Gambling Commission – ‘protect the operator’

 

There are those that say the UK Gambling Commission is staffed by fools, that they cannot possibly understand their mandate. I think they do.

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In similar vein, others argue they’re toothless, without purpose, a waste of money.
I don’t buy into either of those arguments. Would it surprise those of you, who do not know me, that I favour a stronger, more powerful regulator?

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I’m reading everywhere, that the Commission takes ‘very seriously’ the problem gambling culture of the United Kingdom. They expect the operators to behave responsibly and whereupon they do not, they can expect large fines, or even license review.

I read they complain about dolly birds at trade fairs dominated by operators. Big deal.

I don’t hear them protecting children from Ray Winstone on their televisions at 8am. I do see them shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – they work back to front, because that keeps the operators in money, they allow people to see gambling marketing at every turn, (exacerbating problem gambling levels,) then want the operators to pay for the problem gambling culture after its created. In simple terms – they work backwards.

Children caught in the headlamps of these companies.

They’re not serious. In fact they’re a morally bankrupt and irresponsible body.

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GAMBLING COMMISSION ON OPERATORS
In the last two years, Gala Coral committed two offences in breach of money laundering regulations. In both cases the company allowed individuals to gamble away a huge amount of money, without appropriate checks being made.

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888Sport allowed self excluded customers to wager in other companies it controls. It had to have been informed by those self same customers when they lost monies that they had in fact self excluded.
888Sport are still in business today.

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You can gamble 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s no watershed as in for example lottery operators. You can fund your account with a credit card, with monies you do not have. You can wager an incredible £100 a spin, multiple times an hour, or minute even in a betting shop. Indeed the Gambling Act created the environment whereupon a casino replaced WH Smith in your High Street. You can back a horse that’s fallen on exchanges, a form of organised fraud.

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Watch a game of cricket, and you’ll be assaulted by a buffet of online operators, peddling their wares, headed by Hollywood hard man Ray Winstone on behalf of Bet365, shoving you into his ‘in play.’ We’ve become used to it. We’ve become immune from the harm it creates and the impact on children.

 

Racing channels totally ruled by their betting sponsors. Racetracks dependent on the betting cash from gaming companies. The leading trade paper totally, and unapologetically, subservient to its betting partners.

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Customers given bonuses and inducements in several forms to encourage them into insidious products like gaming. Try closing your account, or stop betting with one of these companies and wait on teaser back to gambling.

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Customers widely reporting of account ‘restrictions’ in their betting. Odds being advertised, yet no mandate to lay those odds?  Accounts with restrictions been kept open, in deference to share values, yet enquiries for wagers being met with responses offering £0. No explanations for these restrictions. No action from the regulator to ensure betting behemoths actually do what they say on their tins. If you advertise a price, you surely have to lay that price to all?

Where in the Gambling Commission’s drive on bookmaker’s ‘terms and conditions’ is their focus on actually ‘laying a bet’ as part of their conditions of licensing?

In such areas the Gambling Commission ‘passes the buck’ to other agencies such as the ASA, or trading standards. When in fact its knowledge and experience, in hand with an ability to remove licenses, should be acting to ensure their operators offer a level playing field and never post odds they’re not bound to lay. This regulator says its ok for an operator to post 10/1 Altior – but doesn’t have to lay it? Protection of the commercial interest of these bookmakers over requiring them to uphold their advertising!
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The mandate of this Gambling Commission isn’t so much ‘the protection of the vulnerable’ unless you logically conclude the ‘vulnerable’  are in fact offshore gaming giants.

Point of consumption arrangements for offshore companies allow the UK to pay into the UK treasury, and the Commission’s remit isn’t to stand in the way of those arrangements. If it did, it would clearly be seen to cut the ability of companies based in overseas territories to advertise to the home market. This cosy deal between our the UK Government and the operators severely disadvantages those who choose to actually base business here.

A Government permitting offshore companies to flourish, at the expense of those who base business in the UK. The objective of good governance is to encourage companies to operate within the confines and control of the state. Any other arrangement represents corruption in Government.

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Whilst tobacco and alcohol advertising are strictly controlled, we seem to have to re-invent the wheel for betting adverts. The Gambling Commission has no official position on the volume or scale of betting advertising. Said advertising and sponsorship is fast approaching a spend of 1 billion pounds a year. (Growth in spend between 2012 and 2016 was 46% to 456 million.)

