Before you hide behind the sofa

We are daily bombarded with stories of ‘deaths’ – Death counters are the staple diet of media companies holding us fascinated, and keeping the advertisers happy. They profit from this crisis.

Who hasn’t been persuaded that we will end up like Italy? Or Spain? Countries vastly different than our own in the very make up, culture and attitude of their citizens

Would it surprise you to learn the average age of death in Italy at 78.5 years? Not a bad innings. What would they reasonably expect to live to in Italy? 82 years.

Of course we need to protect the NHS, and not allow them to get swamped. But in my opinion, and being the type of person only persuaded by hard data, I believe the new hospitals we are building should more than adequately be able to cope with the demand we should expect from this virus. And allow the country back to work

Some may take the view I take a rather cold approach to this matter. That you see yourself as decent human beings and every life must be preserved, if we can. I totally get your point.

 

But I believe the future of our children and those still young enough should be the ultimate determining factor of how we approach matters. Wrecking our economy to save people (two thirds, to one half would likely die this year anyway) is far too high a price to pay. In my opinion.

Where do I get such data? Well read on. What follows are not my words. However articles like this, informed, intelligent columns arguing against the total shut downs advocated by media types like Piers Morgan urgently give us pause for thought.

” The news today tells us that the UK has recorded 11658 cases of the Covid-19 virus and 578 deaths up from 9529 cases and 465 deaths yesterday and that is very sad, as any death is sad. But let’s try and put that into perspective.

The population of the UK as at 21 March 2020 is 67,786,872. The total deaths in the UK in 2019 was 530,857 By simple mathematics this equates to: 10,208 people die every week. 1,458 people die every day. Of the people that have died of Coronavirus, according to Professor Neil Fergusson (Imperial Collage, London.) 1/2 to 2/3 of those who have died would have died this year from their existing underlying medical conditions.

To date total number of people dying from Cv-19 is 578, which by Professor Fergusson’s calculation would mean that the Covid-19 as the prime cause of death would be between 192 and 289. The first officially recorded case of the Covid-19 in the UK was on 12/02/2020 that is 6 weeks and 2 days to 26 March 2020. This would equate to say 250 Covid-19 deaths above the 64,152 average deaths for this period.

If you care to go to the government’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention website you will discover that from 1/10/2019 to 21/3/2020 Influenza estimates in the UK, are: Flu illnesses between 33,000,000 – 54,000,000: Flu medical visits between 18,000,000 – 26,000,000: Flu hospitalizations between 400,000 – 730,000: Flu deaths between 24,000-62,000. Did we crash the country for these?

You may have read about the Kings College Coronavirus Symptom reporting App. Which was launched on 24 March, within 24 hrs they had 650,000 responses. They calculated that about 10% of the responses indicated that the responders had had the Covid-19 virus and if extrapolated to the whole of the UK, this would mean that 6.5M people in the UK have already had the virus. Oxford have also done a study which, they say has revealed, that at least 500,000 people have already had the virus. This means that the Kings College app indicates that the death rate is .00000512% and the Oxford study indicates that the death rate is .0005%.

This is why I think the world has gone mad. We have closed down hundreds of thousands of small businesses many of whom will go bankrupt. Millions of employees are out of work and have no income. The suffering and anguish which a huge number of people are suffering is totally unnecessary.

Millions of people are isolating themselves with untold consequences for their mental health. The government has committed billions, possibly trillions that will have to be paid back, placing a huge burden on the next generation. The interest payable will probably end up costing more than we spend on the NHS. Taxes will sky rocket. The government have taken, totally unnecessary, draconian powers, of which Castro in Cuba would be envious. They are even encouraging us to spy on each other.

If we go back over history and see what the experts have predicted about all the recent epidemics and how wide of the mark most of them were and are. We saw the expert predictions that mad cow disease would kill 150,000 not the below 200 that have died so far. Why are we trusting any of them now. Early in the Coronavirus scare, a UK company offered the government Covid-19 testing kits at £6. If they had taken them up, none of this would be necessary.

Is all of this being done to keep me and others of my age alive for a few more years?

Crazy.

