Do Bookmakers Have To Pay Out

Some bookmakers can be rather strict when it comes to paying out winnings – but are they required by law to pay out winnings?

can a bookmaker refuse to pay out?
Do Bookmakers Have To Pay Out

If someone would ask you why are you betting on sports, one of the most likely answers is that you are looking to make money out of betting. The expectation is that you place a bet, hope to win and if you do win, get your money back plus your profit. But what if your bookie decides not to pay you? Is that even allowed under the law?

It is a well-known fact that bookmakers can be rather strict when it comes to paying out winnings. Some bad apples may not always act fairly and this leads to many punters having their bets voided. This is mostly due to the (lack of) understanding of the way odds work, which leads to people not fully understanding all of the terms and conditions of their bets (with parlays and ACCAs, for example).

Here are the things you should know about whether or not bookmakers can refuse to pay out.

Are Bookmakers Required by Law to Pay Out?

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In the UK, the passing of the Gambling Act of 2005 ensures that gambling activities are done in a fair and transparent manner. So, the bookies are required by the law to pay any betting debt to you. However, the caveat of this law is that all betting activities must be fair and transparent.

One popular case of this nature was when sportsbook Betfred refused to pay a winning wager in 2010 worth over £4 million, citing that the bettor who won the wager colluded to cheat the bookmakers. The case went to court and in the end. The sportsbook still paid out money.

What the Law Says About Bookmaker Payouts

Back in the day, all gambling debts are only considered as a "debt of honor." This was under the definition as provided by the then active 1845 Gaming Act. This part of the law, specifically Sections 17 and 18, made all betting debts essentially untouchable by law enforcement.

However, these particular parts of the 1845 Gaming Act have been amended over the years. Still, it remained the same in principle - that the law cannot come after anyone who refuses to pay a betting debt. Thus, back then, punters technically had no protection should a bookie just outright denies them of the money they supposedly won.

Then, the Gambling Act of 2005 came into the picture, which made betting debts enforceable by the law. However, even with this law, not all winning bets are payable under the law. The truth is the bookies can still refuse a payout (and you already know that in history, they have already refused to pay some bettors).

Under the Gambling Act of 2005, betting debts are payable under the law as long as it remains fair, open, and transparent. Thus, your bookie can deny you your payout, or not accept your bet, or outright ban you from their platform or service if they believe that you are not a fair, open, and transparent person.

Reasons for Bookmakers to Refuse Paying Out

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Here are some of the specific reasons for bookmakers to refuse to pay you out.

Palpable Error

A palpable error is when the bookmakers have made an obvious error on the pricing and have presented obviously impossible odds that would have inflated the payout of bettors.

Take for example a football match wherein the odds you saw average at around 6/4 for your chosen team. That already sounds good, but then suddenly you saw your bookie offer it at 16/1 - which is insanely better. You place your bet, get confirmed, only to receive notification later on that you are being refunded of your wager due to a palpable error on the side of the bookmaker.

If for some reason, the bookie did not notice the error in the pricing of the odds until after the game, they can still cancel your bet and, unfortunately, deny to pay you out.

Bonus Abuse

Most online sports betting apps now offer bonuses in many forms and types. However, did you know that these bonuses are bound by terms azn conditions that, more often than not, include fair use and a warning on abuse?

If your bookie's system has enough reason to believe that you are abusing bonuses and are exploiting their system to get more bonuses or use more bonuses than they originally intended to, then they can retract those bonuses and refuse payout on all bets made with it. In the case where one account manages to win so much after clearing the wagering requirement, casinos may close this one if it is associated with multiple accounts.

Illegitimate Bets

An example of an illegitimate bet is when your wager came into the system when the game have already ended. Even live or in-play betting does not allow this, as this is clearly unfair towards other plasters and is technically a cheat in the system. However, in some instances, sportsbooks betting systems may still have odds open minutes until after a game ends.

You may be able to place a bet (with, of course, the winning pick) when this happens but once the systems see the error, they will cancel your bet and, of course, not pay you for it.

Breach of Terms & Conditions

There are specific terms and conditions your bookie may have. Though this may differ from one platform to another, the gist of the bookmaker policy will always be the same - a fair and transparent gambling experience that is free from any forms of cheating or manipulation. Winnings bets are usually canceled if bookies see any accounts breaching their policies such as abusing their bonuses.

While bookies can technically refuse to pay out a winning debt, as long as you remain a fair and transparent bettor, there is usually nothing to worry about.

This article was published on January 10, 2022, and last updated on October 26, 2022.