The Betfair Happy Hour Scandal – Should Casinos Honour Their Mistakes?

One of the most common causes for player complaints against casinos is that they have been dealt with unfairly. Obscure terms and conditions have been invoked in many cases, or casinos have seemingly overreacted and take exception to some minor infringement, all with a view to prevent payouts. While this is still a problem at the lower end of the market, particularly amongst less than scrupulous casino operators, its now unlikely to affect players who choose to play with a well recognised casino brand.

Imagine the shock then facing the gambling world when Betfair ran into difficulty with one of their promotions. The betting giant, which has an international reputation as one of the leading names in the industry, ran a promotional effort which would soon backfire, with their actions leading to one of the most high profile gambling fiascos of recent years.

Back in 2010, some bright spark from the Betfair marketing department decided to launch a promotional offer, known as their Happy Hour – essentially, players were offered an unlimited deposit bonus with a low 10x wagering requirement for one hour. Players who deposited in accordance with the terms of the offer during Happy Hour were to be funded with bonuses, with no upper limit on the amount players could claim.

No sooner had the Happy Hour promotion got underway that Betfair realised their mistake. Players quickly piled in heavily behind the offer, and the company soon found itself on the hook for what was reportedly an 8 figure sum – in other words, tens of millions in exposure, on this one promotional offer alone.

No doubt at least one or two people lost their jobs for that error. But Betfairs response would send shockwaves through the online gambling community, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of players, and seriously denting their reputation as a trustworthy gambling operator.

Betfair started closing down accounts, confiscating player funds, and effectively shutting up shop around their bonus offers. Instead of owning up to their mistakes, they chose instead to blame players for suspicious betting practices, effectively accusing them of bonus abuse – simply by taking advantage of the terms of the bonus offer they themselves rolled out.

So was this the right reaction for Betfair, upon realising the magnitude of their potential losses? Or should casinos own up and do the honourable thing when it comes to their own mistakes, no matter how much it costs them to own up?

Reputation Counts

Reputation is a huge part of what it takes to be a successful casino, and many casino companies have spent years developing an unimpeachable reputation for fairness, honesty and transparency. At the same time, mistakes do happen, and anyone can make a simple error which goes on to have pretty devastating consequences.
For a company the size of Betfair, this kind of response looks amateurish at best, and rightly led to a PR storm that no doubt continues to have a serious impact on their business. Once a reputation has been tainted, its hard to shake that image – mud sticks, and when youve done something as aggressive as Betfair in trying to avoid your liabilities, even in error, its simply not a good look.
Worse still, the approach of actually blaming players is unbelievable, given that the blame for the error lay undeniably with the casino themselves. So not only did Betfair cause the fiasco, they even fed the flames, aggravating their customers and doing untold damage to their business – far beyond the rumoured 8 figure losses on the day.

While swallowing losses of that size is a big deal, even for a giant like Betfair, its simply no way to treat customers, and no way to run a business. It looks as though self-preservation kicked in, and in fairness, the mistake could have been even more serious for the fortunes of the company. But especially in an industry that thrives on casino integrity and trust, theres simply no excuse for this kind of behaviour.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

Many casino brands have reached the top of their game by being honest, and its a lesson others could do to learn from. Players need to have trust in their online casino platform, and theyre not stupid. Operators that try to pull the wool over the eyes of their players cause damage to themselves and to the wider industry.

If there is any good to have come from this, the Betfair fiasco can now serve as a textbook case study of how not to respond to high profile mistakes, a cautionary warning to other operators dealing with similar internal disasters in future.

About Dan K

Dan is a Southern hip-hop historian who hitchhiked from his home in rural Pennsylvania to Montreal to pursue his dream of working in a call center. Within days of seeing his first computer, @dankmtl became a twitter celebrity by skewering the evil and stupid in immensely entertaining fashion.