Rails bookmaker and Racing Post columnist Geoff Banks has taken up the issues of licensing and the situation regarding on-course trading by Betfair – particularly in their sports lounge at Ascot – with the Gambling Commission, writes Jim Cremin.
Bookmakers remain upset at the variance in tax and expenses they face compared to internetbased exchanges. One gripe is over facilities that appear to be on-course trading rooms that they say attract people engaged
professionally in laying bets but who are regarded as recreational punters in taxation terms.
Provision of the facility has become important to some courses, with substantial fees being paid by in-running traders to use corporate boxes. However, Banks has been told by a Gambling Commission compliance officer that the
Ascot facility does not constitute a trading room. Bets are, in effect, taken through a separate company, Betfair General Betting Limited, which is a bookmaker, and then hedged into the exchange.
Banks pointed out this route covered punters backing horses on the exchange, but not the laying of bets. He said:
“Course bookmakers are strictly controlled. We face tests as to our probity and pay fat fees, but then someone can in effect stand near us and lay horses without control. Somebody’s having a laugh.”
Banks also raised with the commission concerns about some in-running betting where broadcasting time delays enable on-course exchange players to lay horses who have already fallen.
However, Banks was directed to the Gambling Act 2005, which states:
“A transaction may be a bet despite the fact that (a) the thing has already occurred or failed to occur, and (b) one party to the transaction knows that the thing has already occurred or failed to occur.”
A debate in the pub about who won the FA Cup in a certain year is cited as an example of something that leads to a bet, despite the result being known.
Originally featured in The Racing Post Tuesday, March 8th 2011