Talking Horses: Justice For Punters gets timely reboot before Cheltenham | Horse racing

The biggest week of the year for betting turnover on racing is almost upon us and here come the ads full of pumped-up punters, projecting the image of gambling that the bookies want you to see: bonuses, free bets, a giddy four-day Ride of fun and frolics in the west country with a rousing chorus of Sweet Caroline to round it all off. And for thousands of their customers in Cheltenham week at least, the reality may not be too far off the mark.

If, however, you turn out to be one of those whose experience of betting with the UK’s regulated gambling industry is totally different, here is a website you might be glad you bookmarked.

For the last six years, a small group of volunteers at Justice For Punters has been offering free advice to punters in dispute with gambling firms, steadily building on their experience from hundreds of individual cases and, in the process, extracting £2.6m from operators that they had initially refused to pay out. On Monday, its site and operation relaunched in a new guise, and while it no longer accepts individual inquiries, its aim is that in the future, it will do all it can to ensure that punters can help themselves.

J4P was founded by Brian Chappell, who worked tirelessly on issues around fair and transparent treatment for punters alongside another veteran campaigner, Paul Fairhead, until the latter’s sudden death 18 months ago. Both had wide experience of life at the sharp end of gambling, and in particular, of how individual companies can use vague and unfair Terms & Conditions – which customers agree to on sign-up via a tick-box – to avoid paying out on bets , confiscate balances and other dubious practices.

Chappell decided in November that the workload involved with J4P was becoming unmanageable, and has spent the last four months putting together a number of detailed “self-help” guides for punters who want to pursue a claim against a bookie. Options are set out clearly and plainly, with an honest assessment of pros and cons.

In addition to disputes over bets, another guide considers the possibility of forcing firms to refund vulnerable punters who may have been exploited, for instance via a “VIP” scheme which offers free tickets to big events and other gifts to high-stakes players, so long as they continue betting. Again, there are no promises of success, and an extensive, highly personal account of one punter’s journey into the depths of despair due to gambling addiction pulls no punches at all.

“The workload became much more challenging with the sad, unexpected death of Paul Fairhead 18 months ago,” Chappell says. “I’ve missed him immensely. After six years, hundreds of cases, thousands of hours, £2.6m returned, it’s time for J4P to provide self-help guides for punters, because J4P can’t go on doing the same amount of voluntary work forever. We hope they are useful.”

1.00 Len Brennan 1.35 Massini Man 2.10 Activial 2.45 Geometrical 3.20 Kyntara 3.55 Hazard Collonges 4.30 Tarseem 

1.45 Our Bill’s Aunt 2.20 Broomfields Kan 2.55 Cartonne 3.30 Jante Law 4.05 Indian Brave 4.40 Motown Lake 5.10 Grey Dawning 

5.30 Caribbean Sunset (nb) 6.00 Obtain 6.30 Red Showgirl 7.00 Nellie French 7.30 Raabeh 8.00 Clap Your Hands (nap) 8.30 Seagulls Nest 


Quick Guide

Greg Wood’s Monday tips


1.00 Len Brennan 1.35 Massini Man 2.10 Activial 2.45 Geometrical 3.20 Kintara 3.55 Hazard Collonges 4.30 Tarsem

1.45 Our Bill’s Aunt 2.20 Broomfields Kan 2.55 Cartonne 3.30 Jante Law 4.05 Indian Brave 4.40 Motown Lake 5.10 Gray Dawning

5.30 Caribbean Sunset (nb) 6.00 Obtain 6.30 Red Showgirl 7.00 Nellie French 7.30 Raabeh 8.00 Clap Your Hands (nap) 8.30 Seagulls Nest

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The new material on J4P’s also moves beyond dispute resolution to include articles that every punter should read. A piece headed “Making an informed choice to gamble” details the day-to-day realities of customer-tracking, bet restrictions and dubious T&Cs that the operators would prefer to keep under wraps.

With publication of the government’s white paper on reform to the gambling laws now imminent, there is much here for all sides to consider as a new regulatory regime for UK gambling takes shape. Chappell has been hands-on with the reality of how the current system of regulation operates for years, and remains deeply sceptical about what the next Gambling Act is likely to achieve for punters.

“After six years helping punters obtain £2.6m they were owed, J4P’s volunteers have become disillusioned with regulators and others who are close to the gambling industry,” Chappell says. “Very few seem interested in transparency, which is crucial to fulfilling the main objectives of UK gambling regulation, by being as fair and safe as possible and keeping crime out of gambling. We do hope the new self-help guides really help people to continue fighting for justice as J4P steps back.”

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