Gambler who bet Rangers would be relegated loses £250K claim against bookies

Lord Bannatyne
Lord Bannatyne

A punter who placed a £100 bet at odds of 2500/1 for “Rangers to be relegated” from the Scottish Premier League has had his £250,000 claim against the bookmakers rejected after the company refused to pay out.

A judge in the Court of Session ruled that the simple, natural and ordinary meaning of relegation was to be found in the SPL rules and not in a dictionary.

Retired bookie Albert Kinloch, 72, raised the action against Coral Racing Limited, arguing that the bookmakers’ position was “unfair”.

Lord Bannatyne heard that the pursuer placed the bet in September 2011 when Rangers were second in the SPL, but that was against a background of widely reported concerns about the financial situation of the company operating the football club.

The pensioner visited Coral Bookmakers in Tollcross Road, Glasgow and asked what price they would offer and he was quoted odds of 2500/1.

The cashier called her head office and confirmed that the bet was okay and he decided to take his chances and place a bet of £100 as he thought it was “a good throw away bet”.

He wrote on the betting slip “From SPL …Rangers to be relegated” and said nobody at Coral suggested that they would only pay out if Rangers went down on sporting prowess or on points.

The court was told that Rangers Football Club Plc went into administration in February 2012 and entered liquidation in four months later.

The football team which played in the SPL under the name “Rangers Football Club” in the 2011/2012 season had finished in second place in the league but was docked 10 points because its owner and operator went into administration in the course of the season.

In June 2012 the administrators sold the business to SEVCO Scotland Limited, but the share in the SPL Limited previously owned by The Rangers Football Club Plc in terms of the SPL Articles of Association was not transferred to SEVCO Scotland Limited because the application was refused.

Dundee Football Club was transferred a share and played in the SPL in the 2012/2013 season, which started in August 2012, while a team with the name “Rangers Football Club” played in the third division of the Scottish Football League.

According to the pursuer it was “common knowledge” at the time that he placed his bet that Rangers were in “financial troubles” and he knew that clubs could be relegated for financial reasons from what had happened to Gretna in 2008.

So far as the ordinary natural meaning of the words contained in the bet the pursuer’s construction was based on dictionary definitions: “relegate is to move to a lower class (football) or to move to a lower division of a league (sport) or move down/demote”.

Counsel for the pursuer argued that it was “not fair, open and transparent to read the SPL rules into the contract”.

It was her position that the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 were directly applicable to the contract and that the bet placed by the pursuer was covered by the 1999 regulations, the purpose of which was to “redress the balance” in bargaining power between the consumer and the supplier.

However, the judge rejected the pursuer’s position, which he described as “misconceived”, adding that the regulations did not apply because the pursuer was a “professional gambler”.

In a written opinion, Lord Bannatyne said:  “I did not accept the pursuer’s evidence as credible where he sought to portray himself as an ordinary person in relation to gambling and as someone who was not carrying out his business, trade or profession when he placed the bet. For the above reason the 1999 regulations do not apply to the contract.”

He continued: “It was either unchallenged evidence or a matter of admission, that what happened to Rangers at the material time was this: the Rangers Football Club Plc sold inter alia the one share in the SPL to Sevco Scotland Limited.

“That sale required the approval of at least eight of the members of the SPL. That application was refused. It was thus no longer eligible to play in the SPL.

“It thereafter applied to the SFL and was permitted to join the lowest league of the SFL. The foregoing process cannot be described as being moved by anyone to a lower division, or being moved down or demoted.

“The dictionary definitions are not apt to cover what happened to Rangers. I am satisfied that what did not happen was that the SPL moved or demoted Rangers to a lower division.

“Rangers ended up in a lower division by the entry into a contract which allowed them to join the SFL in the third division.”

The judge added: “The background information reasonably available to both parties at the time of placing the bet was this: Rangers were in very serious financial difficulties and what had happened to Gretna in light of financial difficulties.

“In those circumstances if the pursuer’s construction is correct the chances of Rangers not being in the SPL in the following season were very high. They were very considerably higher than if the defenders contended for construction was correct.

“On the basis of Rangers footballing strength at the material time, as shown by their final position in the league even after deduction of 10 points because of their financial difficulties, the chances of their being relegated in terms of the defenders’ definition of that term, were very slight indeed and might properly be described as highly unlikely.

“Having regard to the above circumstances I believe that the odds set are a clear indicator that the defenders contended for construction with respect to this matter is the correct one.”

© Scottish Legal News Ltd 2021

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