Exclusive: Teenager takes bet365 to court over £1m 'won' on horse races Nick Townsend and Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter - The Telegraph
A student is suing one of Britain’s biggest bookmakers for refusing to pay out £1 million on a winning bet on the horses. In a battle of David vs Goliath proportions, Megan McCann, who was just 19 when she placed the bet, has lodged a writ in the High Court in Northern Ireland against Hillside (UK Sports) LP, the company which operates bet365, an online betting company run by the UK’s wealthiest businesswoman.
Miss McCann, who lives near Belfast, claims that she is owed £1,009,960 (AU$1.7 million) by bet365, which was co-founded and run by Denise Coates, who is said to be worth £3.2 billion. Miss McCann staked almost £25,000 on 12 different horses in four relatively obscure races, winning £985,000 from the betting giant. But the betting company, whose chief executive is Ms Coates, has declined to honour the wager.
It has insisted that Miss McCann is in “flagrant breach” of its own terms and conditions because the firm is convinced the original betting stake was supplied by a ‘third party’. In legal letters from bet365’s lawyers, Miss McCann found herself accused of fraud and cheating. Miss McCann is understood to vehemently deny any wrongdoing.
The successful wager involved a total of 960 £13 each way ‘Lucky 15’ bets placed on 12 horses running in the 6.10 at Bath, the 7.20 at Kempton, and the 7.00 and 8.30 at Naas in Ireland on June 22 last year. ‘Lucky 15’ bets allow a combination of accumulated winnings. But rather than pay up, bet365 has withheld the sum as well as Miss McCann’s initial stake of £24,960. Exasperated at bet365’s refusal to pay up, she called in lawyers who issued a write in May in the High Court in Belfast.
The writ, seen by the Telegraph, accuses Bet 365 and its Gibraltar-based parent company of breach of contract and demands damages of £1,009,960.
A day after her ‘win’, Miss McCann contacted bet365 to withdraw her money. From documents seen by this newspaper, it is understood that a bet365 representative, via the website’s ‘live chat’ service, congratulated the customer and confirmed the request.
The following day, she received a telephone call from another staff member who asked a number of questions. These bizarrely included: “What is your star sign?” After answering all queries with regards to the bet and her identity apparently satisfactorily confirmed by the agent, Miss McCann was advised that the money would be processed within 48 hours. The money never materialised. Instead Miss McCann’s account was suspended, and then closed.
Even the £24,960 stake has not been returned. At the heart of bet365’s refusal to pay is the betting firm’s insistence that Miss McCann breached a ‘no third party’ rule, which insists the whole stake must be put up by the customer alone.
Miss McCann’s lawyers dispute that she agreed to such a rule, which are buried within terms and conditions which are “too lengthy, too complex and much too vague for the average customer to understand.” Such a rule might also effectively prevent syndicates from betting.
Her lawyers contend that the wording of such a ‘no third party rule’ clause effectively means that “the husband who puts a bet on the winner of X-factor for his wife, or on the winner of the Grand National, would have those winnings ‘robbed’ of him.” The case brought by Miss McCann could have profound implications for all customers betting online.
Misss McCann’s lawyers, in their correspondence to bet365, allege that its terms and conditions amount to “nothing more than a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ wish list”.
In one legal letter, seen by The Telegraph, her lawyers wrote: “Our client’s case is very straightforward. She placed a bet with your client. She won. She is entitled to her winnings.”
In one response, bet365’s lawyers replied: “You claim that this dispute is simply about your client placing a bet; and being entitled to winnings.
"This is wrong. it is a case in which your client has been operating the account... using the funds of and for the benefit of third parties, in flagrant breach of our client’s terms.”
The letter goes on: “Our client has reasonable grounds to suspect your client to be guilty of criminal offences including fraud by false representation; cheating or attempted cheating.”
The case has echoes of a previous dispute involving Barney Curley, an Irish gambler and racehorse trainer. In May 2010, accumulator bets on four horses running on the same day – three trained by Curley – netted a total of £3.9m. On that occasion, another online betting company refused – initially - to pay out £823,000 of the total winnings to Curley’s relatives.
After legal action was instigated, that company eventually paid out in full. Miss McCann has hired the same lawyer Andrew Montague, who represented Curley, to fight her case.
Mr Montague said: “This is something of a ‘déjà vu’ scenario for me, but as the case is now before the Belfast High Court, I am not in a position to comment further.”
A spokesman for bet365 said: “A full investigation has been carried out into the circumstances of the bet that was placed.
"Bet365 is entirely satisfied the circumstances are such that winnings are not payable in relation to it. "We expect this position to be upheld at trial. We are not prepared to comment further whilst litigation is ongoing.” Bet365 was launched in 2000 and has turned into one of Britain’s most profitable companies, based in Stoke but registered offshore in Gibraltar.
Ms Coates, 49, a mother-of-five launched the business with her brother John Coates. The company is now worth an estimated £4.5 billion and Ms Coates owns just over half. Forbes estimates her wealth at £3.2 billion.
The most recent company accounts show that she took home £117.5 million, making her Britain’s highest paid businesswoman.
Her basic pay of £54 million was topped up by a £63.5 million dividend. Ms Coates' father Peter is the chairman of Stoke City Football Club .
Bet365’s name has become familiar to sports fans during TV ad breaks at half-time of Sky’s Premier League games as actor Ray Winstone’s gravelly tones seductively remind them to make bets while matches are still being played.
The alleged refusal of online betting companies to honour wagers is now subjected to a joint investigation by the Gambling Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority. Sarah Harrison, Gambling Commission’s chief executive, has said: “Gambling operators must treat customers fairly – but some have been relying on terms that are unclear with too many strings attached.” http://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/exclusive-teenager-takes-bet365-to-court-over-%c2%a31m-won-on-horse-races/ar-BBE7pvW?ocid=spartandhp#image=1