Adjudication Case Studies - Football : Ambiguous Instructions

Under the present system of customers writing out their own betting slips, disputes often occur, when slips are written in haste and create something that is subsequently open to the bookmaker's interpretation which differs from that the customer originally intended. As a customer is obviously the architect of any slip it follows that they are also responsible for any settlement offered on a slip containing indecipherable figures, names or instructions.

It is a golden rule that disputes involving the interpretation of ambiguous, incomplete, illegible, contradictory or otherwise problematical instructions, are adjudicated in accordance with whatever rule or principle governs a case of that kind, never on the interpretation of so-called 'intention', claimed or otherwise.

We recently viewed a case where the customer's written instructions named the away sides but the applied odds related to the draw predictions offered by the company. The slip was thereby completely ambiguous and open to interpretation of what was intended.

The following is an example of theory and ruling for our information page.


With the self-write tradition of writing bets the onus is always on the backer to ensure that his/her slip instructions are correct, concise and indicate a clear reflection of their intentions and not open to misinterpretation. It has long been the established practice that bookmakers settle bets on the written instructions on the slip and not on what a backer may have intended. Instructions hold primacy in all wagers.

However, having said that the responsibility for knowing the rules rests entirely with the customer, it follows that they should be fully aware of the terms and conditions when placing wagers. While the Panel appreciate that it was unfortunate that the cashier did not ask the customer if he wanted 90 minutes or outright it is the backer's responsibility to give information, not the bookmaker's to elicit it.

In this case the customer states that his intended bet was for outright wins on Chelsea to win the FA Cup and AC Milan to win the Champions League Final.

However, all football bets are based on 90 minutes, unless otherwise specified by the use of the words outright, win trophy or another suitable phrase that leaves no doubt as to the preferred settlement criteria. Alternatively, a price taken can be indicative of choice and in this case, the prices on the slip were for the two teams to win inside the normal 90 minutes.

In this instance the Panel are unable to support the customer's claim.

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