Going blind on Betfair..

If I had to guestimate the percentage of folk, whining on social media about being restricted by Bookmakers these days, I’d put the number, who turn an annual profit from their gambling, in excess of 90%. So the conclusion is these folk want betting firms to operate their accounts when they know they would lose. The stuff of fantasy.

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To people old enough to remember doing their conkers to those same bookies ever since they left primary school, it’s little wonder they complain so vociferously. The attacks on the gambling industry (I don’t mean gaming here, which cannot lose!) border on vitriol. If you lost your shirt to bookies, and have now turned the tables on the same – and find yourself factored? Well I accept the grapes must be on the sour side. I would comment, however, that the battle back then was fairly won between punter and Bookmaker. There was little antipathy. Accounts were rarely subject to any restriction. Markets were sustainable. Casinos were not online. Bookmakers made no attempt to offer markets in Challenger tennis matches, Chinese soccer or European handball.

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There’s a difference these days. And it’s little understood by those who haven’t embraced the era of Exchanges. You can now guarantee yourself a profit, sitting in your underpants going blind staring at Betfair and price comparison sites- for the lucrative, and simple, arb.

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What is arbing? Put simply, take 7/1 your selection from the Bookmaker when the exchange has suddenly contracted to 13/2 or even less, lay it back on the exchange and lock in a guaranteed profit. There are more complex methods than this, but the outcome remains the same. Provided the bookie continues to lay you wagers which exceed the exchange odds, you’ve found yourself a lucrative, tax free, risk free income. All the better- you don’t need a gambling commission license whilst you operate your backing and laying business.

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Until the bookie notices that every bet you give them was laid at a price greater than was available on Betfair. That’s when the toys smartly leave the pram. You’re operating a business, locking in an income off of the Bookmaker, not the exchange. Because the arber reaches for the bookie first. And the exchange always represents ‘worse value’ in this relationship. For this reason money traders tend to open several accounts, in different names. Female online accounts routinely used as conduits for money traders. Bet365 identified one of those, rather infamously after ‘she’ had won a million pounds off of them.

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For Geoff Banks Online, we notice these characters when our system highlights the constant trades on selections which are greater than exchange odds at the point of sale. In other words, we could have laid the same bet for less. That’s the constant, the arber will only trade when the bookie is considerably out of line. For this reason, the money traders offer the Bookmaker spectacularly poor value. They utilise specialist tools to identify when Online firms odds are out of line with the constant liquid exchange markets.

What’s changed? Well, you can’t lose operating this simple scheme. Scream your bollocks off if you wish, but everyone knows the game is up, except you.

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Money traders rarely play in major sporting events. The World Cup, Cricket finals, major soccer games, Cheltenham Festival races. The markets are steady – and well defined. They’re fiddling about in Italian Division 2 football. A maiden at Southwell. The sub markets firms offer on an event, such as first goalscorers, where they’re ahead of the Bookie is behind on information as to an injured striker being replaced.

For this reason, I take the view these people aren’t the type of customers I view as genuine. If you’re not interested in a bet in the Champions League final, or the Gold Cup, you’re hardly a punter – are you? This is the defined difference between Trader – and Punter. Unashamedly we serve the needs of the latter. Win or lose. I don’t believe in offering an unlicensed individual, who pays no taxes, and adopts no risk on what he does a living.

There are a few traders think they’re excessively clever in being able to ‘beat the book.’ Remember for years they were as muggy as everyone else. They take to Twitter in blessed anonymity to tell a bored community what geniuses they are, how gutless betting firms have become. Said individuals make money on a particularly small scale, or trade so poorly they actually show a loss. No self respecting business would make a giant profit, and then scream at those who feed his income.

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Common to all Twitter rants on the subject, ‘bookies only want mugs.’ Of course said remarks go a long way to bigging up self-worth. No Sir, Bookies don’t relish battling against someone utilising specialist trading software to turn a guaranteed profit. If you’re one of those who whines about this on social networking, you must be some kind of fool. Business is operated, in all sectors, for profit. Amazon don’t trade a lamp for less than they bought it for. Would you be complaining that they seeked to make profit from you?

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Modern betting companies do have the necessary skill-sets to build algorithms to track exchange odds, and never offer a price greater then the same. There are several pitfalls to this apparently simple solution. One – competing with Supergiant Bet365, who spend a great deal of time offering odds greater than those available on exchanges. Few companies consciously bet to a loss by design.. normally such actions would be properly scrutinised in my fantasy world

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Second, offering exchange odds would see you in the poor house right quick. Gambling companies have colossal expenses and couldn’t bet near to those of the exchange and make profit. Nor is the symbiotic relationship of place markets mirrored on the exchange.

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Third, the huge range of markets available would dwarf exchange offerings. Whilst main markets on Betfair might capture some liquidity, most of the sub markets offer loose change to bet on. Typically a Bookmaker offers a far wider array of markets, thereby accepting extra risk, and much bigger bets across their markets.

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Finally, and perhaps notably, whilst bookies tend to parallel exchange odds, the average lay to lose in firms like William Hill wold regularly trump six figures. Whilst the same selection on Betfair would typically offer a user £20, or less, at the same odds. Exchange liquidity haa all but collapsed – for by that, it still governs betting odds.

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In my Company we find ourselves battling daily with the aforementioned line trackers. Some when factored take it on the chin, pack up their various accounts in their Sisters name, and move on to the next firm. We adopt a hands on approach to every account. The system might identify an arber, but we always take a good look at the range of bets a customer offers us, before we might have to factor someone. We are well aware of the criticism, fairly levelled at gambling firms, that some decisions are ‘knee jerk.’

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What is useful in life is a bit of understanding of each other’s position. The ethos of my company is to offer a tailored betting solution to those who want the value of big betting, with the personal nature of a smaller firm than Skybet. If you like to ring your bet in, or have a question, we will answer the phone within 4 rings and won’t be asking you to tell us what the mileage was on your first car.

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We cannot compete head on with major gaming companies, bringing in profits gained in grey and yes, black markets abroad, to unashamedly bolster their presence in the UK, whilst the regulator looks away, and afford the money traders a living too.We will offer a bespoke online betting experience. A clever mobile app, and a slick website. We will listen to our customers when they tell us what they want our software to do for them.

 

So to the traders, I hope you will respect my candour here and give us a respectful swerve. You may not like my forthright style in explaining to those interested in the topic, why we have to factor some accounts. Geoff Banks Online stand alone as an independant in offering such as best odds guaranteed with our weekly deposit bonus scheme, and fairly laying our customers a bet. Let us get on with offering that level of service to those who want a bet on the cup final, or the Grand National without restriction, or penalty, and you take your line tracking activities to Bet365. No firm deserves your business more than they do.

Remember, when the fun stops, you’ve probably gone to bed..

 

Now here’s a couple of links to our mobile apps, for the ‘genuine’ sporting customer. Because we do promise to make you feel welcome and reward your custom.

Android lovers 

Apple Users

 

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Gambling- the weak leading the strong?

No group of individuals demonstrated less competence in gambling operators, than shown by those in boardrooms operating fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT’s) in licensed betting offices. For years, executives of household names like William Hill and Coral denied the evident damage done to individuals by these voracious machines. They defended their stance with weak arguments of the kind ‘there’s no empirical evidence of harm.’
An ever increasing clamour on social networking and in the media didn’t alter that stance.

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Those same operators approximate worth these days is precisely half what it used to be on the stock market, and continuing to decline. Denial of the flaming obvious didn’t go that well then. Although those same executives have now departed with their multi million pound payoffs. It seems we pay for failure too.
Now executives at many gambling companies make those same denials when we discuss their marketing. Often aimed directly at children. Let me qualify that remark, when we show Ray Winstone or Jeff Stelling at 6pm, when children are very likely to be watching, then those operators are definitely targeting children. Since a fair percentage of that audience will naturally be under aged. Once again all the denials in the world cannot change that bare fact of life. You are grooming children and normalising gambling.

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In other news, we hear of the departure of Richard Flint from Skybet. An organisation he has led for some time, and which was recently sold to the Stars group for an embarrassing sum. There will be those, therefore, who view Mr Flint as a notable success story in gambling. If we are discussing his personal worth, then yes, of course he has done very well out of Skybet’s growth, and the sale to Stars. I’ve always viewed Flint as a 1st class hypocrite. Advocating responsible gambling measures whilst assaulting my children with his invasive advertising.
But that growth has been based on legitimising the word ‘no’ – bombarding those interested in watching sport with marketing they don’t want, and growing the company with offers which cost millions to operate, such as ten each way places in golf tournaments. In the meantime the gambling industry is finding itself more unpopular now than it has ever been, and literally throttled by a regulator reacting to adverse sector publicity. Many of those companies have significantly devalued in the market by not less, in many cases, than a third of their market value.

What’s left behind by executives such as Flint is a mess. I don’t view his departure with any sadness. Companies such as my own is left to try to salvage what we can in a sector that’s never been so unpopular with its own customers. When did so many firms stop being bookmakers? Stop laying multiple bets on Frankie Detorri having a few winners?
The irony remains, the regulator, (UKGC) spends much of its time listening to the same executives they end up fining. I wonder how they feel about the advice they were given by the likes of Skybet? I do know the regulator continues to place the cart before the horse in dealing with the myth of problem gambling. Countries favour the control of marketing in controlling levels of addictive products. Not the Gambling Commission it appears. They continue to deal with issues after they are created. Doubtless persuaded by the millions brought back into the UK by operators who’s favourite colours are grey and black..
I read daily the army of social network advocating new measures for operators to deal with entirely fictitious problem gambling levels. Utilising emotive topics such as suicide levels, and the totally fictitious ‘55,000 problem gambling children’ to bolster their views.
Nobody wants to see anyone commit suicide, but let’s talk frankly on this subject, and perhaps understand better my views on this topic. The office of National Statistics compile detailed data on the 7500 odd individuals who take their own life annually in the UK. Their accurate figures state that since 2002 an average of 1.1 suicides a year mention ‘gambling’ as the cause, or partial cause of a suicide.

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Is this the compelling argument those advocating that gambling needs severe new controls? Are we really to reduce the quality of life for millions who enjoy a flutter entirely within their means, and ask regulators to make up a similar set of draconian rules which served us so poorly when they sought to control the UK Banks? Do you really want to tell some employee of Ladbroke how much you have in your Bank account? Whether you can ‘afford’ the £300 you have just deposited – and where you got that money from? Of course not. It’s in play right now, don’t expect regulators to end there.

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At the end of all arguments is one simple, and central truth. No regulator or official is going to tell an individual how much they should spend on any product, or whether they choose to use a credit card. Addiction is only controlled by the individual, and it starts and ends right there. It is dangerous and impractical to make an operator in some way ‘responsible’ for how you live your life, or what you spend your money on. The addict can’t afford credit cards – full stop.

Addicts casually cheat their way back into gambling – because they are addicted. This occurs regularly, yet I read some uninformed, and frankly vindictive types maintaining we should in some way be responsible for such evasive behaviour. It’s a ridiculous stance.

