Captain Jack Andrews — the pseudonym of a prominent East Coast bettor and analyst — has heard it all before, so when a man from the Midwest reached out to him in December of 2020 saying he felt like he had been taken advantage of by William Hill sportsbook, Andrews decided to take a look, but with trepidation.
“I tend to vet these claims pretty harshly since the last thing I want to do is be stuck defending an angle shooter,” Andrews told CO Bets via email.
So he vetted. And what he found was a straight shooter who won a $500 parlay (taking it down for over $2,500) and then, when he attempted to withdraw his winnings, watched as the sportsbook took the winnings away, leaving him with only the $500 he initially deposited.
On March 23, some three months later, and after repeated attempts to figure out just what happened with both William Hill and the Colorado Division of Gaming (CDG), the bettor received the final word from the CDG: No dice.
So what, exactly, happened out in Colorado?
“I travelled from my home in the Midwest to Colorado in December to do some early season skiing,” the bettor said, via email. “I was excited to do some sports betting while I was there because I knew there were some good promotions that most of the sportsbooks were offering for new users. One of the books I signed up for was William Hill. They offered a $500 free bet if you deposited $500. I deposited my $500 and placed my $500 free bet on a 3 leg parlay.”
Which, as stated earlier, he won.
At this point, the bettor decided discretion was the bettor part of valor, and went to withdraw his winnings.
“I believe I elected to use PayPal for my withdrawal method,” the bettor said. “It asked me how much I wanted to withdraw and stated my balance available to withdraw as $3,057.19. I typed in the full amount and submitted it. The next day I checked my PayPal account to see if it had processed yet and did not see my funds. I went back into the William Hill app and saw that the full amount was back in my account. Thinking that there must have been some sort of issue, I attempted to withdraw again using the same method and for the same amount.”
And this is when things turned sour.
“A few minutes after this attempt I got two emails from William Hill,” he said. “The first was notifying me that my account has been suspended indefinitely and the second informing me that I am no longer eligible for bonuses and that all my current bonuses and free play has been voided. I initially assumed this just meant I couldn’t do any bonuses in the future, which I found annoying but not that big of a deal. I soon found out that they meant I would not be getting the funds from my winning parlay. I combed the T&Cs and found the section in question. If I remember right, it basically states very vaguely that they reserve all rights and can withhold winnings if you abuse the bonus and try to immediately withdraw it. After a few days they lifted my account suspension and I could see that my balance was only the initial $500 I had deposited.”
At this point, the bettor reached out to William Hill customer support, got nowhere fast, and was told the decision was final.
And that’s when he reached out to the Captain.
Ok, let's check the terms.🧐 Here's where you'll have to trust me, as I didn't screenshot the terms of the promo back in December but this is from my correspondence with the customer then: pic.twitter.com/LhD4HNVEkw
— Captain Jack Andrews (@capjack2000) March 23, 2021
This is your captain speaking
“I scrutinized everything about his claim and was able to find the T&C of the promotional offer (long gone now) which stated the bonus could not be withdrawn before being wagered,” Andrews said via email. “I then took it to my guy at William Hill who usually helps me with customer complaints. He is fairly high up in the company. He told me he’d contact CO support and have the bettor try again with support in a couple days. He did, and their reply was the same. Their decision was final.”
After that, Andrews counseled the bettor to take his complaint to the Division of Gaming.
“Given the terms of the promotion stating only the bonus needed to be wagered and given that he had said he’d gladly wager more (although by this time he was back in Iowa), I figured CO Gaming would mediate an acceptable solution of letting the player wager on,” Andrews said.
That, however, did not happen, despite the bettor’s repeated calls and emails to the CDG.
Hence, the letter the bettor received on March 23, which read, in part, “the division’s investigation found William Hill’s General Terms of Service under Section 14 and the promotional rules to this promotion prohibit patrons from attempting to withdraw an initial deposit and only wager the match bonus associated with the deposit. By attempting to withdraw your initial deposit with your free bet winnings, William Hill deemed the activity as a violation of their terms and conditions.”
Ultimately, the investigation determined that William Hill did not violate the applicable Colorado Division of Gaming’s Sports Betting Regulations under Rule 6.13 of the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Sports Betting Rules and Regulations.
If a licensee refuses payment of alleged winnings to a patron, the licensee and the patron are unable to resolve the dispute, and the dispute involves at least $1250, the licensee to whom the wager was made must immediately notify the Division. The Director shall conduct whatever investigation is necessary and must determine whether or not payment should be made. An agent of the Division may investigate the dispute and may report either to the Commission or to the Director for a decision.
— 6.13 Patron disputes, Subsection 3, Colorado Sports Betting Rules And Regulations
“Beyond what we issued in the letter, we don’t have much more to say on it,” wrote Suzi Karrer, a spokesperson for the Division of Gaming, in an email to CO Bets. “We received the complaint, investigated the issue to our fullest capacity, and rendered a finding based on our rules and regulations, which is our role as the regulatory agency.”
The fine print
A look at William Hill’s current terms and conditions in Colorado, under Section 14, deals with “FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES, BONUS ABUSE, PROHIBITED TRANSACTIONS AND FAILED DEPOSITS.” In it, the section states, “an attempt to withdraw an initial deposit and or only wagering the Deposit Match Bonus associated with the Qualifying Deposit … We reserve the right to suspend and/or close Your Account and recover bad debts using whichever method may lawfully be available to Us.”
Tough read, that Section 14.
- FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES, BONUS ABUSE, PROHIBITED TRANSACTIONS AND FAILED DEPOSITS. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate play, bonus abuse and fraudulent activity. If, in Our sole determination,
You are found to have cheated or attempted to defraud Us and/or the Group or any other user of any of the Services in any way, including but not limited to wagering manipulation or payment fraud, manipulation of the multi-currency facilities, betting on all possible outcomes or opposite sides of an event, an attempt to withdraw an initial deposit and or only wagering the Deposit Match Bonus associated with the Qualifying Deposit, multiple/grouped accounts linked by device/static IP/cashier and betting exploitatively, or if We suspect You of fraudulent payment, including use of stolen credit cards, or any other fraudulent activity (including but not limited to any chargeback or other reversal of a payment) or prohibited transaction (including but not limited to money laundering) or if Your deposits failed to be honored by Your bank for any reason, We reserve the right to suspend and/or close Your Account and recover bad debts using whichever method may lawfully be available to Us including, but not limited to, (i) debiting the amount owed by You from Your Account; and (ii) instructing third party collections agencies to collect the debt. This may have a detrimental impact on Your credit rating and will require Us to share Your personal information (including Your identity) with appropriate agencies and to report any criminal or suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities
Furthermore, in response to an inquiry from CO Bets, Michael Grodsky, a spokesperson for William Hill, pointed to the terms and conditions to the promo, which ran through Feb. 28. The T&Cs include the both of the following, under sections eight and nine.
8) A Participant who requests a withdrawal without first wagering the Deposit Match Bonus associated with the Qualifying Deposit may have that Free Bet voided at the sole discretion of William Hill.
Clearly, William Hill took full advantage of that “may” clause above, and:
9) There is no rollover or wagering requirements on any winnings earned from Free Bets; however, a Participant must wager through their Qualifying Deposit in order to cash out any winnings earned from the Free Bet.
William Hill also addresses the topic of withdrawals in Section 10 of its Terms and Conditions, a provision entitled “cash-outs.”
Section 10: CASH OUTS
10.1 Your account balance is the amount of real money held in Your Account (if any), plus any winnings and/or minus any losses accrued from using the Services, and less any amounts previously withdrawn by You or amounts forfeited or reclaimed by Us due to any known or suspected fraud or due to deposits or other transactions rejected or cancelled by Your bank or any relevant third-party bank (whether as a result of insufficient funds, charge-backs or otherwise), or any sums which are otherwise deductible or forfeited under these Agreements (‘Account Balance’).
10.2 Acceptance of a cash out request is subject to any deposit method restrictions, bonus restrictions, betting volume and/or Security Reviews (see Section 18 below) and any other terms of these Agreements.
So it would appear the bettor needed to wager his initial $500 to withdraw his winnings. Clear enough.
Worth noting, however, is the language William Hill is using concerning their current, $2,021 Colorado free bet promotion: “There is no rollover or wagering requirements on any winnings earned from the Free Bet.” Full stop. No “however,” no mention of wagering through the initial deposit.
It would certainly appear that William Hill has changed their minds on this issue and given some clarity.
Another provision in Colorado’s sports betting regulations, Section 7.11, provides guidance to sportsbook operators on rules pertaining to patron account withdrawals.
Section 7.11 Patron account withdrawal
(a) A patron must be allowed to withdraw the funds maintained in his or her account, whether
such account is open or closed.
(b) A Sports Betting Operation must honor such patron request to withdraw funds within five
(5) business days of the request, unless the conditions set forth in subsection (c) are met.
(c) The Sports Betting Operation may decline to honor a patron request to withdraw funds
only if the Sports Betting Operator believes in good faith that the patron engaged in either
fraudulent conduct or other conduct that would put the Sports Betting Operator in
violation of the law.
Is it too late for the bettor from the Midwest? It does not appear that the Division referred to the section in rendering its decision.
‘About the principle’
“Basically, CO Gaming didn’t look into the case more than enforce the letter of the CYA boilerplate that WH uses for everything,” Andrews said. “If you read through WH’s T&C you’ll see they can pretty much do whatever they please for whatever reason they choose with no repercussion. I mean, if CO Gaming wants to regulate that way, then hooray for the operators, and tough shit for the consumer. It definitely erodes consumer confidence – as was evident by the replies and retweets in that Twitter thread today.”
They're all thieves.
They black market will continue to exist forever BECAUSE of BS like this with the supposed "legal" and "licensed" operators.
— Patrick Keogan (@patrickkeogan) March 23, 2021
As for the bettor? He’s obviously not happy with how it all played out.
“I am mostly done with this situation now,” he said. “It’s consumed far more time and effort than $2,500 is worth to me. At this point, it’s not really about the money, it is more about the principle and the precedent it sets. I think it is completely criminal for an operator to state funds are available for withdrawal, allow you to submit a withdrawal request, and then steal the money once you submit it. Every other book that I have encountered has a set play-through requirement for their bonuses. From what I have seen, when the bettor has money that requires play-through, the sportsbook lists 2 balances on the cashier page, usually along the lines of ‘wagering balance’ and ‘balance available for withdrawal.’ Once the play-through is satisfied, the entire balance becomes available to withdraw. By not doing this, William Hill is electing to be much more vague with their requirements, creating a trap for unsuspecting betters.”
He’s also not expecting any further resolution.
“I am not expecting to get that money back from William Hill. I’ve moved on,” he said. “The situation was a moderately expensive lesson learned for me, but the circumstances that caused it were unfortunate at best and borderline criminal at worst. On top of that, my experience with the CDG (being ignored completely, extremely slow responses, etc.) made things that much more difficult.”
As for William Hill’s official response to CO Bets’ requests for more information concerning this episode? In full, from Grodsky, it is: “Below are the official rules from the promotion being discussed. These rules were available on our website throughout the promotion.”