THIS IS PROJECT FEAR ON A HUGE SCALE. BORIS JOHNSON SHOULD START LEADING NOT FOLLOWING. WHEN HE IS BACK AT WORK NEXT WEEK, LET’S ALL GET BACK TO WORK ”

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I endorse this view, evidently from one of the vulnerable group. Public health and economic health go hand in hand and we urgently need to get back to work. Fine, some may view this as heartless, the work of statisticians. But we must look beyond the next few weeks to our very future. A future where thousands of businesses on which we depend go bankrupt. Surely you see the handouts cannot last? Consider what happens when the music stops? Who will be providing the jobs?

Build the extra hospitals and unlock the working people of Britain now Boris.

I hope you share or comment fairly with your considered views.

 

Geoff

‘Virus Pandemic – Global Emergency’

If one were to engineer global panic, resultant re-drawing the world order. Bringing down companies thought invincible. Reducing flag carriers and small airlines to bankruptcy within a few months, decimating the savings of private individuals and changing the landscape for our children, this is what you do

 

You engineer a virus. You make it such that it attacks the old, yet leaves the young relatively unscathed. You know healthcare systems around the planet aren’t geared up, nor have the investment to deal with the sudden demand for beds and ventilators

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You employ a few media types to spread the message. You know the news networks will run with it constantly. Scream headlines that have people panic buying. All the time adding value to those news networks. Headlines just like ‘VIRUS PANDEMIC, GLOBAL EMERGENCY’

Let’s get one thing right – Piers Morgan – fuels panic. It wouldn’t surprise me to find many of the current government policies respecting his outspoken views. In similar vein, the ‘pandemic’ is excellent for the bottom line of Sky News and similar media outlets

Within weeks Western Governments, under pressure from the media shut down all essential business, and more. They bankrupt themselves trying to avoid anarchy. Coming up with schemes to fund people’s lives on borrowed money. Moving the problem on all the time. Deferring the strain on hospital beds and people’s finances.

Some countries, and some people have a lot to gain from the panic of people in the West. Not least it seems, at the very least in profile a certain Piers Morgan.

Eastern Governments don’t view the loss of human life, even if inevitable, with the same gravitas. Can anyone recall the numbers of deaths being mentioned in Russia? China reports considerably lower infection and death rates. Westerners only discuss Italy. Not Norway, or even the UK, which has a very low number of deaths at 233 (at the time of writing) That will rise, and potentially significantly, but will we consider if they’re ‘extra deaths’ – or not? We’re morbidly fascinated with what is happening in the country with the oldest population in the world.

Where will our irrational fear of death lead us? If what we end up with is worse, what on earth is our plan here?

Eastern Governments will come out of this crisis very well. And most certainly in control of our finances. Whilst we discuss ever worsening scenarios, they’re registering substantially less cases.

Check this interesting, recent table, showing the source of infection, the most populous nation on earth registering a very significant slow down

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The behaviour of Western Governments is entirely predictable. People in the our world view the idea of death by natural causes, as entirely unacceptable. We see ourselves as decent because we try to save as many lives as we can. Even if those lives are infirm. Even if as a society we absolutely know we are living a lot longer. Even if we appreciate there are far too many of us on this planet at the current time. The evidence of the change to our planet’s weather is global testament to our success as a species, not only in propogating ourselves, but in surviving longer. We’re not under threat of extinction any time soon.

It is, for this very reason, that our healthcare systems are constantly under strain. We cannot cope with an ever increasing elderly population.

Western Governments will fare very badly from the resultant of shutting down all of its business to ‘save lives. ‘  It is fully prepared to bankrupt itself. It gently suggests we should be prepared for deaths, because it appears at this time, with no cure, that the vulnerable unfortunately will likely fare worst.

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What we will we leave our children? This is what concerns me. Saving the vulnerable whilst we casually sacrifice the future for the young.  Destroying the savings of millions of families across the nation. How can we fund the ventilators, Doctors and Nurses required to help deal with this problem in the absence of cash? Why do we risk the anarchy of the general public- as we witness daily in supermarkets? Where’s the evidence of that famous ‘stiff upper lip’ there? The idiots rule the aisles, sitting on their loo rolls. We have a glut of morons who think we will run out of bloody toilet paper!