Trying to set ‘arbitrary’ limits on what you deposit, or make gambling operators ask the same set of lengthy and embarrassing questions the UK Banks do right now is a serious deterioration in our quality of life.
Finally, one last point, contentious perhaps, but it is entirely necessary to challenge what is being advocated. I do not see an individual who has demonstrably been too weak to manage his own life, as the architect of policy for the millions who live life within their own means. Let us live our lives by the silent majority, as opposed to those seeking to blame everyone else for their failures. For those with issues, addiction will always remain your personal responsibility. The culture of blaming operators for things that didn’t go as well as you hoped in life is futile.

Geoff Banks
July 2019

Gamstop – More jobs for the boys?

Fascinating conversation with a small pool operator yesterday, who runs a little website for punters to try to predict 5 football results. They invest on average £5 a week. It’s a nice little startup operation, based in the UK. One would have thought the point of good governance to encourage such operations. He’s currently losing money, and needs the support of Government and Regulators to get off the ground, quite understandable that. He’s providing a service the large concerns do not.

He shoulders Gambling Commission fees around £2000 annually, auditor costs around the same mark, £4500 of fees to lawyers to set up his license. Pass the cheque book.

He’s been presented with a bill from Gamstop, for £2315 annually. Each customer he currently has is therefore costing him £3.30. That’s just for this highly questionable scheme. I say questionable because my experience of exclusion schemes is they simply do not work. Addicts, be they alcoholics, smokers or gamblers will go about their lives, irrespective of what scheme is dreamed up to artificially ‘protect’ them from themselves by regulators. Operators should assist, yes, but the burden of responsibility for an individual’s actions must rest with the individual.

As an aside- I fundamentally disagree that a group of regulators, howsoever well paid (!) should be dictating to any individual how they manage their lives. The truth about responsible gambling is it’s only an issue when you lose, and only just after for the vast majority. A natural knee jerk reaction to losing. An anger if you will. We simply do not all need ‘help’ – the only people who disagree are the regulators, because THEIR livelihoods depend on coming up with schemes someone claims to be ‘essential’

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To put the fee scale into proper perspective, super-giant Bet365 pay Gamstop £321540 annually. If you have 30 million customers, you are paying 1 penny per customer by comparison. Despite quite evidently being the operator which would cause Gamstop to do the most work! Let’s balance what they pay, whilst trousering 600 million a year, against this start up operator, struggling to gain a foothold.

 

Who dreams up these fee scales, so designed to punish small operators, and favour global offshore entities? Regulators. They sit around board tables, with representatives of big betting companies, and dream up acceptable fee scales. Acceptable to those same companies, of course. If the Gambling Commission want us to take up their grand exclusion plans, as opposed to the ones that work, in the main, perfectly well to date, let them intervene to ensure an equable platform, based on number of users.

In asking the Gambling Commission, who intend ordering operators to accept the new exclusion project, to explain this grotesque distortion in fees, I’m met with the same embarrassed silence one experiences when asking them to explain why the control of marketing of gambling isn’t their number one priority. A cart before the horse syndrome, treat the problem rather than the symptoms. Commission execs shift from one buttock, to the other. Fiddle with their pens and look for the nearest exit. I’d accept just one of them telling me the Government has ordered them to keep their hands off the subject.

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Lately Skybet have suggested they create and implement a scheme where their own customers can ‘block’ access to Skybet’s products on their devices. This is all terribly romantic stuff, personally I see little commercial reason  to block my own customers! It’s absurdly easy, by the way, to circumvent such blocks. Of course their clever Chairman is putting up a smokescreen to deflect the GC from tackling their blanket adverts on every platform. The Commission – anxious for the cheap win offered by Skybet, are actively canvassing operators on whether we should all follow suit, and introduce such blocking capabilities.

 

Of course, there’s a cost. Skybet won’t mind investing 8-10m with their in house developers in such schemes. Independents, without such infrastructure, will likely need the assistance of outside agencies, a la Gamstop. And as outlined above, we can expect fee scales to be punishing on the smallest operators with far lower customer bases. We simply do not have more bums on seats.

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So, whilst Skybet try to impress us how they’ve become born again citizens, let’s consider the smaller operators. They provide choice, and far better service levels. This Gambling Commission has an appalling record on fee structures since its inception. A casual disdain of the needs to nurture all size of business, one of their notable failures. They will be reading this in their good time. I wonder if it occurs to them that the net effect of shielding big business requirements to market so aggressively, fiddling whilst Rome burns by tacking problems after they’re created, and asking small business to disproportionately foot the bill, results in the further erosion of small business from the chess board at the rate of 17% a year. That what you want on your resume Mr McArthur?

 

Geoff Banks

CEO GB Sports Advisors Ltd

Cheltenham 2019 – The Bookies View

It comes around quicker every year. That faint waft of Guinness flavoured explosions draws indoor arena bookmakers inexorably towards the Cotswold Hills, or something like that. Poetry being my strong suit, you understand. Enough equipment, wires, LCD boards and bits of laptop to fill a medium sized tipper truck for each betting firm, and a bunch of whining staff. Whilst we were to be cosied up in the Centaur Arena, which maintained an ambient temperature of 70 degrees (73 deg actually with all the bottoms exploding) – our colleagues outside faced high winds and a chilly start. I guessed under 9 layers they were wearing their thermals, but one doesn’t like to ask.

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On course bookies put up with an unfair lot of flak, for the time they spent huddling in the rain trying to keep racetracks look interesting. They don’t act like their online versions, restricting wagers to thrupence and cancelling ante post wagers. In said regard too many so called racing pundits, those who so regularly big up Skybet and Sun Bets, treat them with considerable disrespect. In fact a day at the races would be very much the poorer without Bookmakers, and a world of Tote betting is plain dull. Let’s briefly chat about Sandown Park.

