Goodwood – The Bookies View

Goodwood worries me. I don’t have a straw boater. I don’t have a gaudy yellow and red tie. My girlfriend isn’t called Caroline. I don’t drive a caravan. I’m a bookmaker. Any one of these marks me out as undesirable at Goodwood.

I chanced it. I find the road to Petworth prettier than the Midhurst option. Both riddled with caravans. Average speed 8mph. All blithering idiots in volvos rolling about the planet with their rickety little houses. Give me a cyclist – anything but this.. The forecasters predicted rain all week. So I left my raincoat. I took my bookie trilby and dark shades.

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I’d forgotten nothing. I was well prepared. Except for my entrance tickets. I rang the Goodwood office – I’m a huge telly star, I says. Sort me out please. Ehm, sorry we’ve never heard of you? Are you a student? Yes. I’m a war veteran, Chairman of the preservation of FOBT’s and President of the old European Republic.

They gave me a ticket to the Silver RIng. Which sounded nice.

I wandered past some 200 ring bookmakers to my betting position on the rails – every one of which had the favourite at 11/8. This seemed odd in an open market? Then I remembered two key rules..

1. Betdaq sets the prices for British racing
2. Any bookie that stands a favourite at a major racing festival for any more than 60p is officially barking mad.

 

Aaahh..

bookie2

I’m made of sterner stuff. I stood up, set my trilby in a rakish way, and smiled at some random blonde. She nudged her boyfriend. He checked his wallet and scowled back. The feature race was the Lennox. I stood the favourite for a reasonable sum. And lost a reasonable sum.
Goodwood is terribly pretty. And quite confusing. They seem to race away from you, hug trees in bits, perform loope de loops. Races are only declared over when the favourite wins. It’s quaint, and appealing. especially if you like jockeys with sunny dispositions, like Ryan Moore.

Goodwood-racecourse

I rang the office on the way home. ‘not much in it – we stood the Lennox favourite. That was us.’

Wednesday was much betterer. The forecast was rain, so I wore my fantasy island white suit . I entered the track past rows of bookies with number three at 7/2. perhaps the boards were stuck? Bear in mind before you reach for your Bet365 APP – these guys rival exchange odds, carry murderous loads of equipment into tracks, stand out in all sorts of muck and vilified in the press regardless of the fair bets they lay. I disapprove of exchanges on track, but surely they deserve your £2.50 each way more than Gibraltar 365?

I set out to stand the favourite in the Sussex Stakes. Trained by Aiden O Brien. He must have the cleanest backside in Ireland, it’s kissed that much :)  He stables Galileo – a kind of Irish superballs – . Not much can touch his offspring. O Brien for facilities, cash – and for sure his talent at getting them ready. His horses dine on smoked salmon. Race three times, are the greatest he’s ever trained and retired to stud at 18 months. He’s had 20 winners from 80 starts this year and leads Richard Hannon who’s had nearly 800 starts by a modest 4 million in prize money. it’s an unequal struggle. As a matter of public interest, the practice of cherry picking picks racing’s pockets too in Levy terms.

Anyway I had a sneaky fancy for a lively outsider in Godolphin’s Ribchester. This made the Gurkha value to lay at 15/8. No 7/4. I meant 13/8. Actually 11/8. Tremendous value! I stood him for a lump. And lost a lump. Ribchester got lost somewhere on his second loop.

I rang the office. ‘Lost.’ They pronounced. Stood the favourite for a chunk. They lost a chunk. There’s a pattern developing.

Champagne I thought. That’s the ticket. Pleasant oblivion. Everyone will want to hear my sob story. I headed for friends in Goodwood’s lovely, well managed and staffed champagne bar on the lawn. They still afford glasses for their best spending customers. I’ve always found it an oddity that certain racetracks, even the great and good of Jockey Club, are so myopically obsessed with plastic. Average charges of £75 for a class 5 champagne – served in cheap plastic beakers. It’s really hugely disrespectful to your best spending customers, and let’s be honest, poor business practice.

In addition, where’s the environmental concern in how we leave things for our children? A mountain of plastic dumped every year, because it’s cheaper than washing up. Ascot and York teach us one thing. Raise the bar on standards, is the only way..

plastic

I’m also fairly dissilussioned with business ideals of some tracks, based on the free sale of alcohol. Social yes, we all like to wind down. Unpleasant rowdy yobbos lagered up – no. Number of fights at Premier League establishments last year? None. Not a record the ‘Sport Of Kings’ can match!  Tracks can and must put safety and equal consideration for all, above the easy buck.

plastic pints on floor

One of these days the Gambling Commission are going to take a serious interest in the inebriated state of customers in betting rings, transformed by some tracks into giant pubs. Social responsibilty had better start taking a stronger lead in boardrooms, before licenses are examined, or worse someone is severely injured. I’ve seen some awful fights.   I’m impressed with Britain’s racetracks and the organisations, yes it’s a feelgood experience overall. However, many of us would welcome a serious change in attitude based on the views of older patrons, members or families.

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Anyway, I digress (on purpose). Thursday dawned – grey. Everything, including my blue suit looked grey. Horses appeared into and out of the gloom. I’m assuming Goodwood’s starter was in contact with the judge as every once in a while he’d cry ‘they’re off.’ We’d all stand about for several minutes until the favourite appeared out of the gloom at the half furlong marker. Queues for payouts also disappeared into the gloom. Big orange was the fancy for the feature Goodwood Cup. Jamie Spencer, famously departing from his normal ‘in the car park’ style, led pretty much all the way. I’d learnt my lesson  and stood him for a modest amount. And paid out a modest amount.

