Can Bookies Refuse to Pay Out?

Betting on sports is a popular pastime for many people, and winning a bet can be a thrilling experience. However, what happens when the bookie refuses to pay out your winnings?

It’s a frustrating and potentially costly situation, but it’s important to know your rights.

The legalities of bookies refusing to pay out can vary depending on the circumstances, but there are laws in place to protect consumers.

In this article, we’ll explore the legal aspects of bookies refusing to pay out and provide you with the knowledge you need to protect your rights.

So, if you’re a sports bettor or just someone who wants to be informed, read on to learn more about this important topic.

Reasons why bookmakers may refuse to pay out

There are several reasons why bookmakers may refuse to pay out winnings. One of the most common reasons is that the customer has violated the terms and conditions of the bet.

For example, if a customer places a bet after the event has already started, the bookmaker may refuse to pay out the winnings.

Similarly, if the customer has used an illegal or fraudulent method to place the bet, the bookmaker may not pay out the winnings.

Another reason why bookmakers may refuse to pay out is if there is suspicion of match-fixing or other illegal activities.

Bookmakers have a responsibility to ensure that their customers are not engaging in illegal activities, and if there is any suspicion of wrongdoing, they may refuse to pay out the winnings.

Finally, bookmakers may refuse to pay out if there is a dispute over the outcome of the bet.

This can occur if there is a controversial decision by a referee or if there is a technical issue that affects the outcome of the event. In these cases, bookmakers may withhold payment until the dispute is resolved.

Testing if bookmakers pay out

If you are unsure of how easy it is to make withdrawals from any given Bookmarker, it can be worth testing this in practice with a smaller amount before you start depositing and playing for significant sums of money.

You can also test the bookmaker with a free bet no deposit offer, in which case the money you will be attempting to withdraw did not cost you anything. Simply play through your free bet and see if you win.

While most bookmakers do not offer free bets without a deposit, they do exist. The easiest way to discover them is to use trusted UK sports betting affiliates such as Bojoko, Oddschecker and FreeBets.

The overview of free bet no deposit offers on Bojoko is especially handy as they exclusively list UKGC-licensed casinos.

Be mindful that you will likely need to make a deposit, even here, to verify your withdrawal method. Don’t worry, as this is an anti-money laundering policy.

Should there be an issue with withdrawing your winnings for any of the reasons listed above, a UKGC-licensed casino will still refund your deposit.

Your rights as a customer

As a customer, you have certain rights when it comes to bookmakers refusing to pay out.

First and foremost, you have the right to know the reason why the bookmaker is refusing to pay out.

If there is a dispute over the outcome of the bet, the bookmaker must provide evidence to support their decision. If you have violated the terms and conditions of the bet, the bookmaker must provide evidence of this as well.

You also have the right to dispute the decision of the bookmaker.

If you believe that you are entitled to the winnings, you can challenge the decision by contacting the bookmaker’s customer service department.

If the dispute cannot be resolved through customer service, you may need to seek legal advice.

Legal options for recourse

If you have exhausted all options for resolving the dispute with the bookmaker, you may need to seek legal advice.

There are several legal options available to you, depending on the circumstances of the dispute. One option is to file a complaint with the relevant regulatory body.

In the UK, you can take your case to IBAS (the Independent Betting Adjudication Service IBAS).

IBAS is approved by the UK Gambling Commission to provide informed and impartial adjudications on disputes that arise between licensed gambling operators and their customers, after the customer has completed the operator’s own internal dispute procedures and where a deadlock still exists.

IBAS rulings are legally non-binding on consumers, who are free to pursue any case through the court system after using IBAS. Rulings are binding on the bookmakers up to the value of £10,000. Above that threshold, operators may demand that the dispute is also heard by a court.

Another option is to take legal action against the bookmaker. This can be a costly and time-consuming process, but it may be necessary if you believe that you are entitled to the winnings. In most cases, it is advisable to seek legal advice before taking any legal action.

Famous Cases of Bookies Refusing to Pay Out

It is worth familiarising yourself with some of the most famous cases and the grounds for when bookies may not pay out, so you are not caught out in the same way that these people were.


Megan McCann vs. Bet365 (2019)

A 2019 court case involving Megan McCann, a student from Belfast, and the prominent bookmaker Bet365 revolved around her claim of being owed £1,009,960 from a £25,000 stake on 12 horses that participated in four races in 2016.

McCann, who was 19 at the time of placing the wager, utilized 960 “Lucky 15” each way bets.

Bet365 argued that McCann’s bet violated their terms and conditions, which stipulate that no one can place bets on behalf of a third party.

They asserted that McCann engaged in such behavior. While McCann acknowledged the involvement of third parties, her solicitors contended that the rule was buried within the extensive and intricate terms and conditions, making it unfair to expect customers to be aware of it.

As highlighted by her lawyers, this rule would also prevent a spouse from placing a bet on behalf of their partner during the Grand National.

Before the case was due to be heard in a Belfast court, it was settled. The terms of the settlement are still unknown, but it is rumoured they were favourable to McCann. 

A victory for McCann would have had significant implications for bettors, as it would have aligned with the arguments put forth by campaigners against bookmakers incorporating obscure and unjust clauses in their terms and conditions to the detriment of punters while safeguarding their own profits.

The reasoning behind Bet365’s inclusion of this clause in their terms remains somewhat mysterious, although it may be related to concerns about money laundering.

However, when cases like McCann’s clearly do not involve money laundering, one must question the fairness imposed on punters.

It becomes challenging for bookmakers to discern whether a bet has been placed on behalf of a friend or family member without resorting to illegal activities or breaching privacy laws.

Additionally, where would the boundary be drawn? For instance, what if a family member provided a “tip” that the punter subsequently acted upon?

Alas we are no nearer to have a definitive answer on these questions as the case was settled out of court so no legal precedents were set. 


Barney Curley vs Betfred (2014)

Barney Curley is a professional gambler and trainer who has had many tussles with bookmakers.

He was the person behind the famous Yellow Sam betting coup in the 1970s that netted €1.7 million at today’s prices.

Although the bookmakers initially tried to get out of paying, eventually they did pay out, but they did so in single notes screwed up and packed into 108 bags.

He was also involved in other betting coups, one of which cost the bookmakers over £3.9 million.

In this case – one of most dramatic in betting history – one of the bookmakers involved, Betfred.  refused to pay out a huge £823,000.

The case involved bets combining four horses running on the same day. Three of these horses, namely Agapanthus, Savaronola, and Sommersturm, were trained by Barney Curley, while the fourth horse, Jeu De Roseau, had previously been trained by Chris Grant.

As the coup progressed, the odds on all four horses significantly dropped, indicating a surge in betting activity. Eventually, three of the horses emerged as winners, while Sommersturm did not win.

Betfred suffered significant losses of over £800,000 and invoked their rule 10, which voids bets made by individuals or groups attempting to defraud

This decision was prompted by a letter from the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, accusing Curley of deception, the account holders of fraud, and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) of misapplying its own rules.

However, Curly applied to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar for a judicial review of the case. 

As the then-CEO of William Hill, Ralph Topping, pointed out, “”Whatever the moral arguments about Curley’s approach, the fact is these were legal bets and should be paid out.

“There was no cheating. The BHA has ruled horses ran according to official rating as all other horses do. There was no reason to disqualify the runners and so no reason not to pay out.”

Topping also pointed out the significant issues that arose from Betfred having paid out winning bets in its UK betting shops but voiding online bets with, describing it as not “just a slippery slope” but “positively precipitous.”

Under pressure from the pending Supreme Court case and perhaps recognising the validity of Topping’s arguments, Betfred did end up settling the case and paying out Curley’s associates in full. 

Andrew Montague was the Curley’s lawyer in the case, and he also represented Megan McCann (above).


Andy Green vs. William Hill (2018)

In this case, Andy Green placed a £100 bet on a horse named “Frankel” to win a race at 2,000/1 odds.

The horse won, resulting in a potential payout of £200,000.

However, William Hill initially refused to pay out, claiming that there was a “technical error” and the bet was supposed to be limited to odds of 10/1.

The case eventually went to court, and Green was awarded £166,000 in damages.


Kinloch v Coral (2017)

This case concerned a legal battle between Coral and a man who sued them for not paying out £250,000 on a bet predicting Rangers’ relegation, which ended in the man’s defeat.

Albert Kinloch, aged 72, wagered £100 at odds of 2,500/1 that the Scottish football club Rangers would be relegated from the Scottish Premier League (SPL) during the 2011/12 season.

Although Rangers finished in second place in the SPL that season, they lost their membership in the league due to off-field issues. As a result, they played in the Scottish Football League’s (SFL) Division Three the following season.

In the 2011/12 season, Dunfermline Athletic finished at the bottom of the SPL and were relegated.

Judge Lord Bannatyne agreed with Coral’s assertion that Rangers were not officially relegated.

Mr. Kinloch, residing on Simshill Road in Glasgow, placed his bet on September 5, 2011, at Coral’s branch located on Tollcross Road in the city.

His betting slip indicated: “From SPL – Rangers to be relegated,” and he argued that relegation implied an SPL team starting the subsequent season in a lower league.


