Talking Horses: warned-off punter claims bookmaker owes him £100k

Greg Wood
Photograph: Harry Trump/Getty Images

A punter who is currently warned off by the British Horseracing Authority for his part in a corruption case involving the footballers Michael Chopra and James Coppinger has claimed that Betway, the sponsor of West Ham United and official betting partner of Aintree racecourse, is using his past behaviour as an excuse to refuse to pay him £108,000 in stakes and winnings.

Douglas Shelley, a businessman from the north-east, was one of nine people banned from racing for a total of 70 years at a hearing in January 2013. Andrew Heffernan, the jockey at the centre of the case, was banned for 15 years for intentionally failing to ride three horses on their merits and passing on inside information for reward. Shelley, whose Betfair account was used to lay one of the horses, was banned for eight years.

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Shelley did not attend the hearing into the case, after being warned that it would cost a five-figure sum to be legally represented.

“Andrew rode horses that were owned by a company I worked for,” he says. “We’d often talk about what had worked well and what hadn’t and I thought that was just part of it [ownership]. Most of my bets were to win, it wasn’t laying on a mass scale but the truth is that I laid one of the horses.

“I wish now that I’d gone to the hearing to put my side, even if I’d done it myself. But I went to see a solicitor and they said it could be £40k or £50k to defend the case, and to be fair, I was guilty, so I’d probably only have got a lesser ban.”

Shelley admits that he has been gambling heavily for many years, and that it has cost him huge amount of money. He was a ‘VIP’ client with Ladbrokes for several years, but “lost so much money that I had to go bankrupt in 2012”. But he was still able to open an account with Betway earlier this year, depositing a total of £43,000 with the firm as results went against him and his losses mounted.

Then, in early April this year, his luck changed. Or so he thought.

“I placed a couple of single bets and an each-way double,” he says, “and both horses won. With the stake, the return came to just under £100,000.

“Within the hour, I had an email saying they wanted information on where I’d got my funds. I sent them my payslips, then they wanted bank statements. It was getting more and more intrusive but I sent them whatever they requested.

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“Then I got an email saying my account was restricted, and when I tried to have a couple of normal-sized, decent bets, they offered me [a stake of] £1. But when I wanted a £3k bet on Man United [against Barcelona] a few days later, they took it, so I was restricted on horses, not football. That lost, but I had another bet on Darlington, which won, and that was when they stopped me logging in to the account. As it stands, they owe me £108,400.

Shelley says that Betway have not responded to any of his emails about the balance since early August.

“I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me,” Shelley says. “I’m addicted to gambling but I’ve earned the money that I’ve spent on it, it’s not robbed or stolen.

“I’ve been bankrupt and not been in a good situation with the BHA, but that doesn’t make it right that someone can come along and not pay me out because I’ve had winners, or try to use my history as a reason not to pay me.”

In a statement on Thursday evening, a spokesperson for Betway said: “It is not Betway’s policy to discuss individual customers or cases. Betway is licensed by the Gambling Commission and is subject to strict regulatory requirements. These requirements include reviewing customer accounts to ensure our social responsibility, anti-money laundering and betting integrity obligations are always met.”

Friday’s best bets

The going is soft at Haydock as the track’s Sprint Cup meeting continues, but Ascot has had more luck with the weather – it has been dry since Wednesday according to Chris Stickels, the clerk of the course – and the ground there is good-to-firm.

That should be ideal as Ron Harris’s Eye Of The Water (3.05) attempts to continue the improvement he has shown when winning off marks of 68 and 74 in his last two starts. On the face of it, a further 8lb rise to 82 looks quite stiff given he had just half a length to spare over Sonja Henie, the runner-up, at Salisbury last month. The time of the race was strong, however, and both Sonja Henie and Devils Roc – who finished ninth – won their next start.

Seniority (4.10) has been running well all season without managing to get his head in front but has obvious claims, while Wafy (3.40) and Total Commitment (4.40) should also go well at Ascot. Youkan (2.55) ran well last time out and could offer some value at a big price in the claiming handicap at Haydock, while Gallaside (3.15) will take some beating in the nursery at Newcastle.


Newcastle 1.30 Croeso Cymraeg 2.05 Railport Dolly 2.40 Shauyra 3.15 Gallaside 3.50 Ascension 4.20 Dream of Honour 4.55 Scandinavian Lady 

Haydock 1.45 Tulip Fields 2.20 Strawberry Hind 2.55 Youkan 3.30 Wild Edric 4.00 Get Knotted 4.30 Qarasu 5.05 Maid In Manhattan 

Ascot 1.55 Amarillo Star 2.30 Law Of Peace 3.05 Eye Of The Water (nap) 3.40 Wafy 4.10 Seniority (nb) 4.40 Total Commitment 5.15 Durrell 

Musselburgh 4.25 Gamesome 5.00 Tor 5.30 Yoshimi 6.00 How Bizarre
6.30 Northern Society 7.00 Echo Of Lightning 7.30 Three Castles 

Kempton 5.40 Kheros 6.10 Stars In The Sky 6.40 Hot Summer 7.10 Charming Spirit 7.40 Land Of Oz 8.10 Chil Chil 8.40 Alma Linda