I rinsed out my suit back home and rang the office. The cleaner answered. All the staff had left. Left before they were pushed I expect🙂 I asked her to answer the phones.

Friday by contrast was a glorious day. A busting crowd, all jolly and happy at the weather, (forecast torrential rain.) Surely with my great skill I would wipe the smile of their faces? Bookmakers always win.

Except at the Festivals. I should have remembered as being loss leaders so savage for bookies these years. Naturally the favourite won the big race ta dum de dum. As did every other favourite bar one. By then even the punters had no room in their pockets for my dosh. Both here as in Galway I heard, as six more market leaders hosed up there. Several bookies were resuscitated by St Johns Ambulance staffers. Others staggered around bins competing with seagulls for scraps. A few jumped off the grandstand. Those that survived the fall were escorted back to their joints by security to finish paying out..

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I was x rayed by Goodwood security for money before I left. Fortunately I’d enough petrol in the bottom of my tank to get home. It’s mostly downhill, and if the worst comes to the worst, I could hitch to a caravan..

Saturday, I woke to the Morning Line and a huge brawl between the excellent Graham Cunningham and a Brontausaurus from Middleham. Johnson was telling viewers, desperate to find out what would win the 3.15, that they really weren’t interested in that at all. I remembered he’d once worked for the BHA and I began to understand the slates had fallen off the roof.  His views on outlawing racetrack concerts were equally funny. You have to hand it to Mark – he provided top value. Honestly though, I do admire folk in racing with opinions. Imagine a weekly show on the wonders of the horse and horseman. Fringe satellite fodder on mainstream TV. 47 viewers tops.

 

I entered the track to cheers from punters and sympathetic looks from St Johns Ambulance folk. The Stewards Cup followed a couple of obliging favourites. Recurring nightmare. I hate the bloody Stewards. The draw is all encompassing. I haven’t won on Goodwood’s bunfight since 1968. I was born in 1984.

Minding won a pointless race against horses rated 65 pounds inferior. Not outstanding, some comparing her to Ouja Board. Same eejitts who think Dancing Brave should now be rated 45. Shame she wasn’t trained by Kerry Lee. We’d have seen her at Ascot in a proper race. Not cherry picked for this farce and avoiding the men again. (And if anyone tells me Kerry is a jumps trainer..)

After the training gallop, Minding was ‘paraded’ in front of the stands. Moore never looked up once..

A blur of well fancied horses later, I strolled back to the bus stop. The car long since having packed up through fuel starvation.. I consoled my self with the thought my big betting competitors had spent their weekends working on ingenious offers like 10/1 Minding, or opposing Ryan Moore. That went well. An old guy gave me a fiver. I burst into tears.

My Saturday performance, nearly 2000 bets, lots of betting (sorry MJ) an absolute buffet of gorgeous crumpet, considerable turnover, considerable payouts.. Loss £108 – add expenses for the week, $4800. I came, I saw, I deposited.. I suppose also you could argue I ogled birds all day for £108. Better value than Minding

Goodwood is Glorious. It’s still a pleasure, well run and ordered, and despite the gap in my finances I look forward to it. I like the new management style. Years ago my Old Man told me he struggled to win there. This would have been pre-betting exchange days. The era of Harwood and Dunlop, and many alike. Now it’s Aiden o Brien in the summer and Willie Mullins in the winter. Bookmakers had better learn to bet better at these Festivals, and the pattern sorted out if racing is to prosper at all, as other sports do, from their best events. They cannot remain loss leaders.

ITV have to give me a job now. All this, and looks too..

summer

 

A referendum based on ignorance

I think I understand democracy. I grew up in a balanced and sensible state in which the majority were temperate and considerate of others. I fully understand the views of those about immigration. I drive the roads daily about my business and I see things getting busier. It’s frustrating.

I don’t understand the pensioners voting out. I find it hard to believe they could so soon forget living under the threat of war. There’s little question in my mind the only reason we haven’t been at war with anyone, other than sending our planes to distant states here and there, in an effort to  exert our glorified values on others, is because of Europe.

What is no threat is war with our neighbours. This happened twice in the last century. So it can happen, and it devastated nation after nation and killed millions. Europe may not be perfect, but there can be absolutely no doubt a collective of 28 nations makes us stronger politically and militarily. Putin is a strong and necessary evil. He invaded Crimea on a whim. NATO did nothing about that I noticed, as worthless as the UN if the USA doesn’t call the ball. One thing is for sure – he’s not about to invade Poland or Hungary. Because of Europe.

putin

I’m guessing some pensioners voted on concerns at the NHS. Little doubt the waiting times for them have become worse, and I’m certain the issue of operation times are a big concern to them. It remains centrally true it’s because our own pensioners live longer,  blocking up the system. Immigrants, by contrast, mostly a lot younger, play little part whatsoever in the NHS, other than to help staff it! If you voted to improve the NHS by leaving Europe, sorry but you’ve completely lost your mind.

I watched the debate on Europe avidly. I consider myself educated. I have to say the remain camp, with the odd exception as in Sadiq Khan, were excessively weak in their debating. They didn’t address the main issues. They failed to convince the voters. Corbyn was, well – just Corbyn. A 1980’s throwback. Invisible for several weeks of debate, to finally emerge with lukewarm support of Europe. That’s a leader? Really?

We were warned, over and over, by the economists, almost unanimously,  we would end up a lot worse off. We’ve take an immediate hit, averaging 10% on the markets. Yes, it’s actually happened! More if we’re talking about property companies. Your house is now worth less.

