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Legal advice sought - online gambling regulations


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I'm hoping someone of a legal bent might be kind enough to share their wisdom with me.

 

It's like this...

 

Some time ago, I lost a considerable sum of money playing one of the virtual racing games on an online bookmakers' site.

 

Said bookmaker was regulated by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission under a licence issued under its Online Gambling Regulation Act 2001.

 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, that act demands that any such game must display the Return To Player [RTP]:

 

[7] The System must be able to display for each Game or Lottery, as the case may be, the following information on the current page or on a page directly accessible from the current page via a hyperlink:

[g] pursuant to the testing of the System, the percentage of total sums returned to Participant in relation to all house Games or Lottery, as the case may be, offered by the Operator.

The Online Gambling Regulation Act 200

The Online Gambling [systems Verification] [No.2]Regulations 2007

 

Due to an oversight on the part of the bookmakers, at the time I played this particular game no such information was on display. Now, while I'm not suggesting that had this information been available, as it should have been, I would not have played the game, I can't help but wonder where, exactly, from a legal perspective this oversight might leave me.

 

I appreciate this may be wishful thinking on my part, hence why I'm on here asking for opinions of those who know rather more about these things than me, but couldn't help wondering if a case could be made that this rendered the game unlawful and, that being the case, for me to seek reimbursement of my losses?!

 

I fully anticipate there will be those who think I am clutching at straws and should take my medicine and it may well be that is what I have to do but, at the same time, I would be most grateful for the thoughts of anyone with some legal expertise.

 

Thanks in anticipation

GeorgeRoper

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Having had a number of years working in both retail and legal environments within the public sector coupled to a strong 2:1 law degree, I cannot say this has ever cropped up in any studies of mine or even anything similar. I do recall that prior to new legislation coming in, a bet was considered a gentleman's agreement and not a legally binding contract but that's going off on a tangent...

 

In any case, my knowledge is based on the English legal system and the Isle of Man has its own courts and jurisdiction for this. Personally I would take the hit and move on because to find a solicitor with skills and knowledge to find and exploit a loophole could prove costly indeed.

Edited by Last Of The Time Lords

LL.B (Hons) - University of Derby

 

'real world' legal and retail experience too

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Now you know the problem with extra-territorial gambling, the law may be there but you cannot enforce it because you arent in the IOM. you can complain to the IOM regulator but nothing more as it is beyond the jurisdiction of an English court.

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The Regulation has a specific section on penalties:

 

(1) If any provision of this Regulation is contravened, each of the following:-

(a) the Operator; and,

(b) the person who is the designated official in relation to the Operator’s licence,

is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £5,000

I do not see anything in the Regulation which would make the gambling contract unlawful. It just subjects the bookmaker to an administrative penalty.

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Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to respond.

 

Steampowered's snippet is interesting – I hadn't seen that before. Does anyone know where it comes from?!

 

Also, please excuse my ignorance of the law, but I'd have assumed if you were licensed subject to certain regulations and you failed to adhere to those regulations then you were acting unlawfully but steampowered suggests otherwise. I'm sure he's probably right but if anyone would care to elaborate I'd be really grateful.

 

Thanks in anticipation

GeorgeRoper

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Hi,

 

The extract I posted came from the Regulation mentioned in your post. The text of the regulations is available on the Isle of Man Gambling Commission's website - http://www.gov.im/gambling/regulatory.xml

 

If a business does not comply with the relevant regulations, it is certainly acting unlawfully. However that can mean many different things and does not necessarily mean that the contract between consumer and business is unlawful. For example, if a local restaurant filed to file its accounts on time with Companies House it would be acting unlawfully and would be subject to a fine ... but that would not get you a refund for your dinner.

 

I am no expert on Isle of Man Law, but my guess is that this would be a licensing issue that could be enforced by the Isle of Man Gambling Commission, but not something which makes the entire contract illegal.

 

You would probably have a claim for breach of statutory duty against the business ... however to get any sort of compensation you would have to prove that failure to comply with the regulation caused you loss. You could try arguing that you would not have placed your bet if you knew the real percentage of payments which are returned to players. In other words, you would not have played or would have played a different game if you were told the percentage. I think this is quite a difficult argument to make, but perhaps not impossible especially if the amounts returned to players for this particular game are lower than the industry average. After all, the purpose of the regulation is to allow you to compare the value for money of different gambling companies.

 

You could always complain to the company and see where it takes you? Perhaps ask them what percentage of sums are returned to players and compare this with some sort of industry average?

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