In this section, we take a closer look at the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS). This is an organisation that helps UK gamblers resolve disputes with gambling operators, such as real-world and online UK casinos. It is a service that all UK gamblers should get to know.
Who Is IBAS?
IBAS is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. ADR services help resolve disputes between businesses and their customers. They act as impartial mediators between the two parties and base their rulings on relevant laws and legal precedents.
IBAS is an ADR that specialises in resolving gambling disputes between licenced gambling operators and their customers. It is approved by the Gambling Commission – the UK Government’s public body responsible for gambling.
How Does IBAS Work?
Before you raise a dispute with IBAS, you need to exhaust the operator’s internal complaints handling process. Contact the operator’s customer services department to find out how to do this. If you can’t resolve the dispute through these means, you may be able to raise a dispute with the operator via an ADR. This depends if the gambling operator is UK-based.
If the operator is UK-based, is registered with IBAS, and you’ve exhausted the internal complaints handling process, you can raise a dispute if you think it falls within IBAS’s remit (see sections “What Type of Dispute Can IBAS Help Resolve?” and “What Type of Dispute Can IBAS NOT Help Resolve?” below for details about the type of dispute they can help with).
To pursue a dispute, you will need to sign up for an IBAS account and then fill out the Adjudication Form. Here, you outline the facts of the case. They will then look at the form and decide if they can help.
If the problem falls outside their scope, they will usually point you in the direction of an organisation that is better suited to help you. If they can help, they will contact the operator and ask them to provide a written submission, evidence, and information about relevant terms and conditions.
Collected evidence then goes to the independent Adjudication Panel who may have further questions for you.
Once they’ve collected all the evidence, the panel will complete the adjudication process and return the verdict to both parties. Both parties can either accept the ruling or ask IBAS to review it. Reviews will only happen if there was a factual error or mistake in the ruling, or if new evidence comes to light.
IBAS bases their rulings on evidence and uses it to establish if the operator has broken any laws or contractual obligations. They may take legal advice concerning specific issues but also draw heavily on information published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Gambling Commission’s “Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice” (LCCP).
What Should You Include In The Adjudication Form?
IBAS will ask you for information about:
- What happened, when it happened and how it happened.
- What you believe the outcome should have been.
- Why you think that particular outcome should have happened.
- What the actual outcome was
- Why the operator says this outcome happened
- How you and the operator have interacted since the event occurred.
You will be asked to provide emails, screenshots, chat transcripts and other evidence if you have it. The more comprehensive you are with your description and evidence, the easier it will be for IBAS to reach a decision. Therefore, you must be thorough and concise when filling out the form.
Are IBAS Rulings Legally Binding?
IBAS rulings ARE legally binding on registered gambling operators up to the value of £10,000. If IBAS awards you more than £10,000, the operator can dispute the case in court.
A registered operator is one that holds a UK gambling licence and that appears on the IBAS register (to find out how to search the register, see section “Can You Complain About Any Gambling Operator to IBAS?”).
If you cannot find the operator on the IBAS register, and they’re a UK operator, then they will fall under the remit of a different ADR. You can find out which one by asking the operator directly.
The rulings are NOT legally binding on consumers. This means that you can pursue a claim through the courts if you find IBAS’s resolution unsatisfactory for whatever reason.
Are IBAS Biased Towards Gambling Operators?
IBAS is an independent ADR service and as such is biased neither to the customer nor to the gambling operator.
Some people think that, because the gambling operators have to pay fees to IBAS to use their service, it means that they are more likely to rule in favour of the operator. This is not the case. A condition of the UK’s Gambling Licence is that operators must sign up to an ADR; this invariably means operators pay fees.
IBAS ethos is to be fair and transparent. They will publish details about cases, explaining why and how they arrived at the ruling.
What Type of Dispute Can IBAS Help Resolve?
IBAS helps resolve disputes concerning the amount of money the operator should pay you for a bet placed, game played, or gambling transaction undertaken.
You can make claims for payments if they don’t payout at all, or claims for increased payment if you believe they did not pay out enough.
If the operator closes your account or cancels a bet/gambling transaction after you’ve placed the bet/gambling transaction, this falls within IBAS’s remit too.
They can also help you claim for safe gambling standards as long as you have a relevant contract with the operator that covers the particular issue. For example, if the contract you sign (e.g. the terms and conditions you agree to when signing up with an online casino) says the casino will not allow you to deposit more than £100 a month, but they allow you to deposit £200, you may be able to make a claim through IBAS.
IBAS will gather evidence and decide if the gambling operator acted within the relevant rules or terms. If they find that the operator has broken the rules, they will rule in your favour.
What Type of Dispute Can IBAS NOT Help Resolve?
IBAS does not help resolve disputes about poor standards of customer services that result in, or followed, a disappointing experience. This also includes complaints about their premises or facilities. You may be able to take this sort of complaint to the Small Claims Court.
They do not deal with disputes concerning safer gambling standards. All UK-licenced gambling operators must have measures in place to spot problem gamblers and have policies to minimise risks, e.g., self-exclusion policies or age-verification procedures. Typically, if you have a dispute of this nature, contact the Gambling Commission for help. However, IBAS can help with safer gambling standards if there’s a safer gambling element to the contractual agreement between you and the operator, i.e., if it’s part of the terms and conditions you agreed to.
IBAS cannot help in matters of fraud, e.g. if someone hacks your account and steals your funds. In this case, you will need to contact the police because it’s a criminal matter.
IBAS does not adjudicate or investigate issues with potentially rigged games, e.g., faulty RNGs or falsely advertised RTPs. Again, you need to contact the Gambling Commission for fair-play issues. They take the issue extremely seriously and they will remove an operator’s licence if they find evidence of cheating.