Position of the Gambling Commission on fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops? None

Position of the Gambling Commission on Bet365’s illegal operations in China (as widely reported by the Chinese Government) None

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Gambling Commission executives argue that if an advert is ‘responsible’ that it passes the test. This wouldn’t be the view of millions of sensible people. It’s a clear defence of commercial self interest.

Am I the only one to think if you’re bombarded with marketing multiple times an hour that that simply exacerbates the problem gambling culture?

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Under the new UK licensing regime, operators deriving more than 3% of revenues from distinct international markets must disclose details of those businesses to the regulator, and provide a legal opinion justifying operations in those foreign markets. 20 major operators now base themselves fully abroad living off of grey earnings. The largest online operator under UK tax and regulation is, in fact, Geoff Banks.

Bet365 are capable of bringing in a half a billion of offshore earnings into the UK market every year. They use those monies to establish dominance, and distort, the UK market place.

.It’s hard to conclude therefore, given all these evident facts, that this Gambling Commission is in any way serious about the control of problem gambling,  For as long as its stance is to create a pleasing environment which encourages offshore gaming companies to behave in exactly the way they please, to advertise so voluminously, it remains my steadfast conclusion the Gambling Commission is quite simply not fit for purpose. All this at a time when the outgoing CEO appeared far more robust than her predecessor. The organisation is a paper tiger.

As this regulator presses ahead with changes to self exclusion schemes, they will create an environment where black market operations actively flourish. Once you design self exclusion schemes which have punters self excluding one day then trying to find an alternate avenue to wager the next, and you mandate operators not to do business with them for six months minimum, and then undertake never to contact them? That’s an invitation to the unregulated black market. Such schemes, whilst well meaning, remain spectacularly ill thought through.

The Gambling Commission would be better re-branded the marketing arm of gaming companies. I’ve never been one to pander to flim – flam. Less of the focus on pole dancers at industry shows, more on why companies are allowed to associate the word ‘Fun’ with responsible.

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I’ve met the people working for the Gambling Commission.As they sit at their desks today checking to see if websites have think 21 signs and a link to links to responsible gambling helplines, ponder that you’re in fact doing far more protection of operators than regulating. No career bookmaker, or educated punter, would conclude different from this analysis of your performance.

A bet to win £100 Sir?

‘When I was younger, I worked in my family’s betting shop in Yorkshire, and we never turned a bet down. ‘ Philip Davies MP.

‘Skybet undertake to lay to lose its customers, on Racing, £100. Richard Flint CEO of Skybet

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In the intervening period since Davies ran his family’s little LBO, things have changed dramatically in the world of bookmaking. Little bookmakers, the likes that Davies describes, are dying out, in favour of supermarket style betting companies like Skybet.

And they’ve stopped taking bets. They provide no reasons for these failures. They answer no questions on the matter.

As things have stood for a few years now, regulators, advertising standards, trading standards and MP’s have stood by and watched large betting corporations advertise products without mandating them to offer the same to all of their customers. I’m no consumer lawyer here, but it seems these companies are breaching several codes, not to mention basic consumer rights.

The Gaming Committee in Parliament has taken an important first step here. What I’ve always found hard to understand is the lack of activity amongst regulators to bring firms fully to account. Consumers have rights.

Richard Flint’s speech revolved, of course, on the rights of the company, in his view, to deliver profits for its shareholders. The rights of consumers, no, wait a minute his own customers were not considered. He is perfectly aware of the PR ills afflicting modern day business, but such matters are usually brushed over by Richard Keys adverts.

Of course, the views of Richard Flint were taken by Racing Post editor Bruce Millington who spoke with some passion to describe all nefarious means punters utilise to get a bet on, and even run business off of bookmakers, without beginning to understand why that was taking place. Nor that such behaviour can be readily controlled by online operators should they wish to. He discussed line trackers, arbers, bonus hunters, value burglars. All the bad things some punters are supposed to be up to these days. His sympathies very obviously lie with big betting as at no stage did he criticise Flint for their modus operandi, nor did he offer any workable solution as Rowlands did for the HBF.