The oddity of this particular virus? It lags an awful long way behind other examples such as good old influenza. Which has killed us routinely for decades in tens of thousands. Every year. Isn’t there the possibility, given the numbers who die from the flu, that we are being terribly precipitous? Will Covid kill more than flu – yes it might short head it. But where is the annual lock down for flu?

I’m no scientist, but I have listened to various experts and each one carries a different message. All agree on one thing. We are told to wash our hands. Distance ourselves. Very sensible.

Lock down. Hmm, well I fully understand if you fall into the vulnerable type. So you should. But as principle I fundamentally disagree with policy that leaves us with so much less when it’s over. I believe the simple answer lies in people’s behaviour. Keep your distance and wear a mask. Change how you behave not hide behind the sofa and emerge to no job

Of course we all must accept the savings of many will be demolished. You don’t get paid in many cases to sit at home.

We move the problem along.  Eventually we will all emerge, and when we do the nightmare for the health service recommences.

In the meantime – the governments can’t test. Because everyone’s after PPE and testing kits at the same time.

And whilst we successfully bankrupt the businesses we’ve always depend upon, what do we leave behind for our children, and our young? We’ve already shown we are prepared to sacrifice the academic efforts of everyone who has attended school for the last decade by cancelling exams

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I believe strongly that public health – and economic health are vital. That the solution is not to so casually bastardise entire economies. The entire shutdown by Western Governments to keep the Piers Morgan and Kaye Burley types might appear the only solution to some, but it is a fundamental error.Where do you go once you’ve wrecked not only the economy, but the livelihoods and savings millions built up? Where’s the tough decision then?

People hate the stark reality, which appears to be, at this time, we are moving the problem along with one purpose in mind. Safeguarding some order in the NHS. However at what catastrophic price?

You cannot pick up the reins of many of the essential companies we depend upon when this is all over. The structure of many of these companies, with so much cost, doesn’t forecast for several months as a non trading enterprise.

Business that can operate with minimal risk – must be encouraged. We should throw  overbearing health and safety ideals out the window. We screen, we test, we do what we can- but we continue to function as we can. We trade lives we can save, for economic health, not those we cannot.

I cannot speak with any authority on other business, except my own. So you will forgive me for using this example. I believe as many companies that can continue to function, with minimal risk, should do so. And maintain some sort of fiscal order.

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British Racing, my industry, is in shutdown. It stands alone in many racing authorities who operate a closed door policy quite successfully. It could contribute to the finances of the country right now, as it always has, to the tune of hundreds of millions a year. It could keep those who work within the industry in employment, rather than ruin the same.

It operates on huge racetracks, surely segregation of workers is childplay for experienced racing managers! Millions depend on the sport for essential mental health. Their well being. A sense of some normality. Instead, in standard ‘knee jerk’ reaction to criticism of the Cheltenham Festival going ahead (another poor move) it has closed its doors. The executives consulted a couple of powerless Labour MP’s, who claim to bat for racing, and they recommended we should all be out of work, and go cap in hand to Government for help.

Ambulances aren’t under strain, although we use private St Johns in many cases. And if a jockey needs hospital treatment? Then we enforce an appropriate lock down of that jockey. Ask them then do they want to work?

The closure, based on excessively weak arguments about adding to the burden of public health, appeared more of a statement, than that of an authority bent on doing the best for the sport, not by closure, but by determined organising of a closed door policy, which is well within our compass

That, in my view, is totally irresponsible, of everyone involved in the decision.

In conclusion, it appears three things that must happen if we are to come out of this with any semblance of our lives prior to the virus

  • Follow the sensible distancing, hand washing measures being advocated of course
  • Accept that economic health cannot be sacrificed to save the vulnerable.
  • Test everyone. Right now. Find out who has it, and who has not.  People moving about for any reason need screening

 

Up until now, we are stumbling in the dark

Golf betting

Mark Souster

For those of a certain vintage there are moments in golf which stick out in the mind. Remember Doug Sanders missing a two foot putt for the Open in 1970, and Scott Hoch from a similar distance for the Masters in 1989 thus earning himself the soubriquet ‘Hoch, the Choke.’ How backers of both men must have cursed.

