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IBAS Adjusts to Changes in the Betting Industry - Racing Post - Saturday 9th June 2007

Nine years after being spawned from the Green Seal Service, betting-dispute arbitrator IBAS has undergone a name change, writes Howard Wright.

This pre-shadows possible structural alterations, intended to better reflect its status when the new Gambling Act comes into force on September 1.

Known as the Independent Betting Adjudication (formerly Arbitration) Service from this week, the body led by chief executive Chris O'Keeffe has formally moved from the point where its activities were dominated by the betting shop business into the modern technological age of a mixed gambling marketplace.

In addition, IBAS is facing up to its responsibilities under the Gambling Commission, which requires all betting licence applicants, in whatever sector, to name an independent body or person to adjudicate on disputes that cannot be resolved between the parties.

Addressing the legal implications in the foreword to the 2006 annual report, published this week, Levy Board chief executive and IBAS chairman Sir Tristram Ricketts noted: "IBAS's reputation is such that it will undoubtedly be the organisation of choice for many betting operators. To reflect more precisely the nature of its role in this new environment, IBAS has been renamed."

Further change is inevitable, since Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Racing Post, and the Levy Board withdrew their funding from the start of this year, leaving SIS as the dominant finance provider.

O'Keeffe is working on a business plan, involving new funding and corporate structures, which would enable IBAS to fulfil an ambition to become the industry-wide provider of dispute resolution services.

He is anxious to build on IBAS's achievements and the development of a close relationship with the Gambling Commission, before betting contracts became enforceable in law under the new act.

O'Keeffe said: "New legislation will demand that bookmaker/operators put a far greater emphasis on open and fair play, which in turn will raise the profile and importance of non-statutory, independent adjudication in betting disputes.

"Despite the fact that the betting public will have recourse to the courts from September, I am strongly of the opinion that non-statutory adjudication will be preferable to litigation.

"The dispute resolution procedures offered through IBAS will be generally more flexible, simpler and therefore potentially faster than the courts."

O'Keeffe added: "The Gambling Commission has agreed there is a real need for an independent, non-statutory body to resolve betting disputes when a genuine deadlock exists. Its chairman, Peter Dean, and other senior members have indicated publicly that IBAS has a dispute resolution structure in place that is regarded as a blueprint for the future."

The annual report reveals that in 2006 requests for arbitration totalled 2,772, seven fewer than the previous year, and that IBAS ruled on 1,674 (down from 1,812) from which 354 were found in favour of the complainant and resulted in £239,675 being handed over in winnings.

The slight fall in the number of requests came despite a significant increase in the number of football-bet disputes, raised largely by the World Cup.

Cases relating to football outscored those for racing by 30 to 28 per cent, with internet betting accounting for 12 per cent of disputes and greyhound racing seven per cent.

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