What if a Bookmaker Refuses to Pay Out?

One of the most infuriating things for players is when they think they’ve won, and the bookmaker fails to pay out on the bet. To be fair, this happens a lot less often these days than it used to, but it still happens, so we wanted to create a guide for possible reasons why a bookmaker might not pay out and then what steps you can take if this has happened to you.

Almost all of these issues will be highlighted within a bookmaker’s terms and conditions as it’s the only way that they can enforce them.

Even though T’s and C’s are readily available, the majority of us will not sit and read through every page. The only time that most players access these is when something has gone wrong or they anticipate that things can go wrong.

Below we have included several reasons why a betting site does not pay out. It’s not set in stone for every bookmaker, but the majority follow a core set of terms, which we will outline here.

Can a Bookie Legally Refuse to Pay a Winning Bet?

Terms and ConditionsThe short answer to this is that yes, a bookmaker can refuse to pay out on a winning bet but only in certain circumstances. There are several reasons why but one of the most common is players using other people’s account or setting up multiple accounts with slightly different details.

When a bookmaker suspects that the person placing the bet is not the person whose name is on the account, then this would violate their terms and conditions. It could be that the player using the account has already been banned by that bookmaker for whatever reason and is using friends or family members accounts fraudulently.

Being able to work out when someone else is using an account is not all that easy. However, one of the biggest tells comes from the types of bets that the account has been placing and then starts to place.

For example, let’s assume that an account has been open for 2 years and that player places a £10 football accumulator bet every weekend. It’s safe to say that this would be a pretty consistent betting pattern and one that the bookmaker will log in their system.

Let’s now assume that the account all of a sudden makes a huge deposit of £5,000 and starts placing big bets of £100 a pop on several horse races each day. Given the player has previously never/rarely bet on the sport, this would be suspicious activity and then it would likely mean that someone else is using the account instead.

Another way they can check about who might be placing the bets is by tracking the IP address when they are logged in. A common tell for this is multiple login attempts within minutes of each of other but hundreds of miles apart. Again, this would be another red flag and might cause them to refuse to pay out these bets placed.

Of course, this could all be happening without the owner of the account’s knowledge. If this is the case then it starts to fall under the fraudulent activity banner, which is something that could be taken up with the police.

Money Laundering

Money Laundering

This very much falls into the category above, but we wanted to give it its own section as we think it deserves it. The UK Gambling Commission warned 5 casinos back in 2018 about their conduct to help control and eradicate it from being possible on their system.

Money laundering is how criminals can hide a paper trail of money that has essentially been stolen. A term that is often used is that of “washing” which relates to the movement of the money. The more times they can move the money, the cleaner it becomes.

It’s a problem that is likely bigger than anyone knows with online gambling and the FBI have even admitted it’s one of the toughest crimes to predict and prevent given how much anonymity can be used online.

So, how does it work?

A criminal will deposit the money into a betting account and then place a series of bets with the money. The deposit sums are usually large, and the bets are usually small.

The idea is to not raise any flags with simply depositing and then instantly withdrawing the money. For example, they might deposit £10,000 and make £500 worth of bets. A small price to pay to clean their stolen money and likely a lot less than the tax they would have to pay to push this through organised crime legitimate business networks.

After a few bets have been placed, the remaining balance will then be withdrawn back to the account or if possible, to a different account. As the money moves about from account to account, it means that tracking becomes very difficult for any law enforcement.

It’s highly likely that they use more than one betting account to do this. Again, creating even more ways in which they can clean the money.

As a bookmaker, this is often pretty tough to track before the money has come in and then left the account. But if they do get wind then any bets that are taken will have their payments refused and likely have the cash in their account frozen whilst authorities do their checks.

What is important to note here is that some people will legitimately deposit large sums of money, make a few small bets and then decide to withdraw the rest of the money. If this happens, the account will likely be flagged, so be prepared to argue your case or even contact the bookmaker before doing so.

Palpable Error

Bookmaker MistakePalpable error is where the bookmaker gets the odds for a market they are offering very wrong. We have all seen markets where we think a price offers value, but this is where a genuine mistake has been made and then punters spot this before the bookmaker.

An example might be if a bookmaker were to offer 10/1 on the flip of a coin for it to land on heads (not that a bookmaker would have this as a real market). We know this is an even money bet and then we would determine that this would be a palpable error from the bookmaker.

There are a couple of routes that the bookmaker might take with this. The first, and most common, is that the bookmaker will have somewhere in their T’s and C’s that if an error on the pricing has been made then they can withhold funds and refuse a payout, before eventually returning the initial bet to the player.

The second would be to simply pay out on all cases of the prices that they offer. This would leave no room for error and to be honest, the bookmaker would rarely offer this. They would be more likely to do it if they had taken only a small number of wagers on it, but it would be more as a gesture of goodwill than anything else.

Whether they should pay out or not is a debate that many punters have had on the forums. If the bookmaker offers a price, be it in error or not, should they have to pay out?