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Arnold Palmer blew a seven stroke lead at the 1966 US Open with nine to play and who can forget Greg Norman’s back nine collapse at Augusta in 1996 from which Nick Faldo took full advantage? And probably the saddest of all was Jean van der Velde committing his very own public version of hari kari at the last in the 1999 Open. He could have afforded a double bogey, but instead suffered a total meltdown. And that after taking his shoes and socks off to try to play from the stream.
There are more recent examples of major blowouts too. In 2016 Jordan Spieth turned for home and an historic back to back Masters at his mercy with a five stroke lead. But at Rae’s Creek he twice went into the water for a quadruple bogey, gifting the tournament to Danny Willett.

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The odds on any of the above happening are remote. But happen they did and such examples and numerous others have helped to boost the appeal of golf as a betting medium. After football and racing it is probably now the third most popular for the armchair punter. And for good reason.
The range of bets and options are numerous. Golf betting has increased significantly in popularity in recent years. This is partly down to the interest generated by emerging young talents but also the potential value it offers bettors. Know here to look and there’s some great value to be found.
Fifty years ago when Sanders imploded the market was restricted really to win or each way. Now there’s a blizzard of bets to choose from and a welter of data to help the decision making process.
Bookies love it because it appeals to an ABC1 audience, there’s a tournament somewhere in the world most weekends, it gets wall to wall coverage and the audience is captive for six hours at a time for the real aficionado. Tournaments reach their denouement over a weekend when people have time to relax and want to engage.
Understanding how to bet on golf is a lot easier than many people think. The most common form of golf is stroke play but there is also match play – this is when two or more golfers score each hole individually and the game is decided by winning the most holes.

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In terms of golf betting, the main competitions of interest are the four yearly majors (The Masters, US Open, The Open and PGA Championship), as well as PGA Tour events, European Tour events and the Ryder Cup.
Knowledge of the sport is merely a starting point when learning how to bet on golf. The next step is to understand the type of markets available and how to find valuable betting opportunities. Study general form, course form, the stats and avoid inexperienced players.
Accumulating knowledge of how certain players play and the course layout for a particular tournament is essential. Different players are better suited to particular courses depending on their strengths and weaknesses and will, therefore, perform better in different tournaments.
For instance the big hitting Bubba Watson and the aforementioned Spieth suit the longer courses such as Augusta and Quail Hollow as they are longer with their driver. In contrast, players like Phil Mickelson with a hot as mustard short game suit courses like Pebble Beach which require a better mastery of irons and wedges.
Look at statistics like scoring average and driving accuracy as these are good indicators of performance. However for a more advanced approach to golf betting, strokes gained statistics, greens in regulation and fairways in regulation are much more useful.
Additionally, scrambling percentage – missing greens in regulation but making a par or better highlights a player’s ability to recover after an error. Top 10 finishes can be used to gauge consistency.
Betting on an outright winner is without doubt the most popular market when someone is looking to bet on golf online. Sometimes backing a favourite outright is simply just the way to go in any sport, even in golf.

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But when tournament fields are made upwards of 140 players, it often makes sense to back a golfer in the each way market. It can certainly offer great value especially with bookmakers paying 1/5 the odds down to seven places.
Take the winners of the 2019 Majors: Shane Lowry 100-1 at the Open, Gary Woodland 80-1 US Open, Tiger Woods 14-1 for the Masters and Brooks Koepka 10-1 to win US PGA. Some people made a tidy profit.
Away from the ‘mainstream’ there are the top 10 and top 20 markets. This is a useful section to back golfers who are steady but who rarely threaten the top of the leaderboard.
Another way to make money betting on golf is to focus on match bets. People might think they can find a certainty albeit at short prices in a three ball. It could be the players are on offer at 4/6, 5/4 and 11/4. Even 4/6 could offer value to a big punter. There is huge market for that.
How about top nationality betting? Or holes-in-one which seem to be getting more frequent as players are getting more and more accurate and aggressive as equipment improves and standards get higher.
The final statistic that is always a must – a player’s putting ability. As the old adage goes, ‘driving for show, putting for dough’. If a golfer struggles to putt due to a poor technique or suffers previous mental scarring or the yips under the Sunday afternoon pressure, then he isn’t going to win you money.
Then there’s in-play betting – appealing to the male City type who loves the adrenaline rush of deals. It’s great fun, you can bet golf live and the results can be highly profitable. This sector is growing. The amounts matched on the Open are thought to be as much as £30m. One expert described it as like a stock market based on a moving golf tournament. Effectively there’s a market on every stroke in golf a way of betting on every shot of the ball.

