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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The small claims court

Gambling operations located in the UK come under the authority of the UK Gambling Commission. O Happy Day, I hear you say - if it's Great Britain, it can only be great.

Well, no. In fact, it's actually potentially quite bad, because the Commission, uniquely amongst regulators, does not enforce payment or even investigate payment disputes against operators, requiring the matter to be dealt with by a third party which is, to cap it all, appointed by the operator itself and potentially anything but independent.

However, the bad news ends there. The good news is that a gambling operation located in the UK is subject to the UK legal system, and for payment disputes of £5000 and under there is a relatively simple procedure known informally as the Small Claims Court.

The Small Claims Court - or, more properly, the Small Claims Track, there being no actually distinct court which deals with these claims - comes at a maximum cost of £120 for claims up to the £5000 limit. However, as fees are subject to change, you'd be advised to check with the court at the time of your claim.

The first thing to do is to fill in the claim form:

Claimant: your name.

Defendant(s): the operation that owes you the money.

Brief details of claim: give a summary of the matter.

Value: how much you are owed.

Defendants name and address: name and address of the company that owes the money.

Amount claimed: the sum owed.

Court fee: see above - check with the court.

Solicitor's costs: hopefully you're not using one, so this will be "0".

Total amount: this should simply be the amount of the claim again, unless you want to try and claim back the court fee.

Particulars of Claim: a full, detailed description of the matter, including all action you have taken to the present moment, including your attempts to settle the matter amicably with the operation in question.

On that last point, it's a requirement of the system that you try to achieve a resolution first with the operator. If you do not do this, you can invalidate your claim. The courts are a last, not first, resort.

Once you've completed the form, send or take TWO copies to wherever you'd like the hearing to take place - you can use the court-finder to locate the nearest to you. Don't forget to include the fee, which you can pay by cash, cheque or debit card.

When the court receives your claim form, they'll forward it to the operation in question, who will decide whether or not to defend the action. By far the best option for you, assuming you have a watertight case, is that the operator decides at this point to forget about withholding your money and pay you.

If they decide to contest the matter things get more complicated, and you can find details of the whole procedure in the "for people whose dispute has gone to court" document.

In brief: you'll be sent further documentation to fill in, and you'll also have to liase with the defendant so that you each know what the other is submitting. Once this is taken care of, you'll be given a hearing date.

At any point in the procedure the operator may decide to settle your claim to avoid going to court.

According to information I received from my local county court by telephone: if you are not located in the UK and cannot come to the UK for any of the above procedures, you can write out an authorisation for someone to act on your behalf and sign it, which your representative will then give to the court when presenting your documents. If you cannot attend the hearing, you can write to the court and ask them to go ahead in your absence, which they will do.

I am not clear as to whether or not a representative can act on your behalf at the hearing, but this could be clarified once the wheels are in motion and the particulars of your case are on record.

Three other useful links:

Direct Gov: small claims hearings

This is money: how to make a small claim

Advice guide: small claims

HM Courts: civil and family court fees

2 Previous Comments

Hiya Caruso, eek here (long time no see)

You will find that there are precedents for gambling cases from decades ago.
The basic underlying principle is the courts want absolutely nowt to do with gambling disputes.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 am  

Eek baby, excellent to hear from you. Drop me an email or something.

Take a look here: Betfair Happy Hour resolution.

Now, fair to say that it was resolved PRE-court, but all documents were served on Betfair, and the thing was all set to go ahead. Frankly, what they want to deal with is their problem; if the matter lies within their jurisdiction, I'd say they're fair game to mediate.

By Blogger 100% Gambler, at 2:46 pm  

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Gamcare advocates gambling education in schools

Gambling charity Gamcare announced a few days ago that it was advocating and advising the government on the inclusion of gambling education in the national school curriculum:

GamCare calls for responsible gambling education to be part of the school curriculum

One of GamCare's core aims is to ensure that gambling remains safe for all – and this is particularly relevant for young people.

