Then there was the tale of a major European poker site which royally fouled up an online promotion, then attempted/(is attempting) to cover its ass by stealing promotional winnings back from its customers.
The site in question is Betfair, and if you’re reading this from the US, no need to worry directly: American players can’t play on the site. Nonetheless, Betfair is a major player on the European poker stage, being a primary sponsor of the WSOPE, signing some big-name players, such as Annette Obrestad, and in general trying to capture a significant slice of the burgeoning Euro poker market.
Problem is, Betfair has occasionally shown some moments of dishonor and corruption, with the latest example a real doozy. In this example, the marketing geniuses at Betfair created a promotion with overly generous playthrough requirements, such that regular players could take part in a “happy hour” promotion that actually ran for three hours, and guarantee themselves a profit by steady play. The casino games involved are, of course, house-edge games, and it is not unheard of for sites to and businesses to run these “loss leader” promotions to reward loyal customers, generate new business, and foster industry goodwill.
Not so with Betfair. They discovered after the happy-hour promotion had run its course that they had been too generous. They were on the hook for some large amount, certainly hundreds of thousands, perhaps a few million. What do you think Betfair did? According to widespread reports, they cancelled all winnings paid out in the promotion. Justin at SBR TV has a YouTube video up describing the promotion snafu in greater detail. It’s a sordid tale, indeed.
“But wait,” comes the voice from the heavens, “there’s more.”
Betfair was rather aggressive in re-seizing funds paid out as a result of the promotion, in some cases even filing what could best be described as false-pretense withdrawals against winning players’ accounts. They’ve done so by claiming that players broke the “spirit of the promotion” by playing a house game where the players actually had a winning edge for some 180 minutes.
The problem, though, is that Betfair doesn’t want to also negate the rake or house fees generated by the same action that provided the play-through bonuses. For instance, suppose that one of the games was set to provide a 4% house edge. Let us also suppose that the short-term play-through bonus might have been 25%. (In certain games it was even higher.) Betfair wants to annul and seize the players’ winnings, while still collecting all the rake that the promotion generated, largely from action that never would have taken place had not the promotion been offered by Betfair in the first place. In some cases the combination of seizing the players’s winning while also charging them fees generated by the paid games has driven player balances into the negative… and there are even reports that Betfair is threatening collection actions against these players.
In short, Betfair created the situation, then is robbing its customers from both ends of the transaction. Call it what you want, but this writer calls it fraud. Betfair has drawn a line in the sand, too, directing that all complaints in the matter be directed to its Malta jurisdiction. Malta is about as non-responsive in a meaningful way to player complaints as, say, the KGC, which means that Betfair knows the Malta rubberstampers won’t male them do anything. Betfair also holds licensure issued by the UK — and there are jurisdictional issues regarding some of the included games which may bring the matter under UK purview — but Betfair seems set to fight that point hard as well.
Industry watchdog CasinoMeister, correctly addressing the situation, has added Betfair to its “rogue” list, pending some different resolution of the situation. That’s a significant step, a label usually saved for transient, fly-by-night operations that disappear with the deposits of a few hundred unlucky players, rather than a major corporation with millions of customers.
In short, Betfair fucked up big time, and they expect everyone else but themselves to pay for the mistake. Some time down the road, Betfair is among those sites who would like to be formally licensed for US players. Everyone should remember instances such as this latest promotion gone bad when it comes time to consider opening a new account.