Who pays for palpable errors in odds under Italian gaming law ?

Palpable errors in the betting odds are a tricky issue in Italy with a conservative position from AAMS that is challenged by courts in recent cases.

Updated on 21.01.2017

The position of the Italian gaming regulator

The Italian gambling authority (AAMS) had held in 2013 with reference to a dispute relating to bets affected by palpable errors in the odds, the bet shall be in any case paid law since this is part of the bookmaker’s business risk. Also, according to AAMS, the mistake in the odds was not clearly recognisable in that case as it was not obvious and it was not possible to assess the psychological position of the players when they placed the bet.

Such position had created, and is still creating, major issues to operators that are “blackmailed” by players who try to take advantage of the above principle, requesting the payment of winnings, also when an error is clearly recognisable.

Operators need then to decide whether they want to go through a court proceeding or find a potential settlement. However, the view taken by Italian courts on the matter in recent decisions is expected to considerably help them.

The recent Italian court cases on palpable errors

In 2012 the Court of Rome had held in a dispute concerning a clearly mistaken odd published by an Italian licensed sports betting operator that the bet was not valid and the player had taken advantage of such mistake which was clearly recognisable by him.

Under the Italian civil code in case of errors

  • on an essential term of a contract (as the odd would be for bets)
  • which are clearly recognisable by the other party (i.e. by players in case of major mistakes in odds)

the contract (i.e. the bet) can be cancelled, with the consequential mere return of the amount bet.

Such decision was issued despite that the AAMS’ commission in charge of sorting disputes on sportsbets had held on this case that under Italian gaming law the bet had to be paid, regardless of the clearly mistaken odd. 

The matter is now even more interesting since the position of the Court of Rome was upheld also by the Court of Appeal which added that general civil law principle of law, such as the article of the Italian civil code dealing with errors referred above, prevail over gaming-related provisions. And the same view was taken in a similar dispute in 2014 involving a different operators.

Also, in both cases, the court obliged the claimant (i.e. the players) to the payment of judicial fees which should operate as a disincentive for players from starting this kind of disputes.

What’s going to happen now?

It will be interesting to see whether AAMS will now change its position on palpable errors, even just leaving the dispute to be sorted between operators and players under the terms of their player agreement and the general rules of law, as it happens in other jurisdictions.

This new approach would “cure” a scenario that is damaging operators and reducing the trust in the market.

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Giulio Coraggio

I am the head of the Italian Technology sector and the global head of the IoT and Gaming and Gambling groups at the world leading law firm DLA Piper. Top global IoT influencer and FinTech lover, finding solutions to what's next for our clients' success.

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