George Garan vs William Hill (2015)

A disappointed bettor walked into a betting shop with hopes of claiming a substantial £250,000 payout, only to be informed that he was entitled to just £19.

George Garan, aged 45, was initially thrilled, believing he had won £285,284.85 from a six-fold football accumulator bet. He had placed the bet at a William Hill branch in Strutton Hill, central London, the day before on February 20.

However, when George approached the workers at the betting shop, they refused to pay out the life-changing sum.

Their reasoning was that he had been given incorrect odds for five out of the six bets.

The correct odds, according to them, should have been 1/6, 2/9, 4/9, 4/9, 1/5, and 1/10, rather than what was initially given for the away team odds.

Despite the panel of the Independent Betting Adjudication Service acknowledging that the William Hill employees had indeed provided Mr. Garan with the wrong odds, the ruling states that the company is not obliged to honor the bet.

This is known in the industry as a “palpable error” and is widely used by bookmakers when they have quoted incorrect odds.


Jordan Donnellan vs Ladbrokes (2014) – When the punter gets it wrong

A teenage barman, Jordan Donnellan, experienced a devastating disappointment when he mistakenly believed he had won £1 million, only to discover that his supposed “winning ticket” was actually worthless.

Jordan successfully predicted the outcomes of 14 football matches, but his victory amounted to nothing due to filling out the wrong betting form. 

When Jordan took his betting slip to a Ladbrokes branch in Consett, the staff confirmed his win but asked him to return later since they didn’t have the necessary funds on-site.

However, his excitement turned to disappointment when he returned and was informed that his supposed “winning bet” was, in fact, invalid.

Jordan had mistakenly filled out the Weekend Result Rush coupon, which required both teams to score, instead of the Weekend Quickslip, rendering his slip worthless.

Ladbrokes spokesperson David Williams clarified the situation, comparing it to buying a UK lottery ticket and then realizing that the winning numbers were from the Australian Lotto. He described Jordan’s attempt as admirable but ultimately unfounded.


What We Can Learn

The cases above are quite varied and unusual with a wide range of different circumstances surrounding them – some that do on the face of it seem legitimate cases of bookies refusing to pay out, whilst others are more questionable. 

Overall though they demonstrate the importance of making sure you read the rules, use the right bet slip and don’t expect the bookie will pay you out if they have quoted the wrong odds (also known as a “palpable error”).

It is always advisable to check your bets when you are placing them and don’t presume any ruling will necessarily go in your favour if the bookies make a mistake. 

Beyond that, you can’t reasonably be expected to do much more as a punter. The bookies’ rules are often obscure, long and difficult to interpret for the everyday punter, so knowing and understanding them all fully is unrealistic.

If you believe you genuinely have a case against a bookie that is refusing to pay out, the first port of call is to go through their official complaints procedure. 

If that proves to no avail, than you can try the relevant regulator – in the UK that is IBAS.

Failing that, you can approach a lawyer for legal advice to see if they believe you have a case.  


Ultimately it is only by keeping the trust of their customers that bookmakers can maintain their businesses. They need us to trust them; which is why in normal circumstances they will pay out – probably 99.9% of the time.

It is usually only in circumstances that involve a really big win and one of their obscure terms that you could fall foul of the bookies not paying out.

Even then though you have expert lawyers like Andrew Montague to take your case on, so all is not necessarily lost.

As ever, the battle between bookies and punters goes on. We can only hope that the courts start standing up for punters’ rights and only the most flagrant example of cheating like those connected to match fixing are not paid out.

But the rest of the time you should expect that the bookies will pay out if you have placed a bet in good faith.

Get your revenge on the bookies and learn how to make up to £500 per month in low-risk profit from the bookies here. 






3 replies
  1. Ian Sim
    Ian Sim says:

    I for one will close my account with bet365 if this isnt settled in Megan McCanns favour.
    Ludicrous that its had to be taken this far.
    Pay your dues 365.

  2. David Smith
    David Smith says:

    Betfred will not paye me £212000 . Even though I made a mistake ,it was obvious the horse I wanted I took price and named meeting. Just spelt wrong. They put my bet on horse at another metting 1 1/2 hours later. Can you let me know where I can get help.98% of people say I should get my money only betfred and ibas say not. Betfred never gave ibas cctv for evidence. What can I do now as I have been told courts will not help me. Any feed back would be grateful.

    • Dan
      Dan says:

      Hi David,

      Sorry to hear that. We don’t specialise in these kind of matters so couldn’t offer any specific advice, but might be an idea to contact Andrew Montague, a solicitor well-known for his expertise in gambling-related cases, or another similar lawyer with expertise in gambling cases.

      Best of luck in getting your winnings.

      Kind regards,



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