When we place a bet with a bookmaker or even a betting exchange, we enter a contract of agreement.
We agree to hand over our stake money to back the particular player/team/outcome on our betslip, and in return the bookie agrees to pay out if and when our selection lands.
The act of paying out on a bet is known as settlement, and this refers to the period of time between the event you have wagered on finishing and your winnings being paid into your account.
What Does a Settled Bet Mean?
So, when a bookmaker talks about settling a bet, they are referring to the process of either a) closing your action if your selection loses, or b) paying up when your picks have prevailed.
Some bookmakers have two folders for your bets – unsettled and settled. Clearly, unsettled bets are those which have yet to be completed – maybe the game is still live, or set to take place in the future, i.e. ante post wagers.
Settled bets are those that have either won or lost already.
There are some instances where settled bets can be changed after the fact, of which we’ll reveal more shortly.
When Will a Bet Be Settled?
It’s something of an arms race between bookmakers these days to be considered the fastest and most responsive online, and so you can often expect your bets to be settled well within the standard 30-minute window outlined in many firms’ terms and conditions.
Some bets will be settled in-play, e.g. if you have wagered on the first goalscorer market, you will be paid up within 30 minutes of the goal going in, rather than after the game. Bets relating to first half matters, or perhaps the first set of a tennis game or the first innings of a cricket contest, may also be settled while the match is still ongoing.
There are reasons why bet settlement can be delayed, however, and these can be split into three broad categories:
- Where the result is disputed
- Where technical issues occur
- Where there is a ‘force majeure’
One of the most common reasons for a delay in your bets being settled is where the final result is being disputed, for example where a horse race goes to a photo finish or steward’s enquiry. The announcement of the winner in these scenarios can, occasionally, take quite some time.
Sometimes, a football game will be abandoned or suspended when there is a freak weather situation or where crowd trouble sees the contest either temporarily halted or a result standing. In these cases, bet settlement will be delayed while the bookmakers await the outcome of a referee or official’s decision.
It’s worth noting that the vast majority of bookmakers get their final results from third party sources, and so where there are technical difficulties – sometimes a feed will go down – it can cause delays. It would be impossible for a bookie to manually settle all bets, and it would be very difficult for them to finalise results in-house for the thousands of markets that they cover each day as well.
A force majeure is generally defined as ‘an event or circumstances beyond the control of the individual party’. A power cut would be one example or a worker’s strike an extreme, but not totally impossible, example of another scenario which could see bet settlement delayed.
Don’t forget that bets may take longer to settle during busy periods, too. Saturday afternoons, where thousands of football betting markets are played out simultaneously, is one such case, and anybody that has backed the winner of the Grand National will note the frustrating delay while the bookie settles the thousands of bets they have received.
If the event you have bet on has been finished for a long time and your action hasn’t been settled, you should get in touch with that brand’s customer service department – making a note of the individual bet number if you have one.
Can My Bet Change After It Has Been Settled?
Usually, the bookies are pretty good at delaying bet settlement until absolute confirmation of a result comes in.
But, occasionally, results can change after an event has finished, and in this case the bookmaker has the legal right to re-settle your bet – that said, it’s incredibly rare that they will ask for their money back.
For example, think about those times where Olympic athletes or cyclists are stripped of their medals after failing doping tests further down the line – in this scenario, it’s incredibly unlikely that your bookie will come calling for your cash.
In the rarest of instances, a bookmaker may settle markets incorrectly due to some kind of technical error. A winning bet may be re-settled as a loser, or vice versa.
And any bets placed in a way in which you have been perceived to gain a material advantage can also be re-settled. For example, a technical error may mean that a betting market is still shown as live even after the event has finished – in these cases, wagers placed at a time after the gremlins have been discovered are likely to be settled as pushes (i.e. your stake is returned, and the bet settled as a non runner).