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Let’s imagine in a non-Corona virus era the Masters was taking place next month. Where and what should we look for? Past form used to be a more reliable guide to a player’s chances. Jack Nicklaus won it eight times, Tiger Woods four times including last year’s heart-warming comeback victory, and Arnold Palmer four times in eight years way back when. Mickleson, Nick Faldo and Gary Player each have three Green Jackets.
But if you take the results from the past decade or so, attempting to find the winner of the Masters is more problematic. That is why the bookmakers love it and why golf has become such a popular betting platform.
So where would be start? Maybe with Rory McIlroy who some believe really is getting better with age? Some though would put a line through his chances if he’d started as expected as 6/1 favourite. Why though back a player who hasn’t won a Major for six years and needs a Green Jacket to complete a Grand Slam which in itself lends huge added pressure. There’s therefore no value in backing McIlroy.
But there might be in him to be first round leader at say 20-1. He has form there so it provides value and is an increasingly popular type of betting. He could make a fast start due to an early morning tee off when weather permitting he will get the best of conditions and low winds, fresh greens and no leaderboard pressure.
Next step? Start looking for value for players who are in form but you’d do better to rule out players who have been injured; this year such as Koepka and Dustin Johnson. Tommy Fleetwood might be 20-1 but ask yourself why would back him when he has only won one tournament in three years and never a major.

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Better surely someone like John Rahm? He is a multiple winner and consistent. So is Justin Thomas. This is key. Jack Nicklaus once said: ‘When you are playing golf you must win regularly to give yourself the confidence to win Majors. “ Then look at up and coming players and who could win and are therefore are at a more fancied price. Into that category would come Zander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau.
Finally we should not forget the big Daddy of them all, the Ryder Cup. It’s another serious attraction. Europe has still got the strength in depth and ability to win it more often. If looking today at the 2020 event you can get 6/4 on Europe winning the next iteration while America are 8/11 and albeit the USA had home advantage. In a two horse race and on past form Europe’s odds look fairly generous to some punters.

Racing and the whip

mark souster

Mark Souster

 
The debate about the whip, especially in jumps racing, is one of the  most important issues the sport has to confront. For some it is an existential threat. It has pitched traditionalists against reformers, heretics against the believers.
The focus on equine welfare and all that that entails – with fatalities high up the list too – will be on the Cheltenham Festival next week like never before. The scrutiny will be intense.

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Remember it was two years ago that six horses died at the Festival, three in the Grand Annual. The images of tired horses being whacked in the four mile amateur’s race run on soft ground and when only four finished triggered an outcry.
Paul and Clare Rooney who are among the sport’s biggest British owners, then announced they would boycott Cheltenham – albeit only temporarily as it turned out – on welfare grounds.
It led to a review and a marked shift change in public perception which racing is only now starting to come to terms with.
At the prompting of government responsibility for its ultimate resolution has been taken out of the hands of the BHA, and falls to a new independent Horse Welfare Board compromising experts as well as laymen and women.

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Its first report landed last month.  It is clear as day that stronger penalties for misuse of the whip appear to be a certainty by the autumn. “The overall number of offences (over 500 in 2018) remains unnecessarily high and the current penalties do not provide an adequate deterrent effect,” the board concluded.
In its wake, the BHA has announced a three-month consultation with racing insiders and the public on changes to the whip rules, with a view to deciding on and implementing changes by the end of October.
The number of whip offences fell to an all-time low of 410 last year, less than half the number from 2011. However, the board pointed to concern on the subject from the public and politicians.
It said racing had to demonstrate “a proactive, positive direction of travel in relation to the whip, taking steps to eliminate misuse and leading any discussions around the future removal of the whip for encouragement”.
Far deeper questions are also being raised. Should that consultation include questions about whether a horse should be disqualified when its rider breaks the whip rules and also whether the whip should be banned as a means of encouraging horses in races?
Could punishments for whip misuse even be extended to the trainer and owner who had employed a jockey found to be in breach?

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Barry Johnson, a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is the chair of the HWB. “This is a matter of public trust.”
The prevailing thought seems to be that racing needs to address these issues and be accountable if society is to continue to give them a ‘social license to operate.’ Well that is taking it too far.
Racing maybe facing a King Canute moment where the end result is the sport being swamped in a tide of public indignation.
But it needs to draw breath and compose itself and come out with persuasive and reasoned responses. Emotion must not be allowed to replace hard fact and cold analysis. For instance when presented with the evidence from the BHA the Rooneys changed their minds and good on them.

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We need to get to the core of fundamental questions: Why do we use the whip – for safety encouragement, or an element of both? Where and when did it start being used? Does it instigate a fight or flight reflex? Does it inflict pain?
If it doesn’t, as most contend, then it’s not cruel then why shouldn’t we continue to use it?  And why call it the whip which has such negative violent connotations?
Perhaps a controlled experiment and research would help. If a horse responds to the whip, is it because it focuses them? Does it make them try harder? Or simply stop?
Would we be better off without the whip, so we have lots of hands and heels riding, and maybe carry the whip only for safety?

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Do horses go faster with the whip? If not then why do we use them?  Especially as it’s always at the end of a race when they are all going slower because they are tired.
As one expert put it to me: “I’m sure if you had hit Seb Coe towards the end of a race he probably wouldn’t have been able to go any faster.”
So many questions and as yet too few answers.

Mark Souster

 

Mark Souster has been the racing writer at The Times since 2016. Before that he was rugby correspondent. In that role he was named sports journalist of the year by the Society of Editors and won sports scoop of the year for his revelations about England’s 2011 World Cup campaign. He has twice been nominated for sports news correspondent of the year.

The problem with Gamstop

In a boardroom in Birmingham, they came up with this plan for proposed Gamstop arrangements. Why should you care? Because it’s a dangerous intervention into people’s basic human rights.

 

Read on. Here’s how it goes..

– Back 3 losers in a row
– Self exclude for 5 years
– Wake up the next morning to find all your accounts closed in the regulated market.
– Decide, as usual, you didn’t mean it. After all this is how you’ve behaved for the last 6 years when you’ve lost, right? Shut one account down, pick up another elsewhere..
– Ring the Gambling Commission. They tell you you cannot return to any licensed operator under their rules. No, it doesn’t matter if your circumstances have changed, or you’ve simply changed your mind. You cannot change your mind.
– Set up your new betting account with Russia Bet

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Having a little chuckle? Well it isn’t actually meant tongue in cheek. You see this is actualy in planning. The plain truth is people like to gamble. 46% of us gambled last year, in one form or another. That’s circa 30 million people. ‘Surveys’ tell us, however, that there are 0.7% of those who gamble who are defined as problem gamblers. That’s 210,000.  Actual data on problem gambling levels aren’t currently available. This isn’t to say problem gamblers don’t exist, of course they do, in every addictive product – and they do deserve protection from themselves from the excesses of operators. However, I feel the focus as entirely disproportionate to the scale of the problem, and forgetting the enjoyment many clearly derive from gambling.

Society appears more and more focused on minority. Check out the toilets in the Old Vic 🙂

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So self exclusion could be argued to benefit 210 thousand more or less, and be of minimal interest to the residual 29.8 million, who enjoy their gambling and keep things under reasonable self control. Sorry to bandy statistics about. However we do need to protect that element as much as we can, from themselves. That’s not in question here.

