The betting industry has been awash with mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnerships these past couple of years.
And the latest cab of the rank was 888 Holdings’ decision to purchase certain sectors of the BetBright brand from ownership company Deadsert last week.
But this was a decision that has prompted fury on the betting floor as BetBright, who have now ceased trading altogether, have refused to pay out on any outstanding ante post bets that the firm has in its ledger.
The anger has been exacerbated given that we are less than a week from the Cheltenham Festival – on which the majority of ante-post punts are wagered, and entering the final throes of the Premier League campaign, again which takes a decent slice of the ante-post pie.
The good news is that 888 have stepped up to the plate and announced that they will settle all ante-post bets that have been placed by BetBright’s customers on Cheltenham.
But should more be done to protect the rights of punters in these situations?
The Ricci Get Richer
It’s ironic that BetBright have refused to settle ante-post punts on Cheltenham given that the company’s chairman, Rich Ricci, will have a number of prominent runners at the festival, including Mares’ Hurdle favourite Benie Des Dieux.
He sold BetBright for a reported £15 million to 888, which begs the question why couldn’t they settle their ante-post position which would surely have been considerably less than that?
This is where the anger lies, as BetBright haven’t gone bust or into administration, but actually sold their technology and intellectual property to the Gibraltar-based firm.
The brand posted on their website that ‘all single bets due to settle after March 5 at 23:59pm will be voided’, while unsettled multiples with a winning leg(s) will be settled ‘as a winning bet with the remaining unsettled legs voided’.
Details of BetBright’s financial position regarding their ante-post liabilities remains confidential, although an investigation from The Guardian revealed that one punter alone stood to win roughly £26,000 on a pair of football wagers that, as things stand, would land.
Ricci has been sympathetic to punters since, although that is surely a small crumb of comfort.
“We’re left with a situation which isn’t ideal, where the company doesn’t have the engine to carry on and trade and needs to be wound up in an orderly way.
“We talked about it a lot and decided this would be the most equitable thing to do for most people.
“I understand why some customers will feel upset, but we felt the fairest solution was just to refund money as quickly as we could to let people do what they needed to do with the funds.”
888’s Goodwill Gesture Restores Faith
Given the unique circumstances of the transaction, 888 could easily have washed their hands of the situation; a PR disaster yes, but one without any financial implication.
But to their credit, the firm announced they will settle some of BetBright’s ante-post position in a series of tweets last night.
“All Cheltenham ante-post bets placed by former Dedsert (BetBright) customers will be kept alive by 888sport. Punters are invited to contact us with any winning bets, and we will honour them on original terms,” they wrote.
“As gesture of goodwill, 888sport will pay winning Cheltenham bets previously accepted by Dedsert (BetBright). Regrettably we cannot take on all other ante post bets from another company. Dedsert Ltd is refunding all funds to BetBright punters.”