Tom Maple looks at the recent case of Longley v PPB Entertainment Ltd and Others (t/a Paddy Power), in which Mr Longley won a bet which paid out £286,000 only for Paddy Power to claim 90% of it back. Mr Longley gambled and took Paddy Power to the High Court. Here’s what happened next…
As a litigator with plenty of experience of gambling cases, earlier this month I reviewed an online gambling case involving a dispute between Mr Green and Betfred, (read more below) in which Mr Green successfully won his claim for £1.75m against the bookmaker. I am now turning my attention to a case where the facts are more routine: It was a bet on the horses. However, this bet paid out £286,000.
Or did it?
Mr Longley, an experienced gambler, had an account with Paddy Power which allowed him to place bets by phone. On 21 September 2019, Mr Longley phoned Paddy Power and asked to place an ‘each way’ bet of £1,300 on the horse ‘Redemptive’, at 16/1 in the 19:20 race at Wolverhampton (“the Race”).
The phone operator, F, needed to seek approval of the bet as it exceeded the system limit. F put Mr Longley on hold to contact the trader in Ireland, H, for approval of, in error, a £13,000 ‘each way’ bet, who then sought authority from the race risk manager, M. M granted the authority for £13,000. F informed Mr Longley that the bet had been placed.
Redemptive won the race and Mr Longley’s account was automatically credited with £286,000. Happy days!
However, after the race had finished and Mr Longley had been credited his winnings, M realised there had been an error and contacted his Customer Services Team. Having listened to the call in which the bet was placed, M asked Customer Services to amend the bet to the £1,300 ‘each way’ which Mr Longley had requested. Rather than having winnings of £286,000, Mr Longley had instead “only” won £28,600.
Now you might think Mr Longley would have been fairly pleased with his £29k, given that is the bet he placed! However, Mr Longley was not and demanded that the difference of £257,400 be returned to him, claiming Paddy Power were in breach of contract.
Mr Longley argued that the refusal to pay the winnings was a breach of contract in one of the following ways:
- either that Paddy Power had counter-offered £13,000 ‘each way’ during the phone call, which he accepted, by confirming that this amount could be taken from his account; or
- alternatively, when Mr Longley asked for an ‘each way’ bet of £1,300, Paddy Power responded by saying they would accept £13,000 ‘each way’, which Mr Longley subsequently was offered and was accepted.
Paddy Power argued that the £13,000 bet was a mistake and rejected Mr Longley’s arguments. Even if there had been a contract for £13,000, clause 16 of their standard terms and conditions stated that Paddy Power were not liable to pay winnings awarded as a result of human error or mistake, so Mr Longley was liable to refund any winnings.
Mr Longley rejected the idea of any mistake. In relation to clause 16, Mr Longley argued that it was unenforceable as being unfair under s.62 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
I have sympathy with many punters who often find themselves up against the might of a large bookmaker. However, it came as no surprise that Mr Longley’s claim was dismissed. As Counsel for Paddy Power, Kajetan Wandowicz, put it during submissions “It beggars belief, that a highly intelligent and sophisticated punter who has only just been told that his requested bet has been approved would regard that mention of a different sum of money as a counter-offer”.
Mrs Justice Ellenbogen DBE decided that there had been no counter offer from Paddy Power and no contract for £13,000 ‘each way’. If there had been a contract, it would not have been enforceable as there had been a unilateral mistake; Paddy Power were only intending to accept the bet Mr Longley had requested, not to offer one themselves. She determined that Mr Longley was an experienced gambler, having had an account with Paddy Power for 10 years. He knew that Paddy Power would not offer him a higher stake than requested and they had never done so before, so there must have been a mistake.
The amendment to the winnings reflected the stake Mr Longley had requested. If there had been a contract for an ‘each way’ bet of £13,000, clause 16 would have applied and Paddy Power would not have been liable to pay the winnings. Clause 16 was not unfair under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
The effect of the case
At its heart, this case is about offer and acceptance. To form a contract, you have to have an offer and acceptance and in this case it was decided that the only offer was that of £1,300 each way. Had an offer been made by Paddy Power and Mr Longley had accepted it, then the case would almost certainly have gone the other way.
The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of tailored terms and conditions to address situations specific to your business that may arise which, as was the case here, can serve to negate liability.
I wonder what Mr Longley would have done had the horse lost and he then found out that he had a bet for £13k each way when he only meant £1,300 e/w. My bet is that he would have been on the phone pointing out PP’s error… we will never know.
I have advised on numerous cases involving gambling contracts and similar situations to this. If you have a dispute with a bookmaker, please do get in touch – Tom Maple, 0118 951 6309 or [email protected]
Oh, and please gamble responsibly.