For the vast majority, gambling is a pleasurable leisure pursuit. But we also know that at any one time some 60,000 12-15 year olds may already be problem gamblers – a prevalence rate of 2%, more than twice that for adults. The answer to this must lie in better education – for teenagers, parents and teachers.

The DfE's review gives us the chance to make the case that the PSHE curriculum should raise awareness about the potential risks of gambling and include information about understanding risk and probability, and how to gamble responsibly.

You can also read the consultation response document, in which the charity lays out its case in full, and concludes thus:

It is for these reasons that we would strongly recommend that responsible gambling be taught as a core element of PSHE education, particularly since it cuts across the themes of health and personal finance.

Well, yes and no. Or maybe yes/no and no.

In the first place, you couldn't make a much better case for closing the door after the horse has bolted than the current situation. This new found exposure to gambling in the UK is in large part a consequence of New Labour's 2005 Gambling Act, which facilitated much greater access to the activity. Gamcare acknowledges this in the above document:

At the same time - as allowed by the changes in legislation brought in by the Gambling Act 2005, implemented in 2007 - there has been a significant increase in advertising (allowed on broadcast media for the first time) television sponsorship and celebrity endorsement of gambling products.

Given that the UK was set for a new level of gambling saturation, why not put the education in place first? All this proposal does is to effectively put a sticking plaster on an open wound that is not going to close. If Gamcare is concerned about "problem gambling", why did they not offer opposition to the government before the legislation was passed and the floodgates opened? Why did they not offer a programme of education in the first instance, in the name of responsibility?

Writing in the Daily Mail, columnist Melanie Phillips argues that to create a problem then seek to inadequately address it is wrong in principle:

GamCare's chief executive says that one of its core aims is to ensure that gambling 'remains safe for all'. But gambling is 'safe' for no one. The overwhelming likelihood is that at the very least the gambler will lose his or her money on the bet.

This is largely correct. A very, very small proportion of gamblers see a positive return on their stake in the long run. The vast majority loses. This is because to win in the long run you need a mathematical edge, and the process of gaining that edge over gambling operations is very difficult, requiring a level of skill and knowledge to which the vast majority can never aspire.

It may be surprising to see this rather free-and-easy attitude towards gambling on the part of Gamcare, until we note that it has substantial funding from the gambling industry itself - here is a list of sponsorship acquired for Gamcare by the Great Foundation, which includes a few big names.

Bet365 Ltd
William Hill plc
Microgaming Software Systems Ltd
Sportingbet plc
Aspinalls Club Ltd
Camelot Group plc
Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers
Gala Coral Group
London Clubs International

So, not exactly disinterested sponsorship.

Of course, having allowed the horse to squarely vanish from the stable without a whimper of protest, Gamcare can make a case for education to address the problem that they, in part, created through their earlier inaction. They do not give any specifics in the consultation document, beyond saying:

GamCare believes that an understanding of the ways in which gambling activities operate including probability and risk management should be built in to this element of the PSHE curriculum.

The reference to "risk management" is largely nonsensical when the reality is complete loss of funds. If I throw five £20 notes in the fire, I am not "risking" anything, I am losing my money. The issue of probability is relevant, although I do not expect Gamcare to present this topic in such a way as to dissuade.

And the irony is that it would not be difficult to put together a simple programme of education which would have the result, at least in large part, of stopping youngsters from gambling. Having written the content of this site, I would have no such difficulty myself in explaining the unbalanced nature of odds (maybe using the simple example of a roulette wheel) and the way in which bookies generate commission in almost the exact same way that retail banks do, where rates for savers do not match the rates for loans.

However, on the basis of what we've seen to date, I don't expect any dissuasion tactics from Gamcare; I expect talk about not risking more than you can afford to lose; how responsible gambling can be an enjoyable pastime if not taken to excess; and other variations on that theme.

Maybe if Gamcare was not itself funded by the industry that creates the problems it ostensibly seeks to address, it might do a more creditable job in the care of gamblers that appears to be its mandate.

1 Previous Comments

Sounds like a good way to introduce children to gambling, who otherwise would'nt bother play.

By Blogger Sandracer, at 3:19 pm  

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