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QUOTE


“WE ARE CLEARLY THE VICTIMS OF BUREAUCRATIC BULLIES AND RICH GOLF COURSE OWNERS BUT WE WILL RESPECT THE VERDICT OF THE COURT. I GUESS IT’S A TEXTBOOK CASE OF - WE FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON.”


ACTION IMAGES / PAUL CHILDS LIVEPIC


SPOKESMAN PADDY POWER AFTER THE BOOKMAKER WAS FORCED TO TAKE DOWN ITS HOLLYWOOD STYLE SIGN FROM A FIELD NEIGHBOURING THE RYDER CUP VENUE CELTIC MANOR RESORT


Out of sight but not out of reach


The Gambling


Commission may be limited in its powers over offshore gaming sites, says Remote Gambling Association chief executive Clive Hawkswood, but it is still effectively protecting the UK public.


CLIVE HAWKSWOOD FIRST PERSON


I


t is public knowledge that the British online gaming market is completely domi- nated by companies licensed in other jurisdictions and that there are probably only a couple of the biggest online betting businesses still located here.


hen it comes to betting


rules. So, the operator will say, ‘if a bet is taken in error, and falls outside of the rules on display or otherwise pub- lished, no contract exists’. Some lawyers, however, particularly our learned friends steeped in contract law, appear to hold a differ- ent view. They will state that a bet taken, as the bet appears on the bet receipt or internet screenshot or bet summary statement, is indeed the contract and is enforceable in law!


Lawyers will quote, amongst other things, English Contract Law, stated cases in Contract Law, and will use such legal terms and expressions as: The Unfair Contracts Terms Act (UCTA), Invitation to Treat, Mutual Mistake, Uni- lateral Mistake etc.


So, we have the opera- tors’ (betting office, tele- phone or internet) perspective, and the lawyers’ perspective. But, what about the person that really matters... the cus- tomer? It has to be said that often the issue, and reason for an often heated dispute,


is that the public perceive the employee within the high street betting office to be a ‘bookie’. And, for all intents and purposes, is a bookmaker in the true sense of the word. Thus, with a bet offered and taken, or a price requested and given etc, many customers feel that when the operator applies his error rule; it is simply a case of the book- maker welching on a bet. It is currently the case however, and it is IBAS’ present view, that bets taken are still subject to the operator’s terms and condi- tions. This is from the under- standing that operators have complied with the Gambling Commission requirements and have carried out a health-check on their operating rules. However, from the content of some dispute submissions that IBAS receive, which quote con- tract law, it is obvious that there will soon come a time when operators and cus- tomers, via their legal rep- resentatives, will need to debate the intricacies of


contract law in court. Thereafter, no doubt fol- lowing subsequent hearings and appeals etc, precedents will be set which hopefully will provide some clarity for all. Better still, and maybe wishing for some- thing of a utopia, systems should be put in place that ensure errors in pricing etc are not made.


• John Samuels has spent over forty years within the betting industry, holding senior positions. Prior to joining IBAS, Samuels was the London and South of England security manager for one of the leading high street betting operators. He also provides expert witness comment and advice to police, solicitors and barristers, on various issues related to the betting industry, particu- larly those concerning fraud and money launder- ing. He is a member of the Expert Witness Institute. For more information email adjudication@ibas- uk.co.uk or visit www.ibas- uk.com


It should be equally clear that the bulk of the overall online business is offshore for no other reason than the fiscal regime in Britain. It is not, as some ill informed com- mentators have claimed, to avoid the clutches of the Gambling Commission. By and large regulation by them is no better or worse than that provided by their counter- parts in other jurisdictions, most notably Gibraltar, Alder- ney and the Isle of Man. So through no fault of its own as far as online gambling is concerned, the Gambling Commission was left looking a bit like a bride jilted at the altar. They’d hired the hall, got the guests along, bought a shiny new home in Birming- ham and then found the groom had run off to sunnier climes with one of the brides- maids.


It has begged the question whether it has left the Com- mission helpless when it comes to dealing with the online gambling industry, but that reflects an oversimplifi- cation of the situation. To begin with the advertis- ing laws give them concrete powers in this area and oper- ators in non-EEA jurisdictions can only advertise in Britain if that jurisdiction is on the so- called White List. To get on that list jurisdictions like Alderney and the Isle of Man have to demonstrate that they have regulatory standards that are comparable to those of the Gambling Commission. Because of EU law the White List system cannot be applied to members of the European Economic Area (EEA), but there is absolutely nothing to stop the Gambling Commission from develop- ing memoranda of under- standing and bilateral agreements with relevant regulators within the EEA to


achieve the same objective. Behind the scenes that is a process that is evolving and it is an initiative that should be commended and supported. It will not be without its prob- lems, but it will become increasingly important as more and more jurisdictions introduce licensing regimes. Harmonisation of regula-


tion across the EU is still no more than a glint in the eye of some die-hard Europhiles and, more threateningly, state monopoly operators who hold out hope that it can be used to protect their domestic markets. Either way, progress for the fore- seeable future will be down to the willingness of regula- tors to co-operate.


The Gambling Commission also has the ability to conduct mystery shopper tests of non- UK sites which accept bets from British customers. This can be used to check that appropriate age verification and social responsibility pro- cedures are in place. Any per- ceived failing can and have been raised then with the rel- evant regulator. Unfortu- nately, it is not without its flaws and we would hope that improved relationships between regulators will remove the desire for such exercises to be repeated. In practice therefore we have found that the Gambling Commission is far from tooth- less even when it comes to online operators who are partly or solely based else- where. We would also hope that, with three years experi- ence of the new regime, both the Gambling Commission and the government will feel perhaps less threatened by the fact that most of the com- panies targeting the British market are licensed abroad. They will never be compla- cent about it and nor should they be, but to date there is no evidence that any of the Commission’s three licens- ing objectives have been undermined by the lack of Commission licensing of the online sector. Between us we need to keep it that way and I have no doubt that we will.


BettingBusinessInteractive ˛ "OCTOBER 2010 39


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