A cautionary tale from Peter the Punter
Take care, political punters. The bets you think you may have struck with bookmakers may not be as watertight as you think.
In the Republican Caucus for Kansas held on Feb 9th 2008, Mitt Romney was hot favorite to win ahead of his main rival, Mike Huckabee. The first indication on this Site of a possible upset came at 8.11pm (GMT) with Jfsl posting at 165 – â€œFox predicting Huckabee will win Kansas.â€ At 8.22pm, Caveman posted that Paddy Power were still offering 6/1 Huckabee. At 8.28pm, I took Â£20 of that 6/1 and had a further Â£20 at 3/1 with the same firm at 8.35. A number of other PBers did something similar.
I believe Paddy Power took the market down around about 8.40pm, which was the time the result, proclaiming Huckabee the winner, was given on the official Republican website. Around 11pm I noticed my bet had been voided and when I spoke to PP about this they referred me to a Reuters report timed at 8.27pm stating that Huckabee had won.
In the debate with PP that continued the next day, they referred me to their rules concerning late bets and commented as follows:
Late Bets: Bets are accepted up to the off-time of the event or a pre-determined time whichever the earlier. Paddy Power reserves the right to void or stand any bet inadvertently accepted after the betting has closed or where the event was resolved or at a stage where the customer could have any indication of the outcome. Should there be a dispute over the off time of an event/market where an official starting time is not given by that sports governing body, then the time that Paddy Power determines the event to have started will govern settlement of all bets.
The customer most definitely could have had an indication of the outcome at 8.27 as that is the first report of when Huckabee was declared the winner.
Naturally I pointed out that my bet was not late. The result was not declared until 8.40pm and the Reuters report was no more that a reiteration of other reports in the media that Huckabee was the probable winner. PP were unmoved and I referred the matter to IBAS, the arbitration panel for disputes of this kind. Here is the IBAS response, verbatim.
â€œThe Panel acknowledges the point made by Mr Smith that the official result was not given at 8.27 but much later. However, the information provided by Reuters and US Media were projected results and that in most cases would be an highly accurate prediction based, probably on exit polls.
â€œHence, it would mean that the customer would have been given a significant pointer from authoritative sources as to the likely outcome, making any bet placed after that information was posted liable to being declared void under rule.
â€œThe wording in the rules says: â€˜Paddy Power reserves the right to void or stand any bet inadvertently accepted after the betting has closed or where the event was resolved or at a stage where the customer could have any indication of the outcome.
â€œOn that basis, the Panel adjudicate in favour of the company who were within their rights to stand or declare the bets void.â€
This answers a question which was not put. Of course Paddy Power were within their rights. The punter has few rights and even fewer practical resources if a bookmaker chooses not to pay, other than to avoid that bookmaker in future. The much more relevant questions are whether Paddy Power acted in a fair and reasonable manner and on what basis will they or other bookmakers settle bets of this kind in future.
The implications of the latter will be immediately obvious, especially to political punters. The bookmaker is the sole judge of when â€˜â€¦the customer could have any indication of the outcomeâ€™ and can judge retrospectively. Punters must be aware that bets they have placed in good faith on events where information is trickling out constantly may be voided at some later date. This is particularly relevant if they are laying off such bets. The lay part is unlikely to be voided, and the punter who thought he was hedging, may be left with an unexpected liability.
Political betting is relatively new. It therefore does not have the benefit of the same amount of precedent as more mature betting markets, such as horse racing or soccer. In addition, there are likely to be ambiguities and definitional problems which create a greater degree of uncertainty than is usual in more traditional sports betting. It is in the interests of punter and bookmaker alike that such uncertainty is reduced to a minimum. In this respect, Paddy Powerâ€™s decision and the IBAS ruling are extremely unhelpful.
Official announcement from KRP timed at 8.40pm. The site also explains arrangements for the announcement of the result â€“ see Media and Press section.