Punter sues bookies over £1.7M

This post has been contributed by Professor Roger Halson, Module Convenor for Contract law.


A recent report in the Times revealed that a gambler was suing a betting company following its refusal to pay out a £1.7M jackpot. The man said he had won the jackpot playing blackjack on line. However after receiving congratulation messages from the online gambling company they refused to honour the win which they said was due to a software glitch. Unfortunately the pundit had already spent £2500 celebrating his good luck. The success of the claimant will likely turn upon the correct interpretation of the contract regulating the bet he placed. However the fact that the disappointed gambler is even able to bring such an action reflects the considerable changes to the legal regulation of gambling in recent years.

The gambling industry in the UK is now worth around £100M and in 2005 a new regulatory regime was introduced which:

• Replaced legislation dating back to 1845

• Reflected changing social attitudes to gambling.

The aims of the Gambling Act 2005 were to:

• Protect children and vulnerable people

• Reduce associated criminal activity

• Ensure that games are fair

It was a measure introduced to promote this last aim which this claimant will be most grateful for. Before September 2007 gambling debts were unenforceable in Scotland and Wales. On 1st September 2007, section 335 of the Gambling Act 2005 came into force and reversing the previous law said that in the future the fact that a contract relates to gambling shall not prevent its enforcement.

We will now have to wait to see what use the claimant in this case is able to make of this important change in the law.

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