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  • Gambling Commission taking no action on BetBright closure

    The Gambling Commission has defended its handling of the controversial closure of the online bookmaker BetBright, which decided to void bets with a potential payout of around £1m when it ceased operations last week, saying that customers of the firm would have received nothing back had the firm gone into liquidation.

    The commission also disclosed on Thursday that it believes some of the proceeds of a £15m sale of BetBright’s technology platform to the rival bookmaker 888.com had been used to cover the costs of winding up the accounts of the firm’s 35,000 customers, including the return of deposits and the stakes on bets which had been declared void. It is the first time that the number of customers affected by the closure has been revealed.

    “We’ve been informed that the money has formed part of the assets used to settle outstanding liabilities including the refunding of stakes and any other customer accounts,” a spokesman for the commission said. “We do not have the powers to insist that an operator stays in business until all the results of ante-post bets have come in.

    “During our inquiries, the operator highlighted the very real possibility of going into insolvent liquidation if it remained open. This would have resulted in customers receiving no winnings and no refunds on stakes which had been placed.

    “This was a significant risk for BetBright’s customers and therefore we consider that the return of stakes, as part of an orderly closure of the business, is the best option available for the vast majority of customers in what is an unusual and difficult situation. It is also worth noting that trading while insolvent can result in a criminal offence.”

    BetBright’s executive chairman until its closure was Rich Ricci, a leading owner whose former champion hurdler, Faugheen, finished third in Thursday’s Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

    Ricci, a former banker who retired from Barclays’ investment arm in 2013, has been fiercely criticised by many former customers of BetBright for his failure to either make provision for potential ante-post liabilities when winding up the firm, or offer punters with positive positions to “cash out” a proportion of possible payout at the prevailing odds.

    Bets which are known to have been declared void without warning include those placed by one punter on the current football season. These bets had the potential to return almost £27,000 for a £400 initial stake, and would have had a cash-out value of several thousand pounds with just two months of the season left to run.

  • This is a tough one.

    It does make sense that UKGC cannot insist a business continues trading until bets are settled.

    But settling them at "fair" value and adding that to the liabilities does seem like it should be the legal position.

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