Now I hear from the leavers – it will be alright on the night, it will recover. But market collapse such as 30% off of Barclays isn’t a fluke, and you’re a fool if you do not realise you’re going to pay for it. It may recover, if you’re very lucky. Your pensions, dear pensioners, are worth an awful lot less. Don’t you think before you vote?

The truth is, in trade terms, we were better in.

property

Travel is already 10% more expensive as the pound has taken a severe pounding with the Bank of England desperately trying to console the market with platitudes and promises of liquidity. They’re ready to shore up the pound.

Now where have I heard that before?

If there’s one over riding factor, it’s the rise of right wing fascists. Boris might come over as an amiable bumbling buffoon, somewhat overplaying that card. He’s managed to make himself the most unpopular politician in Britain. Worse than Cameron or Corbyn. He told a pack of lies to the electorate and got away with it! Now he’s favourite to take over as prime minister of my country? Not in my world. An ultra right wing leader in the UK and the USA at the same time. Wars start so easily with such leaders. (Read Mein Kampf)

If Boris leads- I’ll vote with the party who tear up this referendum as the nonsense it was.

Take thorough caution of such men. We won’t discuss Farage, Britain’s Ian Foot, other than to say if you voted on his hate filled views, you need a shower.

farage

What should have happened? An ill educated, and worse poorly informed electorate should never have been given the ballot. The vote was virtually evenly split. That’s hardly a clear mandate to base such an enormous decision upon is it folks? Who came up with that plan? Fine, if a ‘majority’ voted us out, I’d shut up. But not this wishy washy deal. And my country, (Scotland) voted solidly in. Now they face the prospect of splitting from the Union to get their rightful way. On that I’m with Sturgeon for the first time in my life. She’ll be delighted.

Have any of you leavers worked out how much it would cost to completely redraft all of our laws now we’re out? I bet you haven’t even considered that.

Governments are voted in to lead, and make informed choices based on our mandate.Of course a postal worker in Darlington, or biscuit packer in Brentford isn’t going to understand the base economics of something as large as Europe. That’s why we have chancellors and law makers, who spend their lives negotiating on our behalf. Cameron was entirely wrong to throw it open to an ill educated public, and entitrely right to resign. He gambled on Scotland and won. He gambled on Europe and cost us dear. Fool.

What needs to happen? Parliament has to debate the true merits of exit, given what we have witnessed over the last couple of days, whether or not the UK is actually better served by leaving Europe as Boris Johnson and his group of half wits would have us believe, or whether we spiral into deep recession. The economic chaos has already started. The security issues will surely follow. 52% isn’t a majority. Far too many had no say. Far too many protest voted. For many weeks I struggled to understand what I was being told. I’m sure many of you reading this would be of the same view- whichever way you voted. People simply did not understand the issues. Some even thought leave as a protest vote that would never actually happen. They didn’t vote on Europe. it was some other agenda. What a farce.

boris

The fascist..

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And no, it’s not possible to control immigration on a planet who’s population is spiralling out of control. Perhaps we should consider whether bombing nation states to impose our will on other states, reducing the population there to living in rubble, is the right way to go about things. Perhaps we should consider whether the split in our nation, England and Wales vs Ireland and Scotland is what we intended. We are the best of friends right now, how can we contemplate division?

Enjoy your queue at passport control.

future

Outfoxed by Leicester

‘The bookmakers lost millions over Leicester’

Plenty of folk think that’s a giant pork pie. An outsider won – bookies made a packet, even if it was 5000/1. – liar liar pants on fire.

Forgive me for a streak of frankness here. You’re talking out of your backsides. PLC’s don’t talk about substantial losses. It upsets the shareholders. If you want to know how large corporations handle annual reports- see Tesco..

They lost. Bundles. Boo Hoo.

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For a lucid explanation as to the losses, see Nick Goff, head of oikball trading at Coral, who honestly dissects the loss. It’s a more than fair bet every other company thought the same way as Coral’s traders. Credit to Coral for a streak of honesty, and to the other lads who had to stand up at rival firms and admit what mugs they were.

https://gemsandrhinestones.com/

I’m not here to persuade you the whole thing isn’t a well thought out plan to make BBC news. You can either take what you’re being told as reasonably accurate, or sit there eating your egg and toasty fingers, mmmm tasty, with the attitude ‘bookmakers NEVER lose’

Because OF COURSE we don’t. See Cheltenham, another event we lied about losing over. Everyone got bundles.

leicester

Check out this attractive image – stolen by kind permission from Bruce Millington, the good looking editor of the Racing Post, the world’s greatest daily.

In this attractive image, you will note 11 of the 20 Premier League squads were priced up by my big cousins at odds of 3000/1 or more. That’s more than half the league for those of you bad at maffs. Over half the league could not win. No Sir E Bob.

So what are these firms playing at?  Anyone old enough to remember The Sweeney (the original -not the Winstone effort) will know bookies never price anything up bigger than 100/1. I mean what is the point? You’re telling anyone who considers a bet they’re a blithering idiot. (except if you live in the county of Leicestershire.) Only total hackers backed Leicester. All those for example who back Aston Villa every year, long ago consigned to the happy house, with their scarves and rattles.

Uhm no. There’s a mild flaw in the otherwise excellent, and to be fair, honest blog from Mr Goff. With whom I’ve had several Twitter barneys. None of which I’m conscious of losing.

He doesn’t admit those who offered 5000/1 Leicester are now in denial in coming up with that number. Check the table.

He doesn’t admit these offers are all part and parcel of the great ‘buy a customer at any price’ market a bookie culture. You don’t need to offer 7500/1 Bournemouth. Every plank on the south coast will back them at 100/1 with a big grin and tell their mates. It’s all about the generosity of firms prepared to offer even money each of two in a rugby match, with only the tie as the goalkeeper. A-La-Paddy Power. Ask the 650 employees booted out by that firm recently how super these offers really are.

minding

Of course, they’re all taking on big Aunt Denise and her gigantic wallet. Pulling out her cheque book last Sunday she offered Minding at 7/4 to with the 1000 Gns, at the same time as the competition excepting Betfred were 5/4 (including exchanges) If you look at the above image of their betting, you will find with Minding boosted to 7/4 – they were betting to 102% overround, with a distinctly unhealthy place book. This is called unsustainable margin. This is why Racing is so poor and you owners race for a couple of grand before expenses, and a free cup of racecourse tea.

Did the mighty 365 need to offer 7/4? She could have laid 6/4 from here to Peking, but that doesn’t buy a few more money traders. Good luck to the girl, she’s cleaning up all over the globe. She could buy my little firm several million times out of petty cash.  I hope she gives me a job some time soon.

Minding won by half a length.

Fill yer boots lads on these offers. Don’t be surprised if a few more super giants go to the wall. Start that with Jim Mullen of Ladbrokes who declared the whole offer thing daft, at the same time as offering enhanced SP’s. Well done Jim, King of the bollocks.

ladbrokes

So remember, when you read about losses at Cheltenham, The Guineas, or the oikball – they don’t have to lose. They could bet better. But choose instead to price themselves out of business. My money is on Denise. It might take a while, but remember to shake me by the hand as they topple. When they do, expect the price of admission for you mugs to increase.

 

5/6 Wigan vs Hull Kingston Rovers 5/6             12/1 the tie.

RIP

 

 

 

Racing and Betting- the unhappy marriage

 

Let’s keep things simple and you’ll appreciate an honest approach here..

On Track

A few years ago, a racecourse bookmaker would rock up to Lingfield, lay the  (false) favourite to lose a reasonable sum, have the second in the market ‘sweep’ the book and win an appreciable amount of money with everything else.

These days if you tried that tactic, laying not trading bets, you’d go flat broke within a month. Racing is less competitive, mired in short fields and target driven at larger festivals. The favourite you’re laying is the result of number crunching on exchanges, mathematically it’s the most likely winner. You’d be pricing a book to exchange odds, the 100% zero margin book. You’d be taking peanuts. Most meetings these days are levy driven affairs, to such a degree the track has little incentive to actually attract people to come watch. There would be no office money from major betting firms. You’d be trading every lay on exchanges to create sufficient margin to turn a bare profit. With so few punters about, you’re pushing the envelope on prices to the enth degree, literally betting to the bones to take what you can and trade. Most punters would be using their smart phones to bet with Gibraltar. You and your five colleagues would be standing in puddles.

The zero margin you’re betting to is being negotiated to betting companies around the globe offering guarantees against SP.

The on course market, based on trading numbers, differs from the off course market, which is based on risk. It requires complete disassociation from exchanges or exorcism from the SP mechanism. The two systems are simply not the same.

kempton

 

You’d have thought major betting firms wouldn’t be interested in derivating their odds from five tiny traders standing at Lingfield in the cold. I mean it’s laughable isn’t it? Betfair sportsbook taking odds from Jolly Jack. You’d be right in thinking that such a weak market is surely subject to integrity concerns. You would be right if you surmised the likes of Ladbrokes, whose liquidity could gobble up most firms would be quite happy to offer their own odds, based on their own lays. You would imagine responsible bodies like the SP regulatory commission would be flagging up those security issues for the sake of the sport.if not the Gambling Commission, the very Kings of ‘in denial.’

But you’d be wrong. For as long as aggressive supergiants like Paddy Power threaten to ‘go it alone’ on SP’s, basically undercutting the competition – there’s no chance of industry odds. Even if it’s entirely logical and business-like. Breon, you’re missing a chance to bet well dear, and save on sacking the staff..

Perhaps you’re an owner, trainer or racetrack manager reading this and switching off to the message. It doesn’t affect you, who cares if bookies lose? You’re a first class fool if you think that. They fund the sport. Directly or indirectly you need those shabby bookies and their grubby punters to fund your entertainment, even your life.

nay serving

Off track

PUT SIMPLY -RACING DEPENDS ON BETTING TO FUND THE SPORT

Aintree is one of the biggest betting festivals of the year. Allow me to highlight some of the benefits you could have enjoyed from the largest company, Bet365. The ones with the odd advert. This isn’t to drive you towards their offshore offerings, far from it! Fortunately not everyone lives for a free bet.

Bet365-Offer-Grand-National-2016

Their highlight deal, half your money back if your horse was beaten in the Grand National. You have to be joking surely?The premier betting heat of the year, run at a loss?

Most offers of this ilk take the form of free bets – disguised as money back. No wonder so many are enticed in. If you add in deals such as non runner no bet on ante post – the best deal ever devised by bookmakers for punters, it’s more than a golden age for punters, it’s a Cheltenham 100 million bookie bloodbath. Back Vautour in the Ryanair and the Gold Cup – you’ll probably end up with cashback for the gold cup and a 9/4 ticket about an odds on chance in the Ryanair. Think it’s a blip? Cast your mind back to last year’s Ascot.  Or Cheltenham in 2015, where the firms were one fall away from total catastrophe. As it was they lost last year on what used to be racing’s feeding bowl.

ap2

God bless Annie Power🙂

 

It will continue in this vein. Roulette will pick up the slack, but it doesn’t fund the sport

 

On other races at Aintree recent, 365 were prepared to offer a 100% book. In laymans terms – if you backed every runner, with an appropriate staking plan, the bookmaker simply could not win. Add to this their best odds guarantee, their Channel 4 offer to give you another bet if your horse won at over 4/1, and price matching the best odds of their rivals – it’s easy to imagine a significant loss being accepted on the race. By the way, the place book was 13% overbroke in one race. A guaranteed, and significant loss.

