UKGC Defends Non-action Toward BetBright
Last Week, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) stood firm on its handling of the BetBright closure. On the 5th of March, the online bookmaker BetBright ceased operations and decided to void all ongoing bets, which could have seen potential returns around the £1m mark. The UKGC claims that this was in the best interest for the customers, who would have received nothing had the bookmaker gone into complete liquidation.
The UKGC oversaw the sale of the company to rival bookmaker 888 Holdings, which paid £15 million for the BetBright platform. It was announced that all stakes on ongoing bets would be null and void. This came without warning and drew criticism from many affected punters. The UK Gambling Commission okayed the decision. When commenting on the situation, a UKGC spokesperson said that the decision to allow BetBright to void ongoing wagers “is the best option available for the vast majority of customers in what is an unusual and difficult situation”.
How was the Closing of BetBright Handled?
Earlier this month, 888 Holdings announced its purchase of the BetBright software. 888 declared that, although they had purchased the software, the company had not paid for the customer base as part of the deal. 888 decided to pay remaining Cheltenham bets “as a gesture of goodwill” A day after the announcement, BetBright’s customers were given the surprise news that pending bets and wagers were to be cancelled, and the original amount wagered would be returned to the UK company’s punters. The bookmaker’s official FAQ section stated that “all of the best [are] due to settle after 5 March.”
After the outrage stoked by the cancelled bets became national news, the UKGC decided to inquire into the situation. The UKGC looked into the issue and stated that it believes that some of the proceeds from the £15m sales cost have been used to close and cover some of the remaining bets of BetBright’s 35,000 customers.
During UKGC inquires, “the operator highlighted the very real possibility of going into insolvent liquidation if it remained open. This would have resulted in customers receiving no winnings and no refunds on stakes which had been placed.” The Gambling Commission spokesperson reminded critics that “trading while insolvent can result in a criminal offence.” So, had the company gone insolvent, there would have been nothing the UKGC could do.
Currently, the UKGC is limited when it comes to certain regulatory powers. The Commission does not have the power to force an operator to stay in business until all the results of ante-post bets could be completed. A report from The Guardian claims that some bets which are known to have been cancelled with no warning include one punter’s wagers on the football season currently taking place. These specific bets had the potential to return £27,000 for an initial wager of £400. At the time of BetBright’s sale, this bet could have also seen a return of a several-thousand-pound cash-out. This was one of the other criticisms lobbed at the company. Many punters felt they should at least have been given a cash-out option for their long-term wagers.
Addressing the UKGC’s ruling, one punter, who is currently in preparation to sue Dedsert Ltd.(Former operator of BetBright), said “What a cop-out… The commission, if they want to regain any credibility, need to drop this ridiculous stance.” The punter believes it would be best if some of the money generated for the sale was used to payout outstanding long-term bets and allow customers to reinvest somewhere else. The gambler feels that users should not be punished for someone else’s bad investment.
About the Bookmaker
BetBright was founded in 2013, by Marcus Brennan, Tadhg O’Toole and Richard Brennan. The company developed its own casino and sports betting software. In 2016, Rich Ricci, a former banker who had retired from Barclays’ investment branch, took over as the executive chairman of BetBright. He held onto the post until the bookmaker’s sale to 888 Holdings. After Ricci’s takeover, the bookmaker began to make waves as it won multiple EGR Awards including 2016’s Best In-house Product, Best Football Betting Product and Rising Star awards. In 2018, BetBright also won EGR’s Innovation in Sports Betting Award.
The EGR Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of eGaming,” is an industry award show that seeks to recognize exceptional products, solutions and platforms of the gambling industry.