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Editorials


October 2002

Online bookie problems.

The difficulties of dealing with some foreign online bookmakers is amply illustrated in the following rather long but amusing e-mail thread. I now bet almost exclusively through Australian owned bookmakers, though some are registered offshore.

The original problem arose because one of our AFL clients noticed that Sportsinteraction.com, a large online bookie based in Canada, had put up grossly inaccurate prices on two AFL Football matches. Smartgambler clients immediately hit them with thousands of dollars worth of bets which soon triggered their internal stop-loss system and their computer stopped accepting bets. I soon received the following e-mail.

(Sportsinteraction e-mails in blue, mine in black.)

-----Original Message-----
From: Sports Interaction
Sent: Wednesday, 18 September 2002 11:05 PM
Subject: Incorrect moneyline on AFL

Guy

Due to a clerical error the incorrect moneyline was available on the Brisbane v Port Adelaide game. In line with our stated policy on clerical errors we have voided all bets placed at the incorrect line and all stakes have been credited back to client's accounts. We wish to aplogise for any inconvenience this may have caused and if you have any questions please do hesitate to contact us.

Regards,

Support, Sports Interaction.

 

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, 18 September 2002 11:38 PM
To: Sports Interaction
Subject: RE: Incorrect moneyline on AFL

Dear Sir/Madam,

Fair enough, your rules state that this may happen in the event of a mistake. However, because of that mistake at your end, myself and quite a number of my company's AFL football clients have incurred wasted transaction and currency costs.

May I respectfullly suggest that in order not to alienate quite a number of good Australian clients who use your service, that you compensate us either by covering the aforementioned charges or giving us some other sort of compensation such as a free bet?

Given that you're giving away a lot of money in 10% account seedings to attract clients in a competitive market, it would be very shortsighted to lose a whole group of clients over a relatively small amount of money.

I can get the people involved to document to your satisfaction the transaction expenses incurred if that would help.

I trust you will see that that it is in your own interests to maintain a good reputation, as word travels fast on the internet and whole sites are devoted to analyses of which online bookmakers are honest, responsible and clean up their own messes.

Please make sure that a person in an appropriate level of seniority within your company is notified of this matter and inform me of your decision as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Guy West

Managing Director OZmium Pty Ltd

 

No response, so I sent another e-mail.

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please confirm receipt of the following e-mail (below) to which I have received no reply as yet. This is an important matter which has cost myself and other clients of yours (and mine) money. I would appreciate your urgent attention and an indication that the matter is under review.

Thanks,

Guy West.

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Sports Interaction
Sent: Tuesday, 24 September 2002 2:37 PM
To: Guy West
Subject: Re: Follow up e-mail

Hi,

Our apologies for any inconveniences. We are working hard to insure that this dies not happen again. However we cannot be held responsible for any bets that "could have" been placed.

Please contact us if you have any other questions.

Regards,
Amanda SIA


Dear Amanda,

I appreciate your quick response to my last e-mail but it doesn't really address the issues raised.

It's not a matter of bets that 'could have' been placed, indeed I don't even know what you are referring to with that phrase.

I'll try and make my points more clearly.

1/ A number of Australian clients of yours have made large credit card deposits in order to bet on two Australian Rules Football results where the odds offered seemed good to us. These credit card deposits attract a 4% charge plus I am hearing there is also a further charge at our end for the conversion into $US from $AUD. In my case my deposit of AUD$4,600 has appeared on my account as a debit of AUD $4,777.27c, a transaction cost of $177.27c.

Because one of your odds setters made a mistake, the bets that these deposits were used for were cancelled (by you) before the event. No problem, fair enough. However, what is not fair is if you do not allow these credit card deposits to be reversed, with the costs borne not by us but by you.

As pointed out previously, it would be ridiculous for you to on the one hand to attract clients by giving 10% new account seedings and on the other hand lose those same clients permanently by failing to cover a much smaller percentage charge that was your own fault.

I understand that your job is probably to 'get rid' of client problems as efficiently as possible, but I make the point again that this is a matter that should be brought to the attention of a senior person within your company, the sort of person who made the decision to offer a 10% new account seeding in the first place.

At this stage I have rung my credit card company and challenged the transaction, which means the amount will be reversed while the matter is under investigation. Other clients have told me they are taking the same action.

Furthermore, if our concerns are not dealt with seriously at an appropriate level of authority, I will be publishing all correspondence pertaining to this matter as well as a precis of what has occurred on my company's two prominent internet sites that attract a demographic of online gamblers who will draw their own conclusions about the matter.

In your business reputation is everything and to just say, 'Sorry, we stuffed up and cost you all money, but it won't happen again', is just not good enough.

2/ You haven't explained how a deposit of AUD$4,600 in one hit came to be accepted, when your daily transaction limit is way below this figure by your own admission. I am not asking for any kind of action on this, but it would give me greater confidence in the competence of your group if it was clearly explained what went wrong.

I hope I have clarified the seriousness of my concerns and that your next response will address them in a suitably relevant manner.

Kind regards,

Guy West.

 

At this point I rise up a rung in the hierarchy and hear from a new person.

