Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Vicky Nolan

IBAS Fancies Itself a Referee in Wagering Disputes

15 May 2001

An independent group in Britain is providing third-party dispute resolution services to its member bookmakers and their customers. And while most player/operator conflicts involve land-based betting operations, they've worked with online bookmakers as well.

The group, known as the IBAS (Independent Betting Arbitration Service), began in autumn 1998 following the demise of Sporting Life newspaper, which had arbitrated betting disputes through its "Green Seal Service" column.

The IBAS receives funding from Satellite Information Services as well as substantial development assistance from Mirror Group Sports Division. Major gaming companies with online bookmaking services, such as William Hill, Stanley Leisure, Ladbrokes and, are members and reference the group on their websites.

There's enormous value, says IBAS Manager Chris O'Keeffe, in working with an independent arbitration service.

"The principal of arbitration is a two-way affair, so if your bookmaker decided he didn't want to join this service, we couldn't arbitrate," O' Keeffe explained. "The thing we have to do is encourage bookmakers and highlight the benefits of following the industry's best practices. You can't have a situation where a bookmaker won't allow a dispute to go to a third party."

The most common problem brought to the IBAS by online bettors involves prices laid in error, whether caused by a typo on the site, a software error or some other problem.

Bookmakers are typically protected in this situation by the "palpable error" rule recognized by nearly all sports betting firms.

"If you asked me if it's (the palpable error rule) been abused by bookmakers, my only stance would be 'yes' because it's a great get-out," O'Keefe said. "With what other industry can you absolve yourself of any responsibility from a mistake?"

At the same time, O'Keefe acknowledges that the palpable error rule is also a necessary protection for bookmakers, as these types of errors could prove financially ruinous.

To arbitrate the disputes, the IBAS must work within bookmakers' rules (which are usually posted on their websites). "We have to interpret those rules," O'Keeffe said. "If the bookmaker is covered, we apply that rule. If the bookmaker's not, we'll find in favor of the customer."

O'Keefe is quick to point out, however, that not all cases brought to the IBAS result in the sportsbook being found at fault. "Do we see times when a punter is clearly punting about in bad faith?" he asked. "Yes!"

One of the reasons that the group takes a close look at the site's rules is to resolve issues whereby customers are trying to scam operators.

Most bookmakers have fairly similar rules. So although the IBAS doesn't write the policies for its members, the group is willing to make recommendations that would better protect both the service providers and the punters.

The group has also made a submission to Britain's Gambling Review Body. O'Keeffe is optimistic that their recommendations, which bring customer relations to the table, will eventually be incorporated into future gaming legislation.

"Basically, we feel that bookmakers have to be a bit more open about their maximums, clearer in their rules, have to take more responsibility for their staff, that kind of stuff," he said. "Customer care was one of the main reference points of the review."

However, he added, "It's important to emphasize that we're not a punters' protection society. (We're) nothing like that. We're just a group of people that offer a fair minded view between two parties and try to offer arbitration and at times conciliation."

Information about the IBAS can be found online at

IBAS Fancies Itself a Referee in Wagering Disputes is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan