properly designed it, then had it independently tested and have done a soft launch just to see if we haven't missed anything". With hardware you should add "by a gaggle of five year olds" to the testing phase as they are better at destruction than the average combat soldier.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I suppose rigorous testing was dismissed as an unnecessary expense.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      I highly doubt there was a "glitch". They probably just didn't want to pay the winnings and then tried to rely on opaque T&C's as a get-out clause.

      Denise Coates from Bet365 doesn't manage to pay herself £400m in dividends or so every year because she has the best interests of the gamblers at heart.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "I highly doubt there was a "glitch". They probably just didn't want to pay the winnings and then tried to rely on opaque T&C's as a get-out clause."

        Exactly this. The house always wins.

        It's like when you set up an accumulator, and while it's totting itself up it'll give you your estimated winnings. Once I did it and the estimated winnings were over £3,000,000. Would be nice if it came in!

        Except, if it did, the bookies wouldn't pay out on the £3,000,000. They'd pay a maximum of £1,000,000. But they have never (not across the multiple apps I've used) ever capped it when they could and arguably should do that.

        In the end, I won £700 from that accumulator.

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Nutbar conspiracy theories. Get a grip. The things you say are proven wrong by this very case!

        2. Spanker

          15 odd years ago I managed to put an accumulator on something like Ipswich to win and the Higgs boson to be discovered by 2015. Unfortunately I lost the first leg.

          1. AndrewB57

            Played 4-3-3 did they? With a front 3 of

            Large (tricksy tanner ball-player rejected from the Arbroath academy

            Hadron (Greek centre forward, also owns 2nd best kebab shop in Chantry)

            Collider (South American genius (fat))

        3. Loud Speaker

          A long time ago, my mother bought four beigels at 25p each* from a local bakers.

          "There you go, four beigels £1,25" said the shop assistant

          "No, four times 25 is 100" replies my mum.

          "Look!" says the asistant, and proceeds to write a column:

          25

          25

          25

          25

          -----

          1.15

          "See, numbers can't lie!"

          "OK", says my mum "Give me one beigel" and hands over 25p. She then repeats this three more times, and leaves the shop.

          Moral: When in Rome do as Romans do. When in thievery, do as the thieves do! (Do your own dammed accumulator next time.)

          * I believe it was in the days of £sd but I modernised the story for the yoof of today.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        To be fair to the above Ms. Coates, she wasn't protecting the best interests of gamblers in this court case. Another greedy bastard^w^w billionaire bookie, Fred Done, did that.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        "I highly doubt there was a "glitch". They probably just didn't want to pay the winnings"

        Any betting compamy that tried to pull that off would lose half it's customers overnight. Having the occasional big winner is excellent publicity for them, and having the occasional big payout is factored into all their accounts. It is literally their core business to know how many payouts there *should* be, so it's easy for them to identify that 3 jackpots in a row is far more likely to be a bug than a statistical anomaly.

        Having said that, their customers play on their actual software not on a theoretically perfect model, so it's their responsibility, and only fair the punter got his winnings.

      4. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Denise Coates from Bet365 doesn't manage to pay herself £400m in dividends or so every year

        She actually pays it as salary, not dividends. £421m in salary, plus around £45m in dividends (out of a total dividend of £95m). I think its partly a way for her to say "I'm definitely paying my share in taxes, I pay it PAYE like everyone else", and her father (who owns the majority of the rest of the shareholding) to "properly" reward her for actually running the company.

  7. Mike 40

    That's a lot of tax havens. Presumably the gambling companies are never mentioned when naming and shaming tax avoiders.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Follow the moneydonations to political entities.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If BetFred have a valid legal case ...

    ... it is against their third party supplier. If they haven't got a case against them, that's their own legal department's fault.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: If BetFred have a valid legal case ...

      Well I'm sure they've got some sort of software bug clause in their Ts&Cs. So that if something goes drastically wrong they don't have to pay out. Which may be usable in some cases and not in others, or may have been badly drafted - or struck down by the court, the article doesn't really say.

      Remember that Pepsi competition from twenty years ago where they seem to have mixed up the win a free can of Pepsi with the star prize of £50,000. So thousands of people won the £50k and they had to withdraw the competition.

      So it might be with a major bug that's going to take down the company, the courts would let them off - but in the case of one specific winner it's deemed unfair that their Ts&Cs let them get away with it.

      Particularly if the Ts&Cs aren't reciprocal. It's one of the tenets of modern comsumer contract law thatthings should be fair, so if the company is protected from bugs, then so should the consumer be. So that might be another reason invalidate them.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: If BetFred have a valid legal case ...

