According to a pair of reports last week from The Guardian, UK bookmaker and online sports betting firm Ladbrokes may be in a bit of hot water. It does not seem particularly serious, but at least four people have alleged that Ladbrokes accepted horse racing wagers then later cancelled them for no apparent reason. The UK’s Independent Betting Arbitration Service (IBAS) is reviewing at least three of the cases and if it rules against Ladbrokes, the bookmaker may have to pay out on hundreds of other wagers.

The bets in question were specific cases and most customers have probably not run into this sort of situation. With the three cases that are being looked at, the bettors had their online wagers referred to Labrokes traders for final approval. No reason has been given as to why this happened, and while it’s not the norm, it’s also not unusual, so that part of it isn’t the issue. Bets that are sent for approval – if not approved – might be declined or they might be re-offered by Ladbrokes at a different price or odds.

No matter the reason, in the three cases being investigated by IBAS, all bets were declined. The problem, though, is that Ladbrokes issued the customers a bet number, which made it look like to the players that the bets had been accepted. Thus, after the horse races were finished and the bettors went to collect their winnings, they were very confused – and upset – to find out the bets had actually been declined.

A fourth player had a similar thing happen, but when he threatened to sue, Ladbrokes paid him. In Paul Glynn’s case, he made three bets for a total of £330 five days before the races. He received bet numbers for each, but within an hour of placing the bets, they were cancelled. He would have ended up winning £1,200 on one of them.

IBAS has not investigated Glynn’s case, but it might.

Again, we don’t know exactly why the bets were cancelled, but if we are being fair, it doesn’t look like it is intentional shenanigans on Ladbrokes’ part. It would look extremely suspicious if the bets were cancelled after the races concluded, as that would look like Ladbrokes was trying to get out of paying winners, but these were all cancelled fairly quickly, before any races occurred. Glynn’s happened nearly a week ahead of the races.

The main problem here is that Ladbrokes had almost certainly known about the bet cancellation issue for months and did nothing about it. The three IBAS cases were from bets made in December 2017 and Glynn’s bets were made in July 2018. There is a good chance that it is just a software problem – or perhaps a non-malicious human problem – but that Ladbrokes could never be bothered to remedy the situation is not good.

There have been many other anecdotal reports by customers of the same bet cancellation issue, so if IBAS rules against Ladbrokes, it may be on the hook for a lot more payouts. One reason bets get referred internally is that they are large and require manual approval, so it is possible that some of the potential payouts might be painful for the bookmaker.

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