The Racing Post is an active partner in such companies, the very future of his paper and jobs sold to companies that include Skybet. Bruce is, by extension, an employee. I found his participation odd, I mean what did the gaming committee expect to hear from the Racing Post editor? Certainly not a robust defense of consumer rights but I suppose most representatives of big betting declined to appear and explain themselves. The Racing Post has never to my knowledge ran any article openly criticizing its partners. It might ‘report’ on fines or the like, but comment? Certainly not as it has proffered headlines like the image shared below, sensationalising (errantly) the activities of on course bookmakers who do not sponsor the paper.

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Bruce did clearly say a ‘lay to lose’ minimum was something he felt would not work, but he’s totally wrong. It works extremely well in Australia. The eradication of nefarious activity in that state and a fairer betting platform either escapes his intellect or offends his commercial sense. A lay to lose minimum certainly can benefit operators, forcing them to bet to a margin where everyone is granted a wager, as they are entitled to.

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What Bruce should be screaming is why on earth everyone (but him) isn’t being afforded a bet. It is right that newspapers are seen to champion the rights of consumers. This is why I’d suggest he is so universally unpopular. A role he seems to embrace.

On the very day he was speaking ‘on behalf’ of punters, he sanctioned the first three pages in his paper in support of FOBT’s. It’s simply indefensible, little wonder the circulation is so low. Where is his respect for the many complaints directed at the trade paper, from his readers, for its defence of betting when they behave so poorly? The hypocrisy of this editor stinks.

Ok, so why ‘restrict’ anyone. If you’ve decided someone is no good – why risk the embarrassment of being a multi million pound company and laying a bet of £1? Surely you just close the account and move on?

No NO NO!

Let’s examine Skybet. Bought for circa 800 million a few years back by CVC. Business ‘grows’ in customers. It ‘Claims’ a half a million more this year to 2 million. It doesn’t release profit figures. In ‘growing’ the business CVC now plan to float the same at a proposed value of 2.4bn. Some rate of ‘growth’ that, – a fanciful figure! But you do the maths. If they even get close to that valuation for its owners, it dwarves doing a few million in because you laid ten places in the Grand National, or offer Best odds against everyone on a Saturday. So even if you do lose a few million ‘gaining weight’ the city loves you.

Conclusion? All you mugs are double mugs for opening up accounts with them, only to be treated like dirt because you’re good at punting and then permit them to keep your account ‘active.’

So you get it? It’s not about the win or loose, it’s the total number. Hence Bet365 ‘claim’ 22 million customers. The level of restrictions, given how close to the bone, even overbroke every Saturday on racing, they choose to bet. They ‘add’ value to the company.

This isn’t what Richard Flint covered, he knows you’re too dumb to figure this one out. He knows no matter how he treats you, you’ll sign up like soldiers if he offers ten places in the US Masters. You’re not very bright – are you? In fact I’d conclude so many who complain to me about restrictions are as dopey as sheep. Why should I care if your moral sensibilities end at their next offer?

How many of those treated so badly, sign up to my firm? Even if we’re just as competitive and lay every one of our customers a wager online to win at least £1000, I hear people say ‘I don’t like the colour of your website’ or ‘you don’t do cashout.’ So we treat punters with respect (punters-not traders btw) – we don’t do cashout, the highest value product to a bookmaker, we rebate a little to our customers every week and we don’t do gaming. We’re precisely what the smart individual should be about, being rewarded for their loyalty and growing old together. I’m a traditional bookmaker and very proud of it. I thoroughly disapprove of these gaming giants and everything they stand for. So should you, make a stand today and sign up to us.

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Richard Flint I found engaging, smart and non-confrontational. A decent sort, and at least brave enough to answer his critics. However, his company, and its peers, do bombard our children with adverts, exacerbate a problem gambling culture, allow people to fund their accounts with credit cards, and leads with slogans like ‘it matters more when there’s money on it.’  An odd campaign for a company more famous for what it does not lay, than what it does. Much of what they do offends a traditional layer like myself. I’ve only ever known laying bets, but they force me to compete on prices they choose often not to lay.

I do applaud this first step from Davies and his committee and the work of the punters forum. I note they haven’t had the courtesy of a response from many companies, that doesn’t surprise me.

Lord Lipsey had it right. He warned operators that to ignore the concerns of Parliament into their behaviour, or even to simply fail to engage with customers and regulators is a dangerous move for the companies. He also made the very valid point that for firms to advertise a price for something, yet not to lay that price, is an issue for advertising standards, of which he has considerable expