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16. Let's assume the worst: Your sportsbook stiffs you. What can you do?

 
The Philosopher:
First of all, don't panic. Many situations that look truly dire at some point end up working out to where you don't get stiffed. Take a deep breath, plan your moves carefully, and be very cautious about doing anything that's irreversible.

As you certainly should be aware by now, this is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Rather than learning all the methods of dealing with a slow pay or no pay situation, you'd be far better off making wise decisions about where to post up in the first place.

But, let's assume that, unfortunately, you're past that point and are nervously wondering if you'll ever see your money again.

I'll be honest and tell you that if we're talking about a situation where the sportsbook you were playing into has gone out of business (you call and the phone lines have been disconnected and such), I really don't know of much of anything you can do, as we have discovered anew, sadly, in the Aces Gold case. I mean, macho people in the forums will talk about how they're going to go down to whatever country the book was doing business in, and seek them out with a gun or a baseball bat, but good luck.

Most of what I say is intended instead to apply to situations where the book is still in business, but they are stalling about sending you a payout you've requested, or they have made some ruling against you where you feel they are refusing you something to which you are entitled.

Here are several things you might be able to do (and remember, some of these foreclose others, so be careful what order you try them in):

1. Contact the book again and try to work it out without any third parties. Often a book will reverse itself if you talk to them about a matter a second, third, or fourth time, especially if you have thus far been dealing with clerks or someone on a fairly low level. Work your way up the chain of command as far as you can. Make sure you're dealing with someone who has the authority to make the decision you're looking for.

2. As far as legal or regulatory pressure, that's going to be largely a function of what country the book is located in. Some jurisdictions, such as Australia, seem to have pretty much regulatory oversight, some have basically none, and many are somewhere in between. You might want to at least look into this.

When I was enduring a multi-month slow pay several years ago, I contacted the government of the Caribbean nation where they were located, was directed to some senator's office, and ultimately wrote a letter to him about the situation. I never received a response, but I was paid almost immediately. And when I talked to the book, I was able to infer from what they told me that they knew of my letter. Since I hadn't told them about it, clearly there had been some communication between the government and the book, and I don't think it's purely coincidental that that's when I was paid.

If you're thinking in terms of the American government, remember that they regard this whole activity as in a legal gray area at best. If you tell them, "Hey, I'm an American citizen and I'm being robbed!" don't expect them to help you.

One final point to keep in mind here. In the underworld, you don't involve law enforcement no matter what. If you're robbed, the one option you do not have is to call 911. Well, many participants in the offshore bookmaking world basically see that as an extension of the underworld and the "law of the streets."

So quite aside from the fact that it wouldn't work anyway, if you seek justice from American law enforcement when you're being ripped off by a bookie, don't expect to ever be welcome in these forums or any place like them. I'm not sure exactly where seeking help from the government where the book legally operates fits into the "code," but I suspect that some purists would look askance at that as well. I'm not saying that that has to be the determining factor in what you do, but be aware how certain actions of yours could be perceived.

3. You can also contact the watchdog sites in private and see what they can do or suggest. When I was being slow paid by the Dunes over a year ago, I alerted the principals of Major Wager, The Prescription, and Bettorsworld about the situation. I didn't ask them to intervene, but The Shrink from The Prescription took it upon himself to do so, and I had my money almost immediately. So I know from personal experience that these guys can and do get results.

Similarly, on this online sports betting site, The Major especially has spent a lot of time and effort working behind the scenes on behalf of customers who have contacted him about problems they're having with a book. You don't hear a lot about it, because the books are more apt to cooperate precisely because the matter is being kept out of the forums, but many, many people have been paid because The Major (or The Shrink, or Jeff from Bettorsworld, or others in the industry) chose to get involved and to negotiate for the customer.

4. Also "behind the scenes," you can seek help from other "insiders." As a result of my involvement with Major Wager, I've made contact with a handful of people who are past or present sportsbook managers or who know a lot about the internet sports betting business and may have some contacts in the industry. If I was having a problem, I think I'd pick up the phone and call them, just to ask if they knew anything about this book, if their making a phone call on my behalf could be helpful, if they have any advice for how I should deal with this situation, etc.

One of the advantages of hanging out at a place like Major Wager and becoming known is that you can make some contacts like that, and maybe become at least a peripheral part of a network that can tip you off to certain things, or give you some advice or assistance if you have an issue with a sportsbook.

5. Major Wager has a formal, confidential mediation process for disputes between books and players. (This is separate from the informal intervention that The Major and The Devil themselves have often done.) On the site, you will find a list of books that accept Major Wager mediation. If the book you are having a problem with is on this list, you can have your dispute mediated. These books have obligated themselves to accept the result of the mediation.

6. What perhaps should be the last resort, though many people seem to treat it as the first resort, is to bring your dispute to the forums, to publicly call out the book and demand justice, or at least to warn other people away.

I suspect this works less often than several of the things I've listed above, but I'm sure there are times it gets results. Threatening to do it might be even more effective than actually doing it. If a book knows that you know about these forums and are willing and able to damage their reputation, they may well be a little more cooperative with you.

7. I think it can be good also to keep in touch with other customers who are in the same boat. If, for example, a slow pay situation has been publicized in the forums and several people have revealed that they are among those waiting on payments, you might want to make contact with them, and form a sort of virtual support group. That way you can keep up with who is being paid and how much, what tactics seem to be working, who's heard some new rumors, etc., plus there's just the emotional benefit of knowing you're not alone, and of having somebody to bitch to about the injustice of it all.

In summary, be patient. Don't panic. Use the methods that burn bridges last if at all.

If everything fails, you may simply have to accept that your money is gone. It doesn't happen nearly as often as you'd think in such a wildly unregulated industry with many unethical common practices, and it definitely happens only very infrequently to those who do their homework and play only at solid books, but it's not impossible. If it happens to you, all you can do is absorb it and move on.

I look at it this way: If I add up all the bonuses, all the money I've saved on reduced vig, all the little contests and perks of various kinds, in short all the advantages of offshore betting that are not available to those who are Las Vegas gambling or with street bookies, I'm up somewhere in the five figures I'm sure. I'd have to have quite a few of my books go under and abscond with my money to ever undo how much better off I am from offshore gambling.

So I think of the very small risk of being stiffed as being a sort of fee for offshore betting, a fee that is offset many, many times over by the advantages.

 

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