Open Letter to Bruce Millington – Racing Post editor.
Regards Racing Post headline January 5th 2017
‘Regulator’s concern at allegations of ‘Sharp practice’
Whether the regulator was concerned at what the bookies were getting up to – or the Racing Post- isn’t clear at this stage..
It’s tempting I understand to follow in leading betting experts like Tony Calvin, with his calls for police to be involved over a 16/1 chance shortening to 14/1 (big deal). I also completely understand a lifetime as a punter doing your coconuts, that you don’t run out every Christmas to get bookies a card.
You do run what is now another commercial arm of big betting, with horsey news stories tacked on the end. You’ve become the bookmaker Bruce- targeting the little firms at the sharp end whilst you quoff your champagne with the big bookie executives in their lovely private boxes. (For the veracity in that statement – please see the adverts in your daily rag)
The majority reading this will be fully aware of your ‘commercial’ approach to editing, that is when you’re not scribbling about referees, who scored the goal etc. If it’s a sponsor of the paper, careful editing and the very independence of the paper naturally sacrocanct to the almighty dollar. You make no bones as to who pays the piper.
In my opinion..
To boot the output of the paper you have responsibility for is evidently chastised by punters (readers) for its failures, in their view, to properly highlight issues with big betting, their muddy terms and conditions, nasty little machines and a thousand telly adverts a minute,. Months of adverts in the Post touting money back offers that simply didn’t exist, perhaps you didn’t notice as you banked the cheques?
QED – when you paste headlines inferring a trade body culpable in sharp practices, without a bit of Columbo work to ensure its accurate, and your best supporter is Big Mac, its got to be a bit worrying..in the meantime you make all of us look deeply shabby. All on your front page- so rarely utilised to criticise bookmakers. Given the quality of your work here, I find it all thoroughly unprofessional and cheap.
It’s tempting once again to turn on those who don’t prop up the paper, but stand in the driving rain – providing a lot of people with a valuable service- and keep racetracks in business.
I also contacted Gambling Commission Executive Director, Tim Miller. He was thrilled to talk to me. But they’re an honest bunch too. I paraphrase a bit in saying you ambushed the poor fellah with this drab. He confirmed to me the Commission, who regularly place investigators on course, (they come disguised as 16 year olds) had no evidence of any price rigging. Nor was any investigation in play. Say it isn’t so? They therefore had no concerns, other than to respond to your headline. Did you therefore misrepresent their interest? They didn’t know what you were talking about. Nor did the SP regulatory commission.
To give an analogy, you rang up the police to ask if they would take a dim view of car theft, and they told you how nasty that would be, and you stuck it on your home page almost as if it had occurred. You could have helped yourself to yet another BHA own goal- but let’s be fair on the eternal fail that is Harman, he’s had a bad couple of years fending off Chris Cooke and The Dikler, can’t possibly monopolise the news every week can he? Gambling Commission weren’t confirming in any way Mr Smith’s comments. They know Andy Smith forms one part of a Christmas double act with Tony Calvin as the panto donkey.
It’s 5/6 each of two who’s at the ass end of the same.
So what was the basis of your stories? Rumour, or fact? Did you consider the livelihoods of those you so cynically cheapened? Most people don’t care about little bookies, but that doesn’t mean we deserve your unfounded reports. Were your reports, in fact, based on any known facts, or do you feel you have the right to say as you please?
Mr Smith was not in fact betting at Cheltenham. That’s helpful information isn’t it Bruce? A point not mentioned in the first report of skullduggery. I wonder if anyone bothered to check? I did.
Of course old Andy has previous form with regards to letting his tongue wobble and making unsubstantiated remarks.. Odd that I’ve always liked Andy in a strange sort of way, he’s a character and there’s few of us left, but everyone knows he’s prone to this sort of rash comments.Nobody thought anyone would listen to him. Except you. Oh dear me.
What you did was garden variety irresponsible and lazy journalism to curry favour with a few punters. Oh those nasty bookies again.Grade A tosh. You haven’t a shred of evidence to support your position, although to be fair newspapers historically aren’t famous for caring particularly about the facts. .