Is there a benefit to deliberately accepting a book loss? There can be in marketing terms and their bottom line allows 365 to pay a hundred million into their own charity, so Denise can tell me to go jump. I say can, because there’s a merry go round of bonus junkies, with their associated Mothers and Sisters running around the offer companies helping themselves to a small business, and eating her lunch. Traditionally they’re the ones who do the most whining about ‘not getting on.’

In amongst the traders, though, there’s the odd nugget who likes roulette. And that nugget pays for an awful lot of junkies. We’ve seen price wars like this before, many household names will disappear – replaced by an inevitable hike in prices, and wait for it, loss in sponsors. oops – still don’t care? See Easyjet, Tui for your historical data on market share wars etc..

william hill

The impact on other bookmakers is clear – they’re forced to compete – as William Hill did at Cheltenham. Their annual report discussed a significant and self imposed loss to the old firm. The cost to Hills of their ‘we’ll match everyone’ + best odds guarantee. Sell your bricks and mortar shares is my confident tip. If you pay tax and levy in the UK – you’re a million to one to compete with those operating almost exclusively in Gibraltar  – and keep a healthy Chinese speaking team to service your new client base!

Kung Pow Fat Ker-Ching a Stoke

If you’re a punter, and you’re surprised at being restricted as soon as you show a profit, or spend your time scanning websites for the best of the prices before you wager? Don’t be surprised anymore. Money supermarket offers don’t last forever – they know what you’re looking at..

offers

Ok, so you’re not in betting. Why should you care if these big bullies batter each other senseless and casually accept a loss on horse racing at what used to be betting’s most profitable festivals?

Because it’s a cancer on the sport. You can turn to racing right’s – as opposed to levy, but if the product isn’t profitable  – the outlook for a sport funded by betting is poor. You win the ABP battle and lose the war. 7.5% of nothing is, err, nothing.

It’s fair to say most people imagine bookmakers win all the time. Six favourites can hose up in an afternoon and I get people asking me if I’ve had a good day. Such inquisitors politely asked to get stuffed. It’s not rare to see 4 or 5 favourites oblige in a card- is that what you think drives bettors to get involved? Other folk think because Joe Coral make 150 million a year, from other products they market, that Racing is entitled to some of those profits. No idea why you should think that.

The bottom line for racing? It’s a pure marketing tool for other products, and our biggest and most profitable festivals are the new battle ground. Like the farmers selling milk to supermarkets. Undersold to further higher margin products. Gaming.

Denise Coates, let me be honest, take your squillions and go play in another yard, you’re junking the sport.

The current war between betting and racing over ABP’s and racing right would have further soured relations. Co-operating with a sport that yields less every year, but costs more to display is losing its appeal. We’re not the only sport. I know some out there think racing is amazing all the time – but the reality to punters is it’s fairly poor, most of the time.

punters

Unless Racing structures deals with betting companies that ensures margin for those firms trading on the product. Unless racetracks stop shooting themselves in the backside by offering superfast fibre broadband to on course traders. Unless we look to rework a failing product with a focus on quality – as opposed to quantity (which we cannot deliver upon by the way!) Unless we tackle the culture of avoidance amongst the sport’s biggest stars, – we will have problems.

Next time you experience Cheltenham and watch Douvan, Vautour and Annie Power hose up at attractive odds, non runner no bet, bonuses attaching – remember racing depends on profit from bettors. You can be as snobbish as you like about the sport, but you need the punters to fund it.

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Above – the queue for payouts 1 hour and 12 minutes after the last at Cheltenham

 

 

 

Cheltenham -the Bookies view

The Cheltenham Festival season starts with preview evenings. This is where a room full of 200 men drink pints of Guinness. There are rarely more than 3 women in the place. It’s a free fart zone.

Four or five ‘celebrity’ panelists try to make themselves heard above the general pandemonium. They’re discussing their fancies. One always tries to tip something which isn’t trained by Lord Mullins. Met by large guffaws from the punters. They’re not daft. The beer runs out and the evening ends with most people none the wiser.

Tuesday rolls along. First into the car parks are the bookies. They look nervous with good reason. Moaning hour typically starts at 11am. Griping is a kind of sport with Bookies. It’s cheaper than actually doing anything about it. Whilst I respect my colleagues for their fortitude, their inability to accept the basic premise that cutting each other’s throat is a clear character fault. The worst Betfair price merchants in the ring, typically the first to whine if someone else is seen to take more tickets.

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For by that, a racecourse without bookmakers ‘would be a very odd place.’ This in the view of a Judge I had occasion to meet of late. I hope racecourses fully appreciate that. They seem hell bent on racking up the charges, this strikes me as foolish. Bookmakers bring colour and atmosphere. Imagine Kempton on a drab winter’s afternoon without Bookmakers in the ring? Of course you can’t.

 

Supreme Novice. Here the specials start. Horse falls? – Free Bet. Non starter? Free Bet. Beaten into 2nd? Free Bet. Brown horse? Free Bet. In fact it’s safe to say you’re a complete idiot if you have a bet which doesn’t contain an offer of one kind or another. And of course Non runner no bet remains the daftest offer from any self respecting bookmaker.