Sandown does have two winning posts of course. This is an excellent idea if you’re trying to confuse the living daylights of folk, and appear thoroughly mysterious. The explanation for this, based on the angle horses approach the line from the two jump tracks at odds to Aintree for example. They are luxury items for afficianados to explain away. In reality they simply serve no purpose, but to confuse patrons.

A mildly apologetic BHA type, straight out of an establishment that still learns Latin, tells us those bookie chappies ‘shouldn’t have paid out so early. It does appear a rather antique manner of thinking but it should take him to the top of the Jockey Club.  All online firms pay out before the weigh in, so we assume track bookies should live in a pre-exchange era of the sixties? They surely can’t stand about with huge queues for the 15 minutes it takes the BHA official to make up their minds as to who’s responsible  before they get about telling people what’s going on. To Bookmakers, the whole attitude reeks. They want to rule the sport, yet taking responsibility for the errors? Who does that with authority?

I do remember an apologising Nick Rust saying, when they settled the Speculative Bid case out of court with me, that such things would be addressed. Yup. I’m glad I took their settlement, I didn’t have two years of my life to share with lawyers to press home the judgement handed to them which made them look foolish, whilst they spent racing’s cash appealing. That was Rust’s decision by the way.. Add in horseshoe-gate, arm waving gate, flu- gate and winning post-gate. Still impressed with the serial apologist? I do like Nick Rust as a person. However, as a leader of Racing, his ‘watch’ has been characterised by one catastrophe after another, and he should step aside.

I do understand there’s a bunker mentality at the BHA right now. A feeling that whatever they decide – some section of racing is going to be critical. This shouldn’t deter them from recognising that in so many regards their overall performance is terribly poor.

At least they are approachable.

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I put together a team based on good looks to work Cheltenham. It’s shameless, I know. If they can take a bet between trips to the coffee bar, that’s a plus. We operate with six staffers for the one betting position. We employ two to pay out permanently. it’s vital to get people paid as fast as possible in my game. Otherwise known as ‘the churn.’ It’s a fun job for the crew and they return every year, they know I’m a benevolent Boss. I tell them so. We stole one of Barry Dennis’s staffers this season, to replace the handsome Oly – who worked last year. Ellie specialises in void bets.. We went through twelve extra till rolls in bets that didn’t exist. Naomi is the star all round performer. She declines telephone numbers at the same rate she takes bets. All with a smile

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The other pre-festival news was the Betbright farce. That’s the deal where they sell the laptops and the CD players to 888 sport and decide to cancel the wagers of their disastrous ante post book ‘as its fair to customers’ – in the words of their Chairman – Rich Ricci. Rich helped the company lose millions whilst he co-hosted ATR’s Ontheline show with Chapman.  One wonders why customers placed ante post wagers in the first place. One can only imagine how well they were going! And since 888 presumably accepted the customers of Betbright to their portfolio, surely they have to honour their bets too? Warts and all? Nethertheless, Rich Ricci was doing everyone a favour. I’m sure we can all appreciate that.

Benie Des Dieux must have wondered what she’s done so wrong to have been sent to the Mares, Cheltenham’s lowest rated race. Anyway, God – who is a great Racing fan, and doesn’t mind the whip, let Ruby get well clear before bookie deliverance at the last. Well done Mr God, and bad luck Ruby. To all the trolls who think that man can’t set a horse right at a fence – check his outstanding record. Really overdue for this race to have a maximum rating and stop Champion Hurdle prospects dipping into this event, for the sake of smaller owners. You have to leave something at the Festival for those who don’t pay half a million for a horse with no breeding prospects.

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The BHA hand wringers were out in force over the marathon 4 mile marathon National Hunt Chase. Apparently a number of horses finished tired. This is extremely odd. I’m not surprised they were so worried. I wonder if they saw that triathlete carry his brother over the line one day – did they abandon the sport right then? Or Red Marauder winning the Grand national, in times where a world of keyboard warriors didn’t stand as judge and jury over a sport they care little for. What on earth is the difference between human athletes knocking themselves senseless to win a sport and a horse looking tired? We need to stop viewing an animal designed to run at speed and jump as if it’s a kitten. I watched a rugby match at the weekend – all the players looked whacked, covered in blood and sweat. Nobody demanded it be culled. In fact the grittier something is, the wider the appeal.

I watched a superb Nick Luck grill Nick Rust on his record. Genuinely I have never seen Luck in better, or more robust form. From that interview I gleaned that Rust views racing in the same manner as dolphins, that the 4 miler, and anything like it should disappear along with the whip and all of racing’s special appeal.

Frankly, I do not mind if we lose 3 horses at a superb festival, enjoyed by so many, if we afford life and a great career to thousands more because of it. It’s a compelling animal loving message – rather than a requirement to ban anything tough. we also lose jockeys by the way. That appears somehow acceptable, one supposes because they choose to ride. Is it reasonable to assume, therefore, a racehorse would choose to race? This is the argument Racing should be peddling, not appeasement of those who would see the sport die.

The amateur who finished third was duly banned for finishing on a tired horse. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen a horse jump tired, but I’ve never heard of a ban for something I witness quite often. In his position of potential 3rd – if he had in fact pulled up, he would have likely felt he would be sanctioned for non trying. Vilified by furious punters and connections for failing to finish. This is the reality of amateur stewards ruling a professional sport. A centralised professional stewards panel, which Rust totally fudged in an attempt to appease racing’s ruling class, would offer a uniform approach to such decisions.  All of the horses ate their porridge the next day, totally unaware of the fuss.

What I fail to understand, is the desire of these hack stewards to ‘make their mark’ on Racing’s major race days so often. Far far too regular we are discussing their failed decisions. The supreme sporting body, the NFL, makes clear to its officials at the Superbowl, to be more sparing with penalties, and allow the game just to be played. It’s the desire of that body that the sport story should not be the officials but the game. That’s rarely true of Racing. The self worth of said officials supercedes the action.

Tuesday is usually a bookie bloodbath. More money back offers online than Tescos. I’m not sure if it’s the ground, or the excitement of races with more than 4 runners, but most favourites fluffed their lines and those diabolical bookies dipped the punters’ pockets. The afore-mentioned Mares heat usually plays the role of getting punters out of trouble. In fact it got them in deeper. Ah well. Salmon and chips for tea washed down by a nice Chablis.

 

Spot the difference ..

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Did you spot the difference??

Wednesday. I bump into a bookie who tells me he managed to park next to the Chairman’s parking space. ‘I was ready to give the parking man my excuse, but he didn’t give me the chance!’ Altior looked ready to complete another circuit. Results started OK enough, but punters definitely finished right side up with the last 4 heats going to the favoured horse. Tiger Roll didn’t fluff his lines. He went round and round – and bored the rest to submission. The Bumper is usually a good betting heat. Usually. We spent the last four races handing out considerably more than we had taken. I emptied the satchel of old rubber bands after racing. I confess it’s a mildly depressing way of doing business. You see them queue up to get on, and form the same line to get paid! Bookies do feel the same way as punters when we lose. We just cannot self exclude! Dinner was at Kentucky. We had the family bargain bucket, and it was nutricious. It said so on the packet.

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Thursday. This is usually World Hurdle day. Every year the poor thing gets renamed after online gaming companies who have survived being taken over by a bigger gaming company. First three races- first three favourites.  I was funding the soap of the great unwashed. Frodon cost me my profits from Tuesday. Backed from 7/1 into 9/2. Great racing story my ass. If my Crossbow hadn’t jammed at the last Ms Frost would likely have hit the deck and it would have been a better story. ‘Jockey finds dart in backside’ – Still for great racing stories, it took the biscuit and made the papers for all the right reasons. She is such an amiable and unspoilt ambassador. Frodon? Well he stays longer than the Mother In law. One the Bookies love to hate but love.

Dinner Thursday. We tried Greggs. But they were full.

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Friday. Not many in the Triumph Hurdle, but 20/1 is a good number for any winner. Less good the manner of winning, with the favourite’s heart breaking demise. Not the way I want to win.

Then it went 12/1 50/1 12/1 7/2 66/1 and 5/1. Fair to say we dusted off the punters. Which is fair. I want to make one salutary point. I understand the Twitterati were knocking seven bells out of my colleague Ben Keith. Look Star Sports is a rival right? They like to big up telephone number bets, I think folk are a little gullible. But you know it’s simply good promo. No-one wants to hear about £3 bets. I understand after the sad demise of Sir Eric he tweeted boom. What ensued was a cacophony of vitriolic, holier than thou comments from the keyboard warriors. Some tremendously hurtful and classless fare. I simply do not accept he was aware of what had happened and anyone who joined that cats chorus to big their own profile up online should be feeling thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

The Gold Cup lacked its usual star quality. It looks to be the last hurrah for several protagonists. Favourite was Presenting Percy, who tried the tried, tested and totally stupid tactic of trying to win a Gold Cup by stabling for a year and taking in one hurdle race – a sound plan to fatten Bookies, and no mistake. It was a shame to see native River in particular look so jaded. Al Boum Photo and a couple of 50/1 chances helped the books finish right side up.

Was it a good Festival? For the ring bookies it’s a definite winning meeting. I’d say it lacked star appeal in horse terms, Altior delivered, just, but the 2 miler is a poor division. Surely it is overdue for him to show more to the fans than beating up the same opposition? Online Cheltenham is a tool to gain more custom, so a likely loss leader again. It surprised me little how many of these larger organisations end up on the deck.

It was a Cheltenham to remember- but aren’t they all. Especially as the supporting months are so very poor. It’s a rubber ring to a drowning man.

 

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I kept this short, because I have a life and I have to go to Barclays now. Check out our new online site, my new money factory, to help pay for my time here, and remember – ‘when the FUN stops, you’re on a roulette machine stupid..’

I may have a touch of flu.. should all bookies stay in?

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Geoff Banks

http://www.geoff-banks.com

March 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The protection of the few

A few days ago, I found myself answering a phone call to Sky. Moving house and cancelling their contract should have been as easy as it was to sign up. But it’s not. There’s no option to cancel online, ring them and a nice voice tells you it’s a 34 minute wait to speak to an operator, and oh yes, they really care.

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Eventually they rang me, chasing business. What followed was the same basic process of ‘security’ I’ve become used to with my Bank. A process deliberately designed to bore me off. This is the casual abuse of so called ‘data protection schemes.’

 

Equally when you do ring your Bank, something that used to be so easy, – it’s an onerous process of identifying yourself. You’re genuinely a number. Service levels have collapsed, and the companies involved can make more money as they downgrade the training required to staff to dope level. Has that really improved our lives?

 

Who caused this situation? Well the Banks did. Crooked deals with the contras, spending money they didn’t have on the stock market, Libor scandals and a lot more. Banks have proven to be some of the world’s biggest criminals. Of course we do need them, so rather than de-license firms like Barclays and HSBC, Governments reacted in a different way

 

The age of the regulator.

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Regulators are only of real benefit, if their influence is feather light. Yes they need to control the excesses of business, but not where it takes away value from people’s lives. That’s a tender balance. This is why I resist casual calls for ‘more controls.

 

Who ends up structuring your life? The same MP’s who ask us to vote in or out of Europe and then find they can’t deliver on the same. These people are now going to tell you where you can smoke, how much you can drink and now of course various measures designed to ‘protect you’ from gambling. But do the vast majority need help? Of course they don’t.

 

In Gambling my own firm doesn’t touch casino products and never dabbled in FOBT machines. I disagreed fundamentally with the creation of mini casinos in High Streets, or let someone max out their cards online playing fast paced games like roulette. I gave open support to those calling for change. I’d see FOBT’s banned.

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I’d also see television marketing banned altogether also. Even gamblers don’t want to see anymore of Ray Winstone. Fine I accept Richard Flint of Skybet maintaining he has the ‘right’ to gamble, if he can accept that nearly 100% of us don’t want his company thrust down our throats with every live sporting event, or branded on every shirt for children (not his children) to see.

 

I believe the actions of Chairmen of big betting companies, over FOBT’s, and now marketing, have damaged irreparably the relations between betting and the general public. Itt’s deeply distressing to me that my firm, which offers a sports betting service, is tarred with the same brush as these offshore gaming empires. Nobody has committed suicide because of anything my firm has ever done. Yes we are likely to face regulations aimed at Bet365.

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My fear is as regulators flex their muscles, what we do, providing a fun and responsible betting experience will be caught unfairly in the crossfire. Regulators won’t appreciate the difference and make exemptions for us. We live and die by the actions of an offshore entity like Bet365.

 

I read daily of people, some with genuine gambling issues, some who are just jumping on the soap box to big their own profiles, using emotive issues like suicide to bolster their argument, that we should expect operators to protect ourselves, from ourselves. But that’s neither desirable, nor based on any evidence. Fancy numbers, like the 50,000 problem gambler children. None of these claims are based, in any way, on facts or hard data, as you would reasonably expect. The stuff of a shrieking Daily Mail. The Gambling Commission itself has absolutely no proof of the scale of problem gambling, adult or children. It is in their self interest, however to make the problem seem more than it is.

 

Calling casually for more regulation, is not the answer. More regulation is a dangerous attempt at control of people by Government.

 

Those advocating further restrictions on betting do so notably because of the failures in large operators to accept FOBTs needed to go. There are, of course, those who cannot control their actions, and yes, we should try to assist. Let’s be clear though, proposals to make operators responsible for people’s gambling actions are unreasonable, and open to fraudulent action.

 

Problem gamblers, for their part, will try to circumnavigate the system, whatever ‘rules’ you put in place. Are we then to unfairly brand operators as responsible for how they act? Smirnoff Vodka are not held accountable for alcoholics. Last year 7.500 people committed suicide as a result of alcohol, and it cost the NHS some 7.5bn to deal with alcohol related issues. If you say betting operators should police gamblers, why not Malboro for the millions who die of smoking related cancers every year?

The office for National statistics tell us that between 2001 and 2016, there were 90,000 suicides. Of those, 21 were attributed to gambling. That’s a fraction over 1 death a year. Yet if you read the comments online or worse the Daily Mail, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone is lining up on bridges. It’s simply a false claim.

 

I disagree with people casually using the deaths of folk as argument that rest of us need our lives managed.. That doesn’t mean we should do nothing, but having removed fixed odds terminals, we should move on marketing. I’m sorry for the loss of anyone, but it doesn’t follow we need to call the cops.  Just cut off the flow of adverts telling you to gamble.

 

Gambling is enjoyed safely by millions and provides enjoyable pastime for the same. It’s part of human nature. Where, once you embark on unnecessary controls, do you stop? The vast majority simply do not need help,

 

What should happen- is operators should pay up, to a far greater extent than they do now, for any upset they create. even to compensate families. If ‘Skybet Richard’ wants to bombard us with his mind numbing adverts, and send everyone free bets, let him pay to clean up his mess. That’s how you deal with the problem. Send the bill to their table for treatment..We could not only have a progressive gambling state, but one with the best management tools for those who find it difficult to cope. Cut off their flow of marketing and order them to stop encouraging people to wager with free or bonus bets. There are things we can do.

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I don’t want a blanket thrown over the lot of us because a small element cannot say stop. We all feel sorry for the loss of any life. It’s the one sure bet. In the meantime I see no positive outcome from a new set of regulations and rules when the majority simply do not require it. It’s the protection of the many. Not the few. And if that’s too harsh to accept for some people, I mean no offence, but I think we should stand up and be responsible for ourselves.

 

Geoff Banks

January 2019

 

The demise of the London Times

I want to briefly pick up on Lee Mottershead’s excellent column in the Racing Post today. He reports on the demise of coverage for Racing by the London Times. Despite Mark Souster’s excellent reporting of the sport, it seems this important paper will join others in devoting more time to sports like football.

 

And who can blame them? I’ve said before, and I will repeat as many times as it takes for people to realise something simple about soccer vs Racing.

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Real Madrid will face Barcelona no less than 4 times a season. Every week we are treated to marquee football clubs- taking each other on.

 

Other sports plough on with their formula. The Giants will play the Cowboys twice, England will play Australia in rugby and cricket. Golf will have 4 major events and a sprinkling of others. Federer will face Djokovic several times a year. Who wouldn’t want to cover that?

 

By comparison, the thought that the likes of Altior should be attempting something a bit more than what he has proved 16 times already, is treated with indignation by some! Like Brexit, views appear equally divided on whether this wonder horse raced on the wrong day at Kempton. Instead of taking on the very best 3 milers in the business, it was felt best, in view of Cheltenham, to afford him yet another ‘prep race.’  

 

Few would have tuned in on the 27th to see the best horse in racing. Far less would have heard of him. They had heard of Kuato Star by now.

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By comparison the joint highest rated horse over the flat had an exceptionally moderate season, culminating in a soft ground demolition of horses felt not good enough to tackle Paris, or the Breeders. The fact he had already been soundly beaten by Poets Word and only just managed to overhaul a vastly inferior Salouen at Epsom, seems almost swept under the carpet. British Racing presented the owner with an exalted award, suffice that the pull of stud must have been overwhelming. This kind of ineptitude, a focus on bigging up horses at the dawn of their careers, instead of investing in all age affairs is bizarre in he face of challenges to have people identify with horses, when breeders so routinely remove them from the playing field.

 

What was the best horse of 2018? How could it possibly be Enable? A fortunate winner of the Arc. It was Winx. The 7 year old darling of Australia. Since 2014- yes folks, 2014, she has been busy beating up all-comers over there. It’s not her performances that dazzle me as much as the reaction of the often huge crowds she draws. The television audiences tuning in to what must be a National treasure. Isn’t that the magic tonic we should seek? Not praising Gosden for denying us Enable for months on end.

 

When I bang my drum of frustration about the departure of 3 year olds, – juveniles, to stud, more than half the responses i notice, see very little issue with this annual exodus of stars. I wonder at such a blinkered attitude. Why would the sleepy, and perennially incompetent BHA worry about such matters, if so few decry the annual financial pillaging of the sport by breeders for financial gain? Frankel earns more than a day than he ever could on the racetrack in a year. We all know this. I’m quite certain the breeders are well represented at the top table of British Racing. It’s all far too incestuous.

 

What could be done? Well we could stop over rating 3 year olds. Proclaiming a Derby and Arc winner as all conquering. Because as a four year old, they have it all to prove. Who is to say Sinndar, as an example, in fact met a fairly modest crop? Very often they are quite simply, the best of the year..  Few of the millionaires at the top of race ownership, who so dominate the prizes, put much back perennially. It’s an attitude I struggle to understand. If you’re Khalid Abdullah or John Magnier, why would you not derive more pleasure from the production of the likes of Persian Punch or St Nicholas Abbey. Such horses are the very engine of flat racing. Not Harzand. what are you putting back into the sport in terms of long term, identifiable to the public stars? Shouldn’t that be your legacy to Racing? Not this buffet of 2 and 3 year olds.  Right now we can only expect to grow to love such horses if they are not marketable, or capable, at stud.

France Arc de Triomphe Horse Race
Enable wins the Arc

 

ITV ratings are up. That’s the story, and we should sign them up again. Well maybe we should. Three jockeys standing round a table incanting ‘it’s amazing’ is the formula they’ve discovered.  Indeed it may well be a better product than Channel 4. I’m not convinced either show better than the other. After all, we are discussing broadly the same group of pundits for both shows. We can forget the dismal Opening Show, it’s audiences so low it didn’t merit a slot on Boxing Day. Which used to be one of Channel 4’s flagship morning shows.

Let’s be honest, the real reason why they found 1.1m to watch on Boxing Day was the product on the pitch. At least 6 established stars, and more than 5 runners! Bested by a brand new star in Clan Des Obeaux. It really wasn’t that ridiculous ITV social stable! The same was equally true of the Fighting Fifth and the Tingle Creek, both turned out unusually more competitive than normal. In fact it was Willie Mullins, someone I have roundly criticised for avoidance in the past, that saved both of those heats. Good competitive grade 1 action, with the best available. Shouldn’t we work very hard to deliver on this? Why, for example, will Henderson be allowed to stable his stars for months, as he tends to do, and afforded a spot at Cheltenham? Are we too afraid of such trainers? What’s wrong with mandating their attendance in a series of races prior to the festival? I don’t in any way accept these athletes cannot run from one week or month, to the next. It is complete nonsense. 

This BHA, however, led by an ex bookie and indoctrinated by the need to provide a race every five minutes, is leading us down a dull and unimaginative path, at the expense of quality. Nick Rust needs to go racing in Australia when Winx takes the pitch. To grow this sport, he has to find more compelling reasons for Altior to race Un De Sceaux. Not add more races to Chelmsford. We don’t need weak leadership at this time, nor a focus on what’s best for Coral.

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Unfortunately the great Paul Nicholls, who’s very ethos was sending horses out to work, is now replaced by Henderson and Mullins. No more Denman vs Kuato Star vs Neptune Collonges. You’ll be a lucky man if John Gosden persuades his owners the best should take on the best. Cracksman only saw Enable around the yard. Are these people not sportsmen first?

One final point. RMG have swooped for Irish Racing from Sky. Racing that often fields competitive fare with three times the number of runners than over here. ‘Split screen Irish’ is the best it can hope for. How marginalised will that great product become? It is indeed fortunate Ascot and Chester have foreseen the danger and leapt towards Sky, to offer balance. It’s a depressing development for Racing. No argument can persuade me Irish Racing should have been sold to RMG.

 

So the Times have dropped Racing, and who can blame them when one consders how other sports are busy organising for their best to meet as often as possible. The Racing Post, a supporter of Racing, has seen the departure of several notable racing scribes. Is Racing great? Well of course it has great unrealised potential, so much we saw in the King George and a thrilling Tingle Creek. But there’s not enough of such competition. Too many excuses and far too much of a focus on wall to wall betting shop fodder. Why would newspapers want to waste space on that? Is it really worth reporting on Altior’s win on the 27th? Of course not, it’s been done 16 times before. But if he had taken on and likely defeated that King George field? What a story that would have been! 