 

So the Gambling Commission will mandate that all licensed operators respect that exclusion order, and no company, in the regulated market will be able to do business with that customer.

Insofar as that is the wishes of the customer – I agree with that ideal. But what if he changes his mind? Should that person have the right to return to gambling of their own free wil? In the same vein perhaps of a person who has stopped smoking to start up again?

Well, in that case, the UK Gambling Commission will mandate that the original ‘term’ the customer sets themselves has to be respected. That’s a divergence from the well intentioned stop order at the outset. In the first case the UKGC is enforcing a person’s free will on business. In the second, that same regulator is directly infringing that person’s human rights to change their mind. This proposal has no precedent.

 

As an operator of considerable life experience in gambling, I find most individuals currently exclude because they’re annoyed with losses or fancy a pause. That’s because the current system allows them to exclude with one operator only. It’s a weak scheme. However once you start banning people who have changed their mind, for whatever the reason, will have the causal effect of sending UK gamblers to the black market. This cannot be the sensible or proportionate approach.

The Commission will argue they ‘need to protect people from themselves.’ A noble ideal, but you’re effectively controlling their lives. Trying to stop an addict betting with a blunt tool. A wide net. It won’t work, because you cannot tell folk how to run their lives.

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This is a dangerous stance for a sensible regulator to even contemplate in a society driven by a click of the mouse.

 

Ever had too much to drink and said to yourself ‘never again?’ Imagine if that became a reality in gambling. Where would you bet next? After all gambling is a highly popular passtime. Imagine trying to stop alcoholics from drinking or chain smokers from smoking. The United States thought it could stop people drinking. How did that go?

 

This view is bolstered by a group of MP’s, who’s forum delights in a new breed of ‘experts’ in the behaviour of gamblers.They are, of course, all drawing wages. Their Doctorates, if they have one, are not in the field of gambling. This is entirely relevant, when these people set themselves up as experts.

 

This ‘cross party betting and gaming group.’ some of whom involved have questionable political motives, are currently examining gambling. I’ve seen the guest list. You don’t build a kitchen if you’re not going to cook a meal. I’ve seen the guest list. ‘Expert’ follows expert with their ideas on how many problem gamblers there are, and what to do about them. What’s clearly not represented, are the 29.8 million of us who don’t have an issue with a bet. We’re not represented.

 

It’s critical, for example, to understand how many people who exclude right now, who return to gambling shortly after, of their own free will. And in saying that, some of you will be of the view that the weakest of us will return to gambling – when they should not. It’s a valid point. However, a blanket ban on all who do exclude, is a child’s manner of dealing with the issue. These people need our help, via training and education

 

And the operators should foot the bill. Let’s be clear on that.
These same MP’s want more schools, hospitals, police on our streets. Noble ideals, with bills attached. Last year gambling contributed 3 billion pounds to the economy, a figure that rises year on year. Start banning it, and you’re presenting the golden taxation to another state. A blanket ban makes no fiscal sense and breaches people’s human rights. It will predictably fail.

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There is another way.

 

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I disagree with plans which negatively impact the many, to assist so few. It seems to me as a society we are ill prepared to stand up for ourselves and demand those that need help – seek help. Instead we silently watch Governments introduce more and more politically correct rules to control our loves. When did we become so sheep like?

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Shopping with Amazon is easy. A click of the mouse and your parcel is delivered from a depot in the UK. Yet it is an order placed in another sovereign state, and taxed abroad. Opening your account with an unregulated operator, with all the ills that entails, is quite simply, a click of that same mouse

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It is offshore black market companies which will benefit from excluded customers who change their mind and are told ‘no’ by a regulator. Forcing people onto the black market, should not be the by product of protecting that element of problem gamblers. We should ask them to help themselves.

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Train, educate, intervene positively. These are the answers to the issue of problem gambling. Prohibition shouldn’t be entering the starting stalls.

.If the Gambling Commission mandate operators should obey people’s wishes, they too should appreciate there’s an equal requirement on them to respect the same, if an individual decides he wants to gamble again.

 

Geoff Banks

December 2019

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.

fobttt

 

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.

winstone

 

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.

flint

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