Tabcorp Fined £84 000 for Novelty Bet

Jake Cooper - 18 Apr 2018

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has fined betting operator, Tabcorp UK Limited £84 000 for accepting wagers on a dubious novelty market. The event in question was whether or not goal keeper, Wayne Shaw would eat a pie during an Arsenal vs. Sutton United game in February this year.

The punishment was based on the UKGC’s decision that the wager in question – even if defined as a novelty bet – was not suitable as a betting market. The fact that Shaw went ahead and ate a pie during the match (presuming that he knew about the wager) is evidence of the potential for such novelty bets to unduly influence players’ behaviour. The risk here is that such betting markets become unfair and may encourage unsportsmanlike behaviour among players. The ensuing scandal, in this case, has been dubbed “Piegate”.

Shaw Banned for Two Months

Both the UKGC and the English Football Association appear convinced that Shaw did know about the wager when he chose to eat the pie. As a result, Shaw is being punished right along with Tabcorp. He has been fined £375 and banned from playing football for the next two months.

The UKGC has made it clear that, although this may seem like a rather trivial oversight, the “Piegate” wager was socially irresponsible in the extreme. Gambling Commission programme Director, Richard Watson emphasised the serious risks – in particular, the danger of encouraging players to commit criminal acts or breach sports governing body regulations – associated with wagers of this kind.

Not Tabcorp’s only Offence

An even more disconcerting discovery made during the UKGC’s investigation into Tabcorp’s operations was that the operator had allowed over 100 self-excluded players from using their facilities.

All sports betting and gambling operators in the United Kingdom are obligated to allow players do exclude themselves from future activity in these establishments. In this way, individuals who know they have gambling problems can prevent themselves from placing bets at times in advance of times when their willpower is running low.

The fact that these problem gamblers managed to sneak themselves in using false IDs has not been accepted by the UKGC has an excuse for Tabcorp’s oversight. According to the UKGC, gambling establishments have a responsibility to ensure that their systems are capable of contending with such manoeuvres in order to protect their patrons properly. As such, the UKGC went ahead and imposed the £84 000 fine - £54 000 of which will go to charities devoted to the promotion of social responsibility.

Director Watson warned that novelty betting, while quite interesting and fun, are on rocky ground as they run the risks of unduly influencing player behaviour and unfairly stacking the odds in favour of the house.

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