Tony McCoy, said it recently. Perhaps we need to dispense with the impotent BHA’s of this world, and hire one man with vision and ambition. He put up Barry Hearn. Well, if it breaks up the power of the cosy little sect running sport to their own personal ends, I’m all for that plan. And so should you be.

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Geoff Banks

December 2018

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Racehorses need jobs too..

All I see are healthy horses. Were they humans you’d be forgiven the assumption they dine on Porterhouse every day. Shiny coats, poncing about the place, look at me attitude, and why not? They’re athletes in the very peak of condition..telling you they’re faster and better,

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Enable wins the Arc

15,000 of them have jobs, they wouldn’t normally enjoy. Eat A grade rabbit food. The best of them race three times a year and busy themselves having sex with each other before they reach puberty. Jumping types stroll round at walking speed for anything up to 4 miles, speed up for the last 35 yards, jump fences no bigger than the height of my ankle. If its sunny they don’t even need to do that..give them Raybans and make them jump. Pandered and loved.

All designed to entertain and most of all thrill the paying audience, a modest few even get Bryony Frost on their back. Which must be fun.

One thing is for certain. These are by a long chalk the best cared for and healthy animals on the planet. Very often no expense is spared in their well being with often exorbitant vets fees and the like. One has only to view these charges at racetracks to appreciate the excellent state they are turned out in.

Which makes the BHA’s intention to dumb down the Cheltenham Festival, make it less exciting and watchable to new viewers and old an extraordinary risk. Without valid reason.

As Timeform most correctly pointed out recently, whilst it is all tickety boo ensuring the Grand National is dumbed down in terms of difficulty, that the likelihood of serious injury, or worse to a runner has demonstrably succeeded. At the same time the interest from the viewing public in the race itself has shown a notable decline. For example despite the terrestrial power of ITV, the race falls well short of the 15 million viewers the BBC landed. Polling just over half in fact of numbers achieved when Beechers Brook was the test of horse and jockey it should be. People enjoy the spectacle, and that spectacle does involve horses falling in what should be our most gruelling long distance heat. A challenge and spectacle that befits the name. A showcase event for Racing. Whilst we pander to self interest ‘animal rights’ groups, who turn up but once a year in the sport, we have in fact arguably made the whole thing a lot less interesting. The policy fails.

At what level, when we discuss the deaths of equine athletes, will those demanding an improvement, will such individuals be satisfied?

Finally, isn’t it far more salient for British Racing to offer compelling argument that what we do brings very meaning and purpose to the lives of horses and those who care for them? Is it not so very easy to demonstrate how beloved racehorses really are? That horse deaths, for example, are so far outweighed by the number of lives that we actually create and nurture. What politician could, in fact, win such a debate?

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Before

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After

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Jockeys wave tickling sticks emotively described as  ‘whips’ at half tonne highly muscled and beautifully toned animals. Horses little seem to notice the effect of these, with horse skin notably thicker than humans. They’re never marked, as used to be the case. In spite of this,  I still hear regular whining about the number of times a jockey uses the whip during a race. Even some thorough going idiots who argue for the banning of the whip. What’s the relevance of 8 blows in a 5 furlong sprint to the 10 allowed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup? None. Yet it is given bizarre prominence.

Now whilst everyone nods sagely and intones ‘we must do something’ to bored politicians looking for their name in afore-mentioned papers. Their last attempt at Governance, Brexit, went so well, it divided a country.. Now they want to tell Racing to deal with our so called animal rights problem, and horse deaths, etcetera, etcetera. Oh yes we must.

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Animal rights issues in Racing? What a fiction that is. There is no animal abuse issue in this sport. In fact we provide the environment for a breed of animal to prosper. What’s wrong with that simple argument as opposed to further reductions in the excitement of the sport?

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Of course leading the fight on behalf of racing is their serial BHA apologist – Nick Rust. He’s an ex bookie, more famous for asking for extra all weather racing for Coral. Now doing an excellent job adding more meetings every year. The job is to sell our excellent record. Yes we lose a few horses every year, but we create lives for far more than would ordinarily be true. He thinks we must do better. Why? Because the BHA view their National policy as a success and plan more dumbing down of the product. No Nick, we do in fact already have an outstanding record on horse welfare, and that is the drum you should be banging.

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Let’s be honest here can we? Humans routinely die in sport. How is it by extension unacceptable that a few horses are lost annually in Racing? Because racehorses don’t get to vote to race or not? In fact the truth is horses are bizarrely viewed by the ignorant as domestic pets.

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Racehorses do provide entertainment for millions. Jobs for humans in the thousands. Not just in training ranks, but racetracks, betting and administration of the sport. Wagering on horse racing is fundamental to many folk, and vital to Governments in revenue. Our patron is the Queen. The Boss doesn’t seem the type to let any politician interfere in her favourite pastime, does she?

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Want to look at deaths? Why not check on how many polo ponies don’t survive the year? Or loveable hacks who simply die every year out riding with their owners. No mention of. Why not look at how dangerous sport is to humans and ask why horses should be a special case?

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Let’s get this right before we allow this BHA chums to dumb down Cheltenham, and then everything else besides, because it doesn’t stop there. Sport carries dangers. Horses aren’t poodles. You can’t sit them in your front room as you watch telly, or walk them in the park. Sure we love them to bits, but stop acting like they’re a domestic pet, or discussing with politicians along those lines.

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A racehorse has the right to life and a career. Want to fight for something? Fight for that simple truth.

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