 

Major betting firms set their stalls out to lose at Cheltenham these days. Engorged marketing departments assure executives they can secure increased market share. All you have to do is offer 10/1 Douvan to win the Arkle. Which seems a fair rate to me. William Hill offer the best deal, to match all their major competitors odds, all morning, on every horse, and then guarantee the same against SP. I won’t bore you with the maths, but the odds of prevailing with such a scheme don’t have a recognisable number. Were I the notional head of British Racing I would long ago have structured a deal wth betting that didn’t involve my sport being used as the tool to sell other products. But the BHA aren’t as bright as me it appears. The Bookmakers continue to treat the costly racing product as a weapon. A racing right that ignores it’s customers have to be seen to benefit from that product long term can only fail. That may mean a cheaper deal than 7.5%, but more benefits.

 

Douvan wins the Arkle.

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The Centaur is a huge arena. My firm joins five others in the annual struggle. Not a free bet in sight. No quarter given. I employ three very pretty girls to take the money. It’s sexist in the extreme. If the arena was warm enough I’d ask them to bet in their lingerie. I know this would upset the gambling commission, but they expect me to know the rules before they do anything about anything. My rules.

 

Day one starts with a seven race card. Mullins wins everything worth winning and leaves the handicaps to trainers who don’t complain about how much prize money Rich Ricci deserves. Ruby Walsh rides the odd winner and waves his pointing stick at the crowd as he rides in, pursued by Alice Plunkett and her pointing stick.

 

In the Centaur we struggle to keep up with payouts. I don’t remember it being like this when I was a nipper at the track. In those days the festival comprised three days. The Ryanair didn’t take from the Gold Cup. Nobody had heard of grade one animals running in the Mares Hurdle. Michael Dickinson would saddle five in the Gold Cup, as opposed to his modern day equivalent saddling one and sending the other four elsewhere.

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Worst result of the day isn’t actually Annie Power for us, who flukes the Champion. I wonder at Faugheen’s prospects against this wonder mare. A question echoed from racing’s anchorman- Nick Luck to Ruby Walsh. ‘It’s never going to happen,’ declares Walsh honestly. The legacy of individual horses rather second place to podium visits from the owner, coupled with daft excuses for the defection of Vautour. Poor show.

 

At 4pm exactly, one of my betting babes, Vicky, broke a nail. It happened so suddenly nobody was expecting it. People stood around looking shocked. The betting, the excitement of the horse, the flying finishes all seemed so unimportant now. It felt like another Annie Power flops the last moment.

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Wednesday was Queen Mum day. Results were bookie friendly with four skinny favourites getting turned over. Fear touched punters faces that day. Sprinter Sacre took the main prize, besting Un De Slow up Cheltenham’s formidable hill. The roof on the Centaur took a bashing that day. Perhaps as big a roar as when Dawn Run took her Gold Cup. As I watched Sprintre Sacre’s substantial arse amble away from a joyous winning enclosure, I rather hoped this would be his last hurrah in Racing. It would be fitting. This would be the first time I’ve ever actually made money from the Bigun’s victories.

 

I thought Hendo was taking far too long getting Sacre back in front of his fans, but I think a giant slice of humble pie is justified given his performances this year.

Then we have Zabana. Let’s examine this briefly. Here we have another starter, promoted from within Racing, as usual. He’s on his own tryng to judge if all of his horses are standing ready to go. He has no apparant assistance, is clearly inadequately trained, and the procedures are manifestly at fault. Connections prepare a horse for months – and lose out. Punters invest their money – and lose out. Bookmakers make ex gratia payments – and lose out. And Jamie Stier, the man in charge of the whole shambles at the BHA, says ‘it’s untidy, but we’re satisfied we did nothing wrong.’

Now of course this type of thing parallels the Speculative Bid case in many respects. I was called to Chambers by a rather sharp QC this week. Jonathan Harvie. He told me that the case was a ‘Supreme court case wrapped up in a £260 case.’ It could cost £100,000 in fees to the losing side, and going to press I stand alone in what i feel is the right thing to do. A horse denied a chance to run by another thoroughly incompetent official and by poor procedures. Connections who lose out. Punters who backed the horse denied a fair run under the rules, who lost their money. Betting firms who made yet another ex gratia payment. For how long will this archaic, old pals act of regulation continue as supportable, whilst the authority, in the words of the Judge ‘want to govern Racing, yet not be held accountable for its failures.’

Are their individuals out there, betting firms, connections and punters, tired as I am of these appalling failures, whilst they deny their role? Get in touch with me and take this opportunity to establish,  the Authority’s clear duty of care to all of us.

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I drive home to the sight of a large man in a pink tutu being propped up by his companion on the way home. I stopped to ask if he could spare me some change.

Victories from Thistle Crack at a silly price, Vautour in the also rans at a silly price and Limini in one of those silly mares races won by Grade one performers, ensure the bookies take a further battering. To be fair though, it’s mostly self inflicted. Bookies are frantically borrowing money from each other to pay the bills. I’m hosed down good and proper by a large treble on the three skinny favourites. I console myself that evening with an equally large double. I receive a missed call from the bank manager.

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My car breaks down on the way back to the hotel. I ring Ladbrokes who confirm that qualifies me for a free bet, provided I gamble it responsibly.

 

I felt pretty confident about the last day. I’ve never been to a festival that’s been completely one sided- I play the odds. It’s a grey day, we’re likely very busy in the Centaur. Crowds are typically huge. From the moment we kick off to final whistle we never stop taking bets…and paying out. The bookie Okey Cokey as three well fancied runners hose up. One bettor thrusts £4000 in my hand for Cue Card at 7/2. The book isn’t as balanced as it once was. I guess I got lucky, and unlucky as Don Cossack stayed past absent friends.