IBAS will not act if the operator closes your account before making a bet or otherwise prevents you from placing a bet. However, if the operator closes the account AFTER you’ve placed a bet, as an obstruction to payout, or if they cancel a bet AFTER you’ve placed it, IBAS can help.
How Long Does It Take To Resolve a Dispute Via IBAS?
It largely depends on the specifics surrounding the case. The more complex your case is, and the higher the potential payment award, the longer it will take. If the operator concedes the case (and many do at the simple mention of IBAS), the process will be much shorter.
In general, most cases take between 2 and 3 months from the submission of the Adjudication Form.
Can You Complain About Any Gambling Operator to IBAS?
No. IBAS only deals with claims concerning operators that hold a UK gambling licence and that have registered with them. You can find IBAS’s list of registered operators here.
If you cannot find the gambling operator on their list, then, as long as the operator has a UK gambling licence, it will be registered with a different ADR because all licenced gambling operators in the UK must offer their customers the ability to escalate a complaint to an ADR. This includes gaming machine operators (e.g. slots), gaming centres, real-world casinos and online casinos.
To find out which ADR the operator has registered with, contact them directly – they are legally obliged to tell you.
This highlights the importance of only gambling with UK-based operators if you want to ensure you protect your consumer rights.
What If The Operator Doesn’t Have a UK Gambling Licence?
If they do not have a UK gambling licence, an operator will fall outside IBAS’s, or an alternative ADR’s, scope. It is possible that the operator’s host country has laws that protect you, but there are no guarantees.
How Much Does It Cost To Use IBAS?
You’ll be pleased to know that IBAS is a free service.
Is There Anything You Need To Do Before Using IBAS?
Yes. Before you approach IBAS, you need to have made a reasonable effort to resolve the dispute using the operator’s internal complaints handling procedures.
At What Point During a Dispute Can You Use IBAS?
Any gambling operator that has a UK gambling licence has to offer its customers policies and procedures for dispute resolution. It must be clear and straightforward and meet specific standards set out by the Gambling Commission. They must be fair, open and transparent.
If you have a problem with an operator, you must complete their internal dispute procedure, and still be in deadlock, before you can open a claim with IBAS.
What If The Gambling Operator Takes Too Long To Respond To A Dispute?
Businesses can obstruct complaints handling in different ways. They do this in the hope that the problem disappears and that people give up. A common tactic is to drag their heels and/or ignore complaints entirely.
If the operator responds, but the dispute is not resolved within 8 weeks, you can refer the dispute to IBAS (or the relevant ADR).
After 8 weeks, if the dispute is unresolved, the gambling operator must provide you with information about how you can escalate the dispute with an ADR such as IBAS.
If the operator does not respond, you can contact IBAS after a week. They will then advise you about whether you can make a claim.
Do You Need To Keep Records/Evidence?
Because there are rules and regulations around using a service such as IBAS, it’s good practice to keep evidence of your complaints. Keep details of when and how you contacted the operator and what happened during each interaction. For example, keep phone records, emails and live-chat transcripts.
If you use a complaints tool such as Resolver, it makes it easier to keep track of your complaint because they keep the evidence on file for you. Resolver is a free complaints tool that can help you resolve disputes with more than 30,000 companies, including the big gambling operators, such as 888.com and William Hill Online.
Resolver is NOT an ADR. Instead, it’s a service used by the operator to manage their internal disputes. Therefore, it’s something that you would use before using an ADR (Resolver=internal complaints handling; ADR= external complaints handling).
Is There A Time Limit For Making a Claim?
Generally, IBAS puts a 12-month limit on making a claim. As long as it became clear in the past 12 months that you were unable to resolve the dispute via the internal complaints-handling procedure, you can use IBAS. If the disputed transaction happened more than 12 months ago AND there has been NO DOCUMENTED correspondence, then IBAS is unlikely to take up the claim. But there may be exceptions, so it’s worth contacting them to find out.
For example, imagine the disputed transaction happened 18-months ago, but for the past 12-months you’ve been locked in the internal complaints-handling procedure and it is now clear you can’t resolve it between yourselves, IBAS will take on the dispute. This is because you’ve been trying to resolve the dispute within the past 12-months. However, if the transaction happened 18-months ago, and you only tried to resolve it for the first three months, or you didn’t try to resolve it at all, IBAS will usually be unable to help as neither party has tried to resolve the dispute within the past 12-months.
What Sort of Gambling Games Does IBAS Cover?
Any gambling operator can fall within the IBAS’s remit including sports stadiums, racecourses, betting shops, adult gaming centres, bingo clubs, online casinos, gambling machine providers, etc.
Lotteries are a little different. Because of the nature of lotteries (you buy a ticket before the draw), there’s little scope for things to go wrong in a way that IBAS covers. However, they may be able to help with problems relating to regular repeat purchases or certain types of contract breach.
The best way to find out if IBAS can help you with a particular operator is to check the IBAS register here.
Can You Appeal Against An IBAS Ruling?
Both you and the operator can appeal a ruling, but only under certain conditions:
- The appeal happens within 40 days of the ruling
- IBAS made a factual error or mistake in their ruling
- New evidence came to light that was not available during the initial adjudication period
How Do You Find Out If You Have a Claim?
IBAS has a “Claim Wizard” on their site. You simply answer the questions to see if your dispute falls within their remit. There are two possible outcomes here:
- They will instruct you to create an account and fill out an Adjudication Form.
- They’ll provide you with information about other organisations that are more suited to help with your dispute.
How Good Is IBAS At Awarding Payments?
In 2019, IBAS received 6282 requests for adjudication and secured payouts of £634,426. You can find details about their payment awards here.