There’s nothing wrong with widening the appeal of a show. There’s little question Attheraces needed to breathe some life into their Sunday Forum, Attenborough couldn’t find more dinosaurs in one room most weeks. A betting debate, with Simon Clare of Coral – Ladbrokes, and why not? I’ve no idea why Coral have set themselves up to be the mouthpiece for big betting. It seems a hiding to nothing to me, but the opposition was predictably weak, and I have to say, extremely ill prepared.
Kevin Blake and Sean Boyce (ex Ladbrokes) provided the ‘panel’ anchor roles. Blake is an amiable enough chap, but as a betting expert? I’ve seen this many times, Racing producers reluctant to have their betting partners questioned, in any way or shape. In the absence of appropriate challenge to Clare’s remarks, let me provide the balance the show lacked.
Sean Boyce, my understanding as a current Ladbrokes-Coral ‘ambassador’ works for Coral’s TV output. Not revealed on the show. Hardly likely is Sean to properly debate matters on behalf of punters when he works for Coral – is he? Does anyone have any integrity anymore, or does everyone slavishly work for big betting? Here’s our impartial anchor doing his thing.
Little wonder the show turned into an advert for Coral. If Simon Clare could have handpicked ‘opposition’ to his views he couldn’t have done better. Anyone know who produces this material?
The main theme was betting restrictions. Simon is right, all firms are engaged in restricting customers. Blake’s argument, that firms were being too precipitous in factoring so many, so quickly. He’s wide of the mark. It’s frankly quite useless to argue in such a vein, whilst the bookmakers choose to behave in the manner they do now. With a thorough disdain for the customer ideal.
It’s accepted by both ‘sides’ that punters have never had it quite this good, and that would be true. What’s also true is the current environment allows betting firms like Coral, or perhaps more saliently the market leader, Bet365, who drive the giveaway culture, to make false claim as to odds or bonuses they advertise so freely on every platform. I can think of no other sector of business that’s permitted to advertise products, yet can deny those offerings to such a large customer base.
If something is advertised, but is unavailable to many customers, that’s basically an unsustainable pricing module.
In making such promises on prices or bonuses, these major organisations presurise the smaller independent sector to compete on their terms. The smaller firms arguably behave with more honour and provide better customer service than major betting. They’re left shouldering odds they wouldn’t normally countenance, because that’s what customers expect. The independent secor of bookmaking has been in notable decline as supermarket betting has invaded their space.
The number of accounts that are restricted by the way in one shape or another run into the millions by the way. We’re not talking about a few individuals. It’s right to say that still means the majority still get their bet, but I see no reason why everyone should now be afforded the same service standard.
The argument isn’t therefore about who gets restricted, nor why. It’s about the culture of unsustainable odds and bonus deals which companies like Coral devise and promote every day. Of course there are those punters who benefit, make profit from bookmakers and the manner in which they operate these days. Evens each of two in a Rugby match borders on madness, where the only chance afforded the firm is an unlikely tie.
So Mr Blake, when Clare says that the majority do get their bets on? The question isn’t why more don’t, but why he operates a system of betting, he cannot support to all of his client base as a company.
Also Mr Blake, when Coral claim the moral high ground on lay to lose guarantees, the informed question goes along the lines of- ‘are the prices the same in the shops as online?’ Please write that down.
Many times Simon Clare mentioned how Coral were a licensed and ‘responsible’ bookmaker. An odd claim for a company who were fined 2.3 million pounds but a week ago! This would be their second substantial fine from the Gambling Commission. This for accepting a huge series of wagers from two individuals who stole a staggering amount of money, and they didn’t ask the question where the money came from.
It’s a company that in the last week didn’t deny, indeed even suggested to the BHA investigative team on David Evans, that their traders could well have cynically cut the price of a horse to benefit from rule 4 deductions. After, oh by the way, being told by the trainer that said horse was to be withdrawn. There’s a word for such activity, it’s called fraud.
Attheraces chose either not to permit any discussion on this topic, or afford time toward this important subject. Despite the importance of the topic to Kevin Blake. Doubtless mindful of their sponsors. They will, of course, argue the incident occurred before Clare took over PR duties for both companies in the recent merger. Surely though the question in discussing how bookmakers behave has merit. Do Coral also indeed ‘buy’ information in the manner ladbrokes did (by providing better odds to Evans)? How do they use such information? There’s no excuse for the decision by the broadcaster not to ask the question. The information is fully in the public domain and the Ladbrokes own regulatory officer made such suggestion himself last week.
Clare himself also commented on the rule 4 issue on behalf of both firms “We will also never knowingly shorten the price of a suspected non-runner to benefit from an improved Rule 4 deduction.’ Draw your own conclusion as to the use of the word ‘will.’
Of course in claiming to be so responsible, Simon Clare side steps the minefield that is the FOBT debate. He says moves to restrict FOBT stakes should be based on empirical evidence. So Mr Clare, are you providing this evidence? How is such evidence comprised? The number of times a machine is booted to death? Perhaps in the number of verbal and physical assaults on staff? Perhaps its in the number of suicides by customers each year?
It’s a widely held view by the general public, as well as players themselves, that these machines shouldn’t just be restricted, but since it was never the intention of the 2005 Gambling Act to create casinos in our High Streets, should in fact be removed, period. That’s not going to happen, I forecast another substantial fudge from the government.
Simon does have the good grace to look embarrassed in arguing the merits of FOBT’s – I’ll give him that.
The topic came round to a guaranteed lay to lose. To me, this is an utterly sensible solution. Indeed on racetracks, small bookmakers did use to operate such a guarantee, very successfully. Again the Coral spokesman argues against the need for sensible controls. Why? Because he knows current policy simply make said scheme unworkable?
Mr Clare also peddled Racing’s biggest myth. The BHA support for machines. Failure from racing to support their money making schemes, would result in shop closures and a consequent loss to Racing via media rights fees. But Simon, there’s no ’empirical evidence’ for that. Is there? As an embarrassed Boyce pointed out, bookmakers are fully adept at creating betting opportunities , and making profit in the potential absence of FOBT’s. Hell, they run shops on minimum wage basis and often with just one staffer present, who doubles up as the cleaner and refreshes the change tray. They can get by.
Overall the show came over as yet another advert for big betting firms, notably Coral. Many claims made during the hour went totally unchallenged, or were mis-understood. I’m guessing the producer realised this when he put on this soft porn for an important sponsor. But where’s the backbone?
I don’t accept the panel was balanced, it left a sour taste in fact, yet another advert for sponsors in my view. Nor do I accept that Coral, or any of their betting peers are in any way ‘responsible.’ Just about every major operator has been hit with hefty fines by the regulator for unacceptable failings in how they behave to customers. This isn’t an accident. If the regulator had any guts, it would have instigated license review on several major betting enterprises a long time before now. Let’s start with the removal of those firms who contravene the’grey market regulations. Ping Pong Wang Chow Mein Stoke.
Simon Clare ended Coral hour by challenging Kevin Blake to another duel under the lights. Kevin’s a nice fellah, but he’s completely out of his depth here. If Coral, or even Attheraces want a proper debate on the behavioural standards of big betting companies, I stand ready to challenge their assertions. Bring it on, this ‘fight’ has been too long in the offing.