In the end it was a loss to bookmaking of circa 100 million, and before you start whooping and cheering, a consequential loss to racing totaling around ten million in Levy. It behoves the bookmakers to bet better and racing to consider how to best deal with top horses defecting from the best races for cheap gain.

 

Victoria Pendleton called to commiserate, and doubtless to tell me I’m too pretty to be a man. She reversed the charges. I couldn’t afford to pick up. Another loser I’ve backed..

 

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Geoff Banks, bookmaker Newbury 20.4.13 Pic: Edward Whitaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Champions Day – The bookies view

The figures from Channel 4 racing from Arc day and more especially Champions Day were disappointing. When you consider that 2 million watched a grungy game of Oikball between perennial under achievers in Spurs and Liverpool – it’s even more upsetting!

I mean it’s not as if Champions Day wasn’t riddled with drama and some top quality fare. Muharrar, Solow, Jack Hobbs and the King of the Okey Cokeys – Gleneagles all added to a heady mix. The world’s greatest racetrack boasted more fans than attended on Frankel’s last hurrah – so there’s packets of interest.

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So what’s the problem. It’s useful to separate the two days.  I think the decision to move the world’s premier horse race, The Arc, forward from its traditional late afternoon slot was nothing short of disastrous on betting turnover and viewers. People get used to timings.

Champions Day is much more of a worry. Given it was such a good card. A headscratcher. Is the coverage on Channel 4 poor? I don’t agree. In fact the quality of the programming has never been better, or more committed.

For some, their criticism about Channel 4 is based on the personalities involved,  I can only talk as I found. Producers were well aware I’m no fence sitter, it’s a big step to introduce the opinionated! The role is to engage the viewer.  I don’t do ‘what was your best ride’ – honestly who’s interested?  Racing feeds us a diet of interesting and controversial stories, with a show watched by avid fans of the sport. I noticed threads springing up on forums about the show, and often hundreds of tweets about what had gone on. I’d say this, there would always be an element who hated my very presence in front of the camers, who disagreed with what I had to say, or the manner. Particularly the famous Ruby Walsh morning!🙂 Comments can sometimes be personal and hurtful, but if they’re complaining – they’ll be back next week for more to moan about!

Some blame the rugby for poor figures, which took place after the last race, some the football which impinged on the first race. I’m sure there’s an element of truth in both.

Once again though, we should look inwards. And I’ve thought this for a very long time as folk will be aware. I’ve been fiercely critical of race planners and the BHA executive for it’s lack of backbone and a focus on cash over the sport. Nothing about Champions changes that view. Except to say the concept was well considered.

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If you believe Racing was affected by the rugby, you must also consider that Ascot was also affected by other tracks- once again in opposition to our feature card. Catterick, Ffos Las, Market Rasen, Stratford, and yes- Cork opposed Champions.

The feature event, the Champions Stakes went off at 3.05pm – sandwiched between the 2.50 at Catterick, the 3pm at Cork, the 3.10 at Ffos Las which took off as soon as the Champions was over, 3.15 at Market Rasen and perhaps most incredible of all a summer jump race at Stratford which went off at 2.55 and took 5 minutes to run.

5 races in direct opposition to the great race in a 25 minute window- one which was sent off 45 seconds after the race ended. No time for any post mortems – straight on to an appalling race- with not time to enjoy the celebrations or indeed to consider a bet. Not one of those races of any merit whatsoever. A buffet of grunge.

When racing rightly awarded Olympian Victoria Pendelton a permit to ride – and therefore raise the profile of the sport- her first major race coverage (where she managed a creditable 2nd) was eclipsed by an Irish race just before and an English one just after the event. Any attempt by ATR to rightly big up the event – was spoiled by planning for 5 year olds

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People in forums, twitter, social networking telling us over and over there’s too much racing and they tire of it. Either those in Holborn can’t read, pay no attention to a levy in freefall. In the face of such compelling criticism, from all quarters – and declining numbers everywhere- how can the executive of the BHA possibly make claim they act in the best interests of racing? Found a use for Ezoud’s blinkers in the boardroom..

Our best racing is opposed – not by football and rugby, but by other racing. I struggle to understand such planning. Perhaps people are just bored of too much racing to bother to watch, and you can hardly blame them when we run down the best of product.  Deal with that

Don’t forget to gamble responsibly..

Watching the Oikball the other night, sitting next to my Sons, I observed West Ham sporting their snappy outfits pressed and laundered by Betway. Newcastle were sponsored by those nice people that lend money – Wonga. The stadia was adorned with Betway bunting. The adverts during the game were predominately sponsored by companies claiming their users ‘gambled responsibly’ – Especially Ray Winstone, who I doubt has had a tenner on anything in his life. But it’s great viewing for children. Honestly

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If you like to watch sport, you’ll get used to this. If you like your late night telly – you know – stop camera action from the police force in Reading, the best looking penis, or shows about cars with fabulous emission ratings, you’ll also have become used to proliferation of gambling adverts. Some of whom sound almost heroic.
Of course we’re encouraged to ‘gamble responsibly’ by the yellow sign that tells us all (subliminaly) that when we’ve had enough FUN FUN FUN – we must learn to stop.
In other words, when you’ve run out of cash, maxed out every credit card you’ve got, kicked the fruit machine to bits, mortgaged your home to the hilt, turned your Missus into a Lesbian, and of course made the BBC documentary on ‘Britain At The Bookies’ – the home for all genuine sad acts, – then you’ll have truly arrived in the worlds of Bet365 and William Hill
If you’re in the minority, like me, the Mary Whitehouse types, you might pause for a moment and wonder what effect this siege of advertising has on our phsyche- not to mention those of our children. I mean we stop cigarette adverts, so why is it permissable that EVERY ad break tells us we have to spin to win? And sometimes more than once a break?

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And of course, as every independent bookmaker and decent minded citizen knows- The UK’s ‘watchdog’ – the Gambling Commission, with all its fees and hype – does absolutely nothing. Nothing at all, to justify its very existence. ‘To protect the vulnerable.’

The ‘vulnerable’in this case appear to be online gaming giants

Little known- but worth mentioning, back in April I challenged Paddy Power on promotions headlined with the banner ‘money back’ on certain wagers. This was a headline grabber and peddled widely in the press. I invited them to desist from encouraging customers to wager under the entirely false assumption certain stakes would be refunded, when in actuality the customers were being refunded in ‘free bet stakes’. Of course the two are entirely different offers

Paddy Power declined to remove promotions with said headlines.

I challenged this with the ASA as misleading and wholly false. The challenge was upheld and they were ordered by the authority to cease free bet promotions with the headlines money back.

Paddy Power were not alone – Many firms were doing exactly the same, and in direct contravention to an earlier ASA ruling against Betfair for the same type of claims. These firms were directly contravening an earlier ruling

The question is this. Why did the Gambling Commission, the custodian of fair gambling and the vulnerable, not step in at any stage to order such promotions to be withdrawn? Is this agency actively complicit in protecting such firms from basic licensing conditions? Were said firms not in fact contravening several codes in licensing practices with such claims?

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I think I’m a fair minded bookie. I try to give my customers a better class of service and compete on odds with the high street. And as a bookie you might expect me to side with my own. I mean I do have a gambling site. But I don’t bombard people with adverts at 2am about it, and if I were to shove it on my occasional trips to Channel 4, where I upset the establishment for your viewing entertainment, I’d get my backside kicked off pronto.
I’m deeply uncomfortable with what goes on. I feel for those who are suffering. I favour a UK wide ban on anyone who self excludes – not backed by the Gambling Commission. I disagree with the use of credit cards to fund gambling. I disagree with Gibraltar outfits shoving their ‘online’ products to Racing. Although I scoff at the BHA’s lack of backbone in any department, all sound bytes.
I hear a lot of complaints from punters, some of whom could accurately be described as ‘bonus junkies.’ The new breed of professionals who scour the bookie websites for top of the market hits. I have some sympathy with the bookie view that a lot of those types of customer are worthless to us in business.
BUT. If Paddy Power are to offer even money each of two in a Rugby match, with just the outside chance of a handicap ‘tie’ to save them, if Skybet are to offer a loss leading 6 places on the Cambridgeshire, if Coral are to offer 6/1 each of 2 in a tennis match to new customers only – and all of them make money, then I know they’re not getting fat on those sports, especially the increasingly worthless racing product.
So they’re fattening on gaming. – NAP

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Bet365 seem totally content to treat their customers with err, uhm contempt, by offering a customer, their customers, a £1 wager. They don’t care about the PR implications of being described by the same as ‘total frauds’ for describing themselves as ‘Bookmakers.’ Because they’re global. And for every clued up punter they treat so poorly over here, there are perhaps 5% of these new accounts they dig up that make the whole exercise of pushing for new business worthwhile. And deeply profitable. One can admire their bottom line, if not their methodology
Should we feel sympathy for those professional types who complain so vociferously? Clearly we care about the genuine punters who fluke a 16/1 winner and find their next wager batted down to 36p. But the pros?
For myself, I never keep a customer on if I’m not prepared to lay him or her a bet to lose at least £50 as a minimum, and remember that’s my minimum, not the average of what we’re prepared to lay. But that’s because I have standards. I may not like what some customers get up to, but if I do, I close them down with a fair explanation of why it’s been done. We do not hide behind ‘trading decisions’
But the big companies are the ones peddling the prices and offers. They’re continuously driving for new gaming custom and fully prepared to be ‘best odds guaranteed’ or ‘best prices for all Channel 4 races’ – even if it guarantees a loss. It’s a bit like the supermarkets claiming they make nothing from milk, because they choose to sell it so cheap to get the customers into the stores in the first place. They don’t care if the dairy farmer ends up out of business.

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These ‘companies’ have created the bonus and offer culture. The free bet. I heard recently Coral offering a guarantee to lay any horse to lose a decent amount, I’m uncertain if it was Coral’s diminutive UK division or their Gibraltar arm making the offer, because its hardly clear who you’re wagering with when you call up ‘Coral.co.uk’ . They’re not prepared to offer it online, nor even on their phones. Once again a headling grabbing offer that turns out not quite as good as it sounds. But in a way I support any move towards a sensible lay to lose – I’ve always advocated £100 as a startpoint. Coral stand alone in proferring any sort of guarantee to date, even if it’s only in their shops.
But they’re a multi million pound outfit, still un prepared to offer their advertised odds to all of their customers. A bit like Waitrose saying it’s 50p for that Cadbury’s flake, but not to everyone. Isn’t this sort of thing a trading standards issue? And of course pretty much all of the other outfits are exactly the same. Complaints litter about what they don’t do, far more than what they do. Now why is that?
So the next time you think about grabbing yourself a ‘free bet’ for a tenner. Ponder awhile. If you can afford not to support firms who behave with such overall disdain for large sections of their customers, why would you support them with your business? If you want change, you have to be prepared to boycott those firms you consider place little real value on loyalty.
And should they be mandated, as they are in parts of Australia, to lay a fair bet to any price they offer?
Well the Gambling Commission don’t agree with you, but I most certainly do.

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