For physical casinos, the desire to have a wealth of electronically run games makes complete sense. An electronically run roulette wheel negates the need to have a croupier or a pit boss, which obviously saves the casino money. Similar things can be said of blackjack or three card poker games, all of which have become electronic in a number of casinos up and down the country. For online casinos, their bread and butter is electronic gaming, given the added expense and difficulty of having live versions of casino games.
Of course, with the added use of electronic casino games comes the increased possibility that something will go wrong with them. Whilst something can go wrong with any game that involves moving parts, at least when it is game that features a human being, it’s much easier to know who to turn to to resolve your problem. When you’re playing on an electronic game in a casino or using a game online that suffers an error, the same thing cannot be said and it’s difficult to know what to do next. We’ll look to explain that here.
Errors Aren’t Common
The first thing to acknowledge is the fact that errors aren’t actually all that common in casinos. When you consider just how many people are playing games on a regular basis, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that more things don’t go wrong on a more regular basis. You could last your entire casino-using life without ever encountering a problem and that would be par for the course. That shouldn’t be all that surprising when you consider the fact that all games machines are put through tests on a regular basis, ensuring they’re in working order.
In order to have a licence in the first place, the creators of games, both online and the machines used in casinos, have to prove that they are fair and in working order. As long as you’re playing on a game or machine that has been created by a well-known developer, the chances of something going wrong are slim. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, of course, but rather that assuming it will happen to you is likely to prove a misguided assumption. In the vast majority of cases, even experienced casino users will never have to worry about an error.
Why It Sometimes Happens
For all that most bettors don’t need to worry about machines or games that they’re using crashing midway through their playing time, it does happen. The question is, why?
Internet Connection Lost
The most common cause for those playing online is a dropped internet connection, either at your end or at the end of the casino that you’re playing at. The inability of a computer at one end of the chain to send and receive information packets is frustrating, but unfortunately there’s not a lot that you can do about it apart form ensure that your equipment is up to date.
Whether the error is because of something that has happened at your end or the online casino’s end will dictate what happens next, with the same being true for those that are playing at physical casinos. There was a case in a London casino once of something being absolutely convinced that the touch roulette wheel hadn’t paid them out correctly, causing the pit boss to come over, stop taking bets and take the machine apart to show the game that had just taken place again. It turned out that the person in question was just drunk and had bet on Red when they thought they were betting on Black.
‘A Malfunction Voids All Pays and Play’
That is the quintessential example of user error confusing the issue around machines that don’t always work in the way that they are supposed to. In that instance, the fault was entirely that of the player’s, but it isn’t exactly unheard of for a machine to make an error from time to time and confuse people as a result. Most electronic games, both in physical casinos and online ones, have a message buried away in their small print that announces that ‘A malfunction voids all pays and play’, meaning that if something goes wrong then tough.
Whilst it might seem like this is especially a problem if the error is yours, sometimes the opposite is actually true. You might imagine that if your internet were to go down then that would be your problem and you’d simply have to suck it up, but the truth of the matter is that the game will often play out without you seeing what happened. This can feel like a swizz if you end up losing your bet, however sometimes the bet works out in your favour and your internet can reconnect to reveal that you’ve won a decent chunk of money.
What Happens with Errors
What happens with an error when playing a game will mostly be dictated by the error that has occurred. If your internet suffers a connection problem, for example, you’ll sometimes be in a situation where the reels on your slot game keep spinning. When this happens, you’ll normally find that you can carry on the game from where you left off once you’ve sorted your connection issue out, with the previous result having been recorded. Yet what happens when the error comes in the form of an incorrect payout, say?
If you have been underpaid then the correct thing to do is to flag this issue with the casino. It can sometimes be something as simple as a graphical error, but you still need to resolve it either with a customer service person in the casino itself or the customer services team if you’re playing online. The bad news comes if you’ve been overpaid, meaning that you owe the casino money. You might think this is a good thing and simply keep quiet about it, but that’s not how these things work and is why you should read the terms and conditions.
Pay Back Excess
Within the Ts & Cs of online casinos, there’s a clause that says you are responsible for paying back any excess money that you’ve been sent. You can, of course, withdraw the money and close your account, but you’d still owe the casino money and the law would be on their side over the issue. This means that they would be within their rights to pursue you for the money. Things are a little different in a physical casino, so you might be tempted to take the money and run. They might well have your picture stored should you ever go back, though.