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Accounts
Sent: Thursday, 26 September 2002 12:15 AM
Subject: 4% Credit Card Fee

Hi Guy,

First off I would like to address the wager issue, your wagers were voided due to incorrect lines being posted. Now if you would have read our rules and regulations you would have come across the following statement :

" Sports Interaction cannot be held responsible for any typing or human errors in posting odds other than the odds intended. In the event that this occurs, Sports Interaction reserves the right to either void any affected bets or to correct the error and settle the affected bets at the correct odds. "

As far as I'm concerned this immediately clears up the wager issue as you agreed to these rules and regulations upon opening your account.

Secondly, the 4% fee your were charged on your credit card deposit. This 4% fee has been applied to all our clients who use their credit card to fund their accounts, this has been in effect since day 1 of our web site. Regardless of how you use the funds in your account or what you wager on the 4% fee will always apply to all credit card deposit except your initial deposit. This 4% fee has never been hiding from our clients and has always been in plain view on the credit card deposit section of the deposit page.

I agree that it is unfortunate that your wagers did not stand however I do not see any argument here? You funded your account using your credit card and were charged the 4% processing fee, you then placed wagers on incorrect lines which were then voided and your entire stake returned to your balance. You now have the option to withdrawal those funds or continue wagering, it's that simple.

If you request a withdrawal and do happen to lose funds due to the exchange rate you can simply fax me over a copy of the deposit receipt showing the exact amount you received and we will compensate your account the difference without question, we have always offered this to clients who do not use USD to wager.

Hopefully this e-mail will set the record straight between yourself and SIA, if you have any further questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact us.

Regards,
Ryan. Sports Interaction



Hi Ryan.

Thanks for your attempt at a more meaningful engagement with the issues I raised. However, you still missed the point a bit, though not totally, like Amanda.

There is no wager issue to address. In my e-mail I referred to the voiding of the wagers with the words, 'fair enough'. I most certainly did read your conditions before opening an account and whilst I don't necessarily agree with your approach to the question of errors (note that if punters make mistakes it's their bad luck) I accept that those were the rules I agreed to in opening the account.

My point is that I only made the deposit to specifically bet on the incorrect lines you had provided. In the event I was not even able to place the full deposit as bets (because your stop-loss system activated and the computer stopped accepting bets), but that was my intention.

I cannot leave $4,600 sitting idle in my account, as credit card charges are around 16% per annum over here. Therefore, like many of your clients presumably, I only deposit when I have bets I want to make. I will now have to withdraw the money, having lost at least $177, because of a mistake made at your end.

Your rules for voided bets should obviously encompass the situation I have just described and the client should not be penalised for your mistake. The transaction should simply be reversed as in the case of an error. I run an internet company and I know that this can be done as we accept credit card transactions over the internet. We have had to do it ourselves on occasion.

I know you may disagree with my argument. Fair enough. At least your company is finally trying to engage with the issues raised and argue your case. I will not proceed to publish the correspondence to date on my internet sites (at this point) because that intention was out of anger at being summarily dismissed by some functionary who did not appear to have the intelligence to understand perfectly clearly articulated points. (I may share it with my betting associates though.)

However, since you hold one opinion and I (and several other of your clients) hold another, it seems fair to let an independent umpire decide. To this end we have contested the transactions on the grounds that the service that we made the deposit to procure was specifically those bets that were cancelled. Since the service was not provided the transaction should be voided, same as the bets.

I'd be surprised if this was not upheld by the credit card companies concerned, but if it is not I will accept the umpires decision.

I note you have not addressed two other points I made, so I will make them again.

1/ Isn't it counterproductive to be giving 10% new account seedings to entice people to open new accounts, then losing those same customers over a 4% fee which you know was your own fault?

It just makes no commercial sense. Someone like me is now sitting there with AUD $460 of your money in my account as a bonus to get me on board. What are the chances that I am going to turn over my $4,600, take the $460 then leave, never to be seen again? If I feel that I am talking to a brick wall then you'd have to consider the chances pretty good, as clients of bookmakers have to trust them and it's a very competitive industry.

What are the chances that other clients are going to do the same thing? I am the Managing Director of an internet company and I cannot believe that you can run a successful business that way in the long term.

2/ No-one has explained to me how I was able to deposit AUD $4,600 in one hit when it clearly states on your site that the limit for daily credit card deposits is way below that. I am not claiming I should not be responsible for my own decision, I intended to bet that amount and it was not a rush of blood to my head, but it worries me and it should worry you that there seems to be competency problems with your organisation.

When there is money at stake, as in your line of business, this is a major issue. It may even be a statutory issue for an online bookmaker to exceed daily credit card deposit limits.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a vexatious litigant...Australia has mercifully not gone quite so far down that track yet, but I do want intelligent, complete and reasonable answers to my questions and not some, 'tell him anything to make him go away' nonsense.

Perhaps you could apply the normal method of responding to e-mail points and insert your replies in the body of the text in a different colour or something. That would avoid the tendency shown to date of partially responding to one point and overlooking all the others.

Thank you in anticipation.

Guy West.

 

This matter dragged on for another 3 months before I finally lost patience and contacted the Kahnawake Gaming Commission for help.

At this stage I finally rose to a sufficient level of managerial competence within the organisation and was informed that they had made a 'mistake'.

The matter was then resolved in less than 24 hours.

 

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