I wonder if you appreciate using expressions like ‘sharp practice’ without foundation is on the risqué side? Just the kind of thing top wags like Jonathan Harvie QC eat for their lunch. You see the whole episode was picked up by ITV, ATR and Racing UK. All reporting on your little tittle tattle that never actually happened and getting richer in the accusations. I’m not minded to run to Jonathan because when all is said and done it’s the age old bookie vs punter battle. Your flank is exposed here.
If you understood what actually happens in the betting ring, you would appreciate that what occurs in instances where horses break loose for example, that the prices in the ring increase, as bookmakers follow betting exchanges almost to the letter.
If you understood what occurred at Cheltenham on New Years Day, you would have appreciated that there was considerable confusion as to whether this outsider was a runner, or not. That the betting exchanges, which bookmakers rely upon for information, had the horse also listed as a runner. That bookmakers are focused on business and quite often find it difficult to hear announcements. That the weather was diabolical and bookmakers were struggling with pouring rain and cold. That the whole mess was the responsibility of the ruling body. There was, at the very least, a thorough lack of appreciably accurate information. In the absence of official information, they bet with the horse as a runner. An out bloody-sider- likely no bookmaker even noticed he hadn’t passed them by in the gloom. There was no ‘conspiracy’ of sample bookmakers. These include some of the greatest names in bookmaking. Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes, Betfred. Such firms make up the lions share of any SP. Were they in your little conspiracy? Did we have a little huddle?
If you understood how betting markets operated, you would appreciate fully that the major bookmakers, involved with the sample, don’t follow win only odds from betting exchanges, especially when liquidity levels for such selections are so low. And in respect of the associated place markets. Sample bookmakers don’t trade bets with exchanges, they accept risk and in doing so have to bet to an acceptable margin and in reliance on betting exchanges for price – the available liquidity. We’re not interested in Calvin’s £2 liquidity levels. Remember – he hasn’t laid an egg and imagines we’re worried about 24.0 to £9. It’s pub fare- pure and simple. And, by the way, it very regularly occurs for horses to ‘dip’ in odds just prior to the off.
You place a lot of reliance on this movement of a horse from 16/1 to 14/1 as the basis of your argument that bookmakers could have been colluding on affecting the rule 4 deductions. To defeat the simplistic argument of those who think everything is about exchanges- it simply isn’t when a boomaker has to make his place market ‘fit.’ Many bookmakers near to the off cut their odds in case of late uncontrollable action. For this reason, the SP is usually the worse price to take. A heady factor the conspiracy theorists neither understand nor give account for. How do you know a bookmaker hadn’t laid the horse and had a few wagers with sample firms? Everyone considered the horse a runner. Is it impossible, or do you simply prefer we sent each other a text when the opportunity arose to make ourselves 5p here and there?
And pray tell me Bruce- and for those other journalists who have so casually jumped upon this as something factual – what is the commercial benefit you are claiming large sample bookmakers would make from a 5p deduction – on a racetrack – in the pouring rain? Since most of those in the sample proper only bet on track.
Why were betting experts such as myself contacted for the sake of journalistic balance in this bunfight?
Finally, you would accept the view of the SP regulatory body, who reported that they witnessed no nefarious activity. That they had no evidence of bookmakers ‘contracting’ the odds as has been suggested. Now I’m no particular fan in how they operate, but in this case they have been quite clear. They saw nothing untoward. They must be wrong too.
I fancy this little letter will remain on your school report for quite some time to come, enjoy your pie and chips tonight. Anyone with a passing interest in the truth – and I’m famous for telling the truth, coupled with a lifetime of experience in the ring, feel free to comment, and give Brucie the old rub down with a damp Sporting Life. In my view, the only ‘sharp practice’ in play here eminates from you Mr Millington.
My thanks. Can’t buy you all a bottle of brown ale, for ploughing through this- but you know I would if I drank the stuff.