When Casinos Can’t Resolve Problems
It is not unheard of for customers to feel as though the casino that they’re dealing with has not satisfactorily solved their problem. If you wish to take things further then the most important thing you need to do before anything else is at least give the casino the opportunity to fix your problem, given that dispute resolution services will not look at your case if you haven’t first exhausted all possible options with the casino in question. Sometimes, however, turning to an Alternative Dispute Resolution Service is the only way forward.
ADRs are, theoretically at least, independent bodies that will look at both your argument and the argument presented by the casino before reaching an agreement. In most cases, casinos are bound to obey the decision reached by the Alternative Dispute Resolution service, up to a certain amount of money. Punters, however, are not bound in such a way and can choose to take things to court of they wish to. Because of the expense of doing this, it is rarely the road taken by the vast majority of people, who usually settle via another means.
The Punter That Won £1.7 Million from Betfred
When Andrew Green was playing Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack on the Betfred site in 2018, he thought all of his dreams had come true when he’d triggered jackpot and won £1.7 million. When he tried to withdraw his winnings, however, he was declined and soon heard from the gambling company, who said that the game had suffered a ‘defect’. The third-party that supplied the game recommended to Betfred that they withhold payment of the winnings on account of a ‘software problem’.
Dissatisfied with Betfred’s response, Mr Green went through the complaints process before his case eventually ended up in front of the High Court. The 54-year-old claimed that Betfred were unfairly withholding his winnings, whilst the gambling firm said that their terms and conditions meant that they were right not to pay him the £1,722,923.54 he was expecting. Having waited for three years to get his payout, during which time he claimed he was going through ‘hell on earth’, Green eventually got paid by Betfred when the judge sided in his favour.
Whilst Betfred paid him out immediately, they did so through gritted teeth, releasing the following statement: “Mr Green won the jackpot three times whilst playing a game provided by one of our third-party suppliers. The supplier reported a software problem to us and advised that we should withhold payment. However, we will abide by the court’s decision and not appeal. We would like to apologise to Mr Green for the delay in receiving his money.” From his point of view, of course, he’ll just be glad he got his winnings.
Confirming the decision to side with Mr Green, the Judge, Mrs Justice Foster, said, “I am of the clear view that these clauses in the terms and conditions are inadequate to exempt Betfred from the obligation to pay out on an ostensibly winning bet or series of bets.” As a result, Betfred will almost certainly have changed the terms and conditions in order to ensure that they were far more watertight for any future legal issues that they might encounter as a result of a game malfunctioning and a player claiming a payout.
No Jackpot But a Steak Dinner Instead
In 2016, Katrina Bookman was playing on the Sphinx Slot Machine at the Resorts World Casino in the Queens area of New York City. She thought that she had won $43 million, which would have been the latest ever jackpot to be won on the slots in the United States of America at the time. She took a selfie with the screen behind her, convinced that her life had changed forever and that she was now a multi-millionaire. The bad news was, the casino didn’t agree that she had won the top prize and instead offered her a steak dinner.
There had been, according to the casino, a technical error and she was actually entitled to $2.25. Given that Bookman had being playing on a penny slot machine, it seemed obvious to the casino that it was a mistake. The casino said of the matter, “Casino personnel were able to determine that the figure displayed on the penny slot was the result of an obvious malfunction; a fact later confirmed by the New York State Gaming Commission.” The Gaming Commission said that ‘Malfunctions void all pays and plays’.
Bookman hired Alan Ripka to be her attorney, who decided that the only way forward was to take the casino to court. Speaking on the matter, he said, “You can’t claim a machine is broken because you want it to be broken. Does that mean it wasn’t inspected? Does it mean it wasn’t maintained? And if so, does that mean that people that played there before had zero chance of winning?” He claimed that requests made to Resorts World to explain how the machine had malfunctioned had gone unanswered.
The Sphinx Wild machine is not linked to any others and is not a progressive machine, with the maximum possible payout stated on the machine being $6,500. As a result, it’s likely that the US Courts will have sided with the casino over the issue. It is proof, were it needed, that both online jackpots and physical ones can go wrong from time to time and what happens next depends on a number of factors. In the case of Bookman, the fact that the machine was unable to payout such a huge sum meant that her case was really always doomed to failure.