Issues start to arise with how much of an error they need to make for them to deem this a void bet. If they price something at 5/1 instead of 4/1, is this big enough of an error? You then start to get into grey areas within the industry, which is never a good thing and this is where a lot of punters start to lose trust.

Some bookmakers will pay out as the negative press that now comes with any non-payout where punters were not in breach of any T’s and C’s is simply not worth the hassle. News travels fast these days and reputations can be dashed pretty quickly.

However, there has been some good news to come from an exact scenario like this in the US recently.

Several punters noticed that the sportsbook FanDuel had posted odds of -134 (1.75) for FC Cincinnati at +5 goals in an MLS match. Given that this was a game they were favourite for, the odds were clearly made in error, but bets were accepted both online and at a local casino.

When players went to collect it was noted that the money had been withheld by FanDuel as they looked into the clear error they had made. Initially, winnings were not going to be paid, but after the DGE (Division of Gaming Enforcement) got involved, they deemed that the bets should stand as this was an error by the sportsbook where they accepted the bet.

This was definitely a win for the players involved, but these cases are admittedly few and far between when it comes to palpable error.

Problems with Bonuses

Bonus Problems

Bonuses are another common area that people fail to fully understand and therefore get into situations where they haven’t won what they thought they might.

The reason for this is that bonus terms can be an absolute minefield to get your head around. We’ve been in the industry long enough to know what to look for, but if you’re new then things like wagering requirements, length of a bonus, maximum claim and contribution limits will likely be a foreign language.

We wouldn’t go as far as saying that bookies make bonuses as difficult as possible to clear, in fact, they are much easier to claim than casino bonuses on the whole, but there are several hoops that need to be jumped through to claim any of these offers.

It’s for good reason why they are hard to claim and that’s because they have been easily manipulated in the past. Common loopholes were using multiple payment methods to claim bonuses, using e-wallets that cannot be tracked to one bank account and of course, creating multiple accounts.

If you are claiming a bonus and you are in breach of any of these, then the bookmaker will not be paying out on winnings.

Problems occur when bonuses are linked to free bets and the limitations of markets that can and cannot be wagered on. For example, if you were to get a free bet from a bookmaker, they may state that some games or markets can’t be used for that free bet.

This is all well and good, but what they won’t tell you is that you can place the bet, even if you aren’t aware of these being unavailable for this offer and then only highlight your mistake if your bet wins. Obviously, if it loses then you’ve nothing to claim anyway, but there is a good chance that you think you’ve won a bet only for it to be forfeited because you’ve bet on an ineligible market.

Not Been Paid Out? – How to Claim

IBAS LogoIf you think that you’ve a bet that’s been placed within reason and the bookmaker is failing to pay out for whatever reason, then you do have processes that you can use to argue your case.

The first place that we would suggest you start with is to get the terms that the bookmaker states that you’ve breached. Make sure they highlight the exact wording in their T’s and C’s before checking for yourself. It’s best to take a copy of them before you request, just in case any small changes have been made, which is unlikely, but possible.

Reaching out to the bookmaker to try and settle the predicament is going to be the best cause of action right now. Be civil with them and explain why your bet should stand based on the facts that you have.

If you are still at a point where they refuse to pay out, it’s time to look at external bodies that can help you.

The best place to start with this is IBAS (Independent Betting Adjudication Service). It’s their role to help settle disputes between a player and betting company. They have the final say in these disputes and when gambling companies are registered with them, they agree that they have the power to settle the dispute, either way.

You will need to create as much evidence to help them argue your case. They are very fair, and they work with both the player and the gambling company on the players’ behalf. They know the industry, the terms and the companies as well as anyone, so they will likely be able to quickly tell you if you have a case and then how they plan to move forward from there.

Areas that IBAS can assist players include:

  • Pricing errors
  • Late bets
  • Unclear market terms
  • Related bets
  • Shop scanner failures
  • Disputed bet instructions
  • Cashing out
  • Maximum payouts
  • Exclusion from offers/promotions

UKGC LogoYou can access the IBAS site to see a range of examples and case studies on there that may link to your case. From here you’ll get a better understanding of how your case might work out but note that each case is often different from the last, so there is no set in stone result here.

In the event that IBAS rules against you, it’s possible to take this directly to the UK Gambling Commission. They generally work alongside IBAS, but there are times where they have been able to step in to settle disputes.

Failing all that, you can get a lawyer involved to take a look to see if legal action can be taken. If a bookmaker was ever going to pay out, then this would be the point they would give in and make the payment if they have not already been advised to do so prior to this. If they fight the case then they obviously truly believe they are in the right and are willing to spend money to prove it.

If you do go this route, be prepared for it to be a very costly and lengthy process. Also bear in mind that the betting company likely has a crack-team of lawyers on board for exactly this and with almost unlimited resources to take on the “little guy”.


To surmise, the betting company holds a lot of power when it comes to unpaid bets which they cover throughout their T’s and C’s. However, the likes of IBAS and the UKGC are there to help protect players and they have been successful in doing so in the past.

Take the time to check through the T’s and C’s of any bookmaker if you think there could be an issue. Even though they are usually long, they are broken into sections and are more transparent these days than they’ve ever been.