        Maybe the S/W came with an industry-standard deny-all 50 page EULA but in this case the end-user was BetFred.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "not transparent or fair"

    Ouch. There are a million websites out there that need to review their Ts&Cs in that case.

    First time I've ever heard of a judge knocking down those carefully constructed piles of legal Get Out Of Jail Free (for the company) mumbo-jumbo. If this becomes a precedent, a lot of companies are going to feel the pain.

    Sometimes British judges are just the best.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: "not transparent or fair"

      It is generally true that nothing in T&Cs that is illegal can be legally enforced, that's why there's always a severability clause. But it's also great that attention is being brought to the rest of the mumbo-jumbo.

      1. ShadowDragon8685

        Re: "not transparent or fair"

        Severability clauses should be themselves made illegal.

        "You cannot fill a contract full of illegal malarkey that will be struck down and shotgun it at the court hoping that some piece of bullshit slips past the radar and gets enforced against you."

  10. MJI Silver badge

    Online betting the new "cancer"

    I do like to see these companies have to pay out.

    Why was everything opened up so then can advertise everywhere?

    I do not get it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Online betting the new "cancer"

      "Why was everything opened up so then can advertise everywhere?"

      Because our neoliberal overlords choose to abdicate responsibility for anything and let market forces run riot.

  11. John Doe 12

    Non Disclosure

    I am surprised people aren't more outraged at the attempt to gag the customer with an NDA and a 60k "bribe" which thankfully he threw back into their faces. Another day, another example of the Streisand Effect at work :-D

  12. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    I have always thought the gambling industry is full of cunts, turns out, its truer than a bleeding axe wound

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      There are also other types of gambling industrues... banking and insurance being two of the ones that first come to mind. Both with a very large amount of money and a very large amount of influence as a result that has stacked the legal side towards them very heavily, to the point that while both the banking and insurance industries are heavily into gambling, they have done their best to make it impossible to lose.

  13. Howard Sway Silver badge

    a game provided by one of our third party suppliers

    So tired of hearing this excuse : if you outsource to save costs and the result is an expensive fiasco, the blame lies entirely with YOU.

    1. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: a game provided by one of our third party suppliers

      Yep. You have to pay the person you dicked over because of your expensive outsourcing fiasco.

      Of course, you may have a claim against your outsourcee. Good luck collecting from them, they'll have folded up the legal entity of their shop in some far-off land and reincorporated under a new name in the time it takes to say "discovery".

  14. itzumee

    I'd like to know whether the judgement was based on the fact that 49 pages of T+Cs is excessive and that, frankly, no-one could reasonably expected to fully read.

    If so then it means that overly long/verbose terms and conditions are a weakness in legal cases brought in front of a judge.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      overly long/verbose terms and conditions are a weakness

      They'll be replaced with a single sentence: "Heads we win, tails you lose".

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Following the judgement, Betfred's lawyers have rewritten the T&C to be succinct and straightforward:

    "Heads we win, Tails you lose"

    1. Tim99 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      No, that is not adequate - It needs the addition of "if it lands on its edge, you pay us twice your accumulated stake"...

    2. ShadowDragon8685
  16. Daedalus

    This isn't over

    Following the win, he extended his overdraft and spent more than £2,500 celebrating with family and friends. - from the BBC report

    It's pretty obvious that Mr. Plaintiff has issues of his own. One might even say he could use an intervention. He's won now, of course, but it would be interesting to see what happens down the line.

    Anyone old enough to remember "Spend Spend Spend!"? That was the equivalent of over 3 million quid in today's money, on the football pools.

    1. jgard

      Re: This isn't over

      'Issues' is putting it mildly, the man spent a whole 0.00147% of his winnings being nice to himself and his family. Winnings which he fully expected to be paid out on immediately. Reckless. Where is the humanity?

      I'm with you - that £2.5k should have gone straight into a fixed term ISA, and a diverse portfolio of high yield bonds.

      The good news is that he can now afford treatment for his issues. Let's hope he seeks it.

      In other news, I'm having a party next week for issue-free people only. Must have perfect credit score, collar length hair and no issues. Would love to see you there.No booze allowed, just tepid tap water. £2 on the door, bring a Flanders and get in for free.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  17. Anoymous Coward

    It seems that BetFred are saying they had a bug so serious that it prevents paying out to a winner but not so serious that it prevents keeping the wagers of the loosers. It is good the judge deemed this as unfair.

  18. Aussie Doc
    Pint

    Hmmm

    "...a software glitch?"

    Wanna bet?

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