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Nigerian authorities to investigate SportyBet over N950m unpaid winnings

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Nigerian authorities to investigate SportyBet over N950m unpaid winnings

Nigerian authorities is set to investigate online sports betting platform, SportyBet, for refusing to pay over 100 of its customers their winnings totalling over N950 million.

Speaking on a virtual media call, the counsel to the customers, Kunle Bamidele, said SportyBet denied them access to their accounts depriving them of withdrawing their winnings. He also rejected the allegations that the customers were involved in fraudulent activity.

Bamidele said the customers numbering 114 approached their chamber, PRO-LEX Solicitors, to represent them after the sports betting platform refused to resolve the issues using their internal mechanisms. He said the customers deserved to withdraw their winnings and also have access to their accounts.

He said: “Over 100 customers of the online sports betting platform, SportyBet, who were refused payment of their winnings totalling over N950m and access their accounts, have taken strong action in response to the company’s claims of fraudulent activity. This follows recent reports from IT experts who cast reasonable doubt on SportyBet’s accusations.

“Unhappy with SportyBet’s explanation for withholding winnings, a group of affected customers have filed petitions with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Police Special Fraud Unit (SFU), the Force Intelligence and Investigation Department (FIID), the National Data Protection Commission (NDPC), Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) and National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).

“SportyBet previously attempted to justify their actions by alleging the customers used bot technology and illegal automated bets. These actions suggest the customers may have been unfairly denied their winnings. By seeking intervention from relevant authorities, the customers hope for a thorough investigation and a fair resolution.

“The involvement of the EFCC and the Police Special Fraud Unit highlights the seriousness of the situation. These organizations specialise in tackling financial crimes and fraud. Their involvement suggests a deeper look into SportyBet’s practices may be necessary.

“The customers deserve clear explanations and transparency from SportyBet. With independent experts raising doubts about fraudulent activity, the responsibility falls on SportyBet to provide concrete evidence to justify their actions. Customers who play by the rules deserve fair treatment and to receive their rightful winnings. The outcome of this case will be closely watched, as it has the potential to set a precedent for future disputes.”

Bamidele insisted that the customers duly won the winnings in their respective accounts, which Sportybet has denied them access. He said the customers played by the rules and that they never used the accounts for fraudulent activities.

According to him, the N950 million is accumulated winning the customers over some time. He noted that the highest withheld winnings in a single account was N74 million while the lowest winnings was N100,000.

He said if the petitions to EFCC, police, NLRC and FCCPC fail to give the customers the needed justice the law firm would have no other choice than to approach a court for redress. He maintained that they have confidence that the relevant agencies would serve the interest of Nigerians who are about to lose their hard-earned money.

Apart from the petitions, indigenous and International IT and Cybersecurity experts, have dismissed the statement attributed to Sportybet’s refusal to pay customer winnings to a cybercrime syndicate using bot technology and fake odds.

SportyBet’s statement aimed to deflect blame following media reports of deliberate account restrictions and unexplainably withholding winnings from customers, stating, “the accounts are identified and verified as being simultaneously abusively operated using bot technology by an international cybercrime syndicate, it is important to note that all 42 accounts are associated with the same foreign IP addresses and that the accounts repeatedly attempted to submit similar or identical illegal automated bets with fake odds that we did not publish.”

However, IT and cybersecurity experts have come forward to explain why Sportybet’s statement is impossible.

“From my observation, the betting operator uses Cloudflare. Cloudflare protects websites from man-in-the-middle attacks. It prevents third parties from putting unauthorized content into your website– which in this case would be creating fake odds as they have claimed. But since Sportybet uses Cloudflare, it is impossible.” said Michael, a cybersecurity expert at Amazon who shared evidence of the operator’s protection being in place long before the affected customers placed bets with the company.

Artem, a 15-year iGaming and Sportsbook veteran who provides software used by betting companies across EMEA, said, “Honestly I can’t imagine how any syndicate could do that in general.

“The odds are being provided by huge international sportsbook providers, most of them have people monitoring the security and fixed games round the clock.

“But even then the people don’t have any influence on what’s coming from the provider, so no one can feed “fake odds” into the system and even attempting that wouldn’t help much in my opinion.”

“Reading the response, I think the possibility of an external entity creating fake odds in the Sportybet platform is very very low. Very low.” Said Franklin Ugwu, an IT professional in the UK with over 12 years of experience. “It is impossible for anyone to create odds on their platform without having the password or access to the backend.

“Unless the operator is claiming collusion with members of its team, it’s just a very unlikely event and in fact– it is impossible since the Sportybet employees themselves don’t even have access to the odds as they come from big international suppliers through API connections and any attempt to alter that would have logs that would show any infringement.”

Speaking on Sportybet’s claim of multiple users submitting similar or identical odds, Tunde, a sports betting influencer said, “I don’t think it’s unusual for many users who do not know each other to bet on the same odds.

“On Twitter, for instance, there are tipsters, many of whom are influencers for these same sports betting companies, who post bet codes for their followers to copy. This can easily make 10,000 people who don’t know each other bet on the same matches every single day.

“The response from Sportybet sets a very dangerous precedent in the Nigerian betting industry: What’s stopping any bookmaker from claiming every win is from fake odds not created by the company? What happens then?”

This situation highlights the importance of clear communication and robust consumer protection measures within the online gaming industry. The onus remains on SportyBet to provide fair treatment for all their customers.

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