(7) Football Pools and Sponsiones Ludicrae
Members of a football pools syndicate thought that they had won a £2.5 million jackpot on the Littlewoods pools, but then discovered that the Littlewoods collector had never passed their coupon on to the company and had stolen their stake-money. Littlewoods refused to make a pay-out. The collector was convicted of theft. The syndicate members raised an action against Littlewoods, but it was dismissed as irrelevant by Lord Coulsfield on 28 March 1996 (Ferguson v Littlewoods Pools Ltd 1996 GWD 21-1187; 1997 SLT 309). The primary ground of dismissal was the doctrine of sponsiones ludicrae, i.e. that a debt arising from a gambling transaction such as a football pool is unenforceable in the courts (McBryde, Contract, 577-581). The syndicate members reclaimed, and the appeal was due to be heard by a Court of Five Judges in December 1996. However a settlement was announced on 3 December. Although details remained confidential, it appeared that the syndicate members had exhausted their funds, and that Littlewoods had made no payment to them.