Betway dispute highlights problem of punters gaining access to winnings

The obstacles that punters sometimes need to overcome before they can withdraw their winnings – or even their initial stake for a winning bet – from an online bookmaker have featured in this column with some regularity.

The story of Doug Shelley, a businessman from the north east who had been trying to withdraw £108,000 in stakes and winnings from his Betway account since April 2019, appeared last September and followed a familiar pattern. An account is opened, a stake is deposited, a big win follows and then the problems begins, as the bookmaker starts asking questions about the source of funds for the account which should have been asked, and settled, before they accepted the bet.

The good news in Shelley’s case is that, more than a year after he won his bets, he was finally paid out at the end of May. The bad news is that he was forced to spend “well over £10,000” to gain access to his own money, the bulk of which was spent on a “forensic” analysis of his bank account and finances, prepared and certified by an independent accountant. Once this had been received, Betway finally agreed to pay out in three instalments, the last of which arrived in his account three weeks ago.

The twist in Shelley’s tale is that he is currently warned off from British racecourses by the BHA, having been banned for eight years in January 2013 for his part in a corruption case which also involved former jockey Andrew Heffernan, who was banned for 15 years, and two footballers.

He admits to laying a horse on Betfair on the basis of information received from Heffernan, who rode horses in which Shelley had a share, though says that almost all of his bets were to win and he believed that discussing how horses had worked was “just part of it [ownership]”.

Being warned off does not mean you are banned from betting, however, and Betway opened an account for Shelley in April 2019. After he placed two singles and an each-way double that returned just under £100,000, the firm restricted his account to £1 bets on racing, but it accepted two bets on football matches, including a winner which left his balance at just under £108,000, including an opening stake of £43,000. At this point Betway stopped him logging in to the account.

The next year was taken up with a long series of phone calls, emails and, eventually, the assistance of Andrew Montague, a solicitor from Northern Ireland who has advised several gamblers in disputes with bookmakers and most famously helped the legendary punter Barney Curley to secure £4m in winnings from Betfred after a massive gamble in 2010.

“It’s cost me a considerable amount of money, well over £10,000,” Shelley says. “There was the cost of the report, and there was another legal firm before I researched and found Andrew Montague. If it hadn’t been for Andrew, I strongly believe I still wouldn’t have been paid today, and imagine what it’s like for someone who’s owed a few thousand and knows it’s going to cost more than that to get their money. How many people are there who don’t follow these things through?”

In March, Betway was in the headlines after it received a record fine of £11.6m from Gambling Commission for failures over customer protection and its checks to counteract money-laundering.

The firm was found to have failed to check the source of funding for a customer who deposited £8m and lost more than £4m over the course of four years, seemingly the exact opposite of the scrutiny Shelley received when his account was suspended by Betway and, rather than deposit more money, he wanted to take his winnings out.

When asked for comment on the Shelley case and the expenses incurred to gain access to his money, Betway said in a statement: “As a responsible, licensed operator, we are required by UK law to ensure that customers prove their identity and then conform with our comprehensive anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) checks.

“We are not in a position to comment on what Mr Shelley alleges that he has spent. But we can confirm that Mr Shelley’s funds were released after he supplied us with the relevant documents, required by law, which he had previously refused to provide despite numerous requests.”

Monday’s best bets

The best race of the day at Ayr is the Listed Land O’Burns Fillies Stakes, in which the Michael Dods yard has a strong hand with the first two runners in the betting, Queens Gift and Que Amoro (4.15). The latter has not had a run this year but went well after a 10-week break last summer and went down by just half a length in a similar race in September.

Be Proud (3.10) also looks solid at Ayr, while Mythical Madness (2.20) and Queen Mia (2.50) both have an obvious chance at Thirsk. One to watch with an eye to the future here, incidentally, is Arrow Of Gold (4.25), who makes his debut his second division of the maiden. Kevin Ryan’s colt is a Galileo half-brother to Golden Horn, the Derby and Arc winner in 2015.

Quick guide

Greg Wood’s Monday tips

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Thirsk 12.15 Alghada 12.45 Ginger Max 1.15 Right Action
1.50 Garnock Valley 2.20 Mythical Madness 2.50 Queen Mia
3.20 Gabrial The One 3.50 A Star Above 4.25 Arrow Of Gold
4.55 Robeam
Ayr 1.40 Meshakel 2.10 Volatile Analyst 2.40 Lincoln Red 3.10 Be Proud 3.40 Lord Riddiford 4.15 Que Amoro 4.50 Mischief Star 5.20 Tadleel 5.50 Oasis Prince
Windsor 5.00 Breakfast Club 5.30 Lady Florence 6.00 Imperial Fora 6.30 The Lamplighter (nb) 7.00 Our Man In Havana 7.30 Naked Lass 8.00 Fahad (nap) 8.30 Tralee Hills

The best bets, though, could be at Windsor, where Fahad (8.00) and The Lamplighter (6.30) are both worth a bet at current odds. Fahad improved for a step up in trip when third at Kempton on 2 June and goes another furlong and a half here, while The Lamplighter put up a career-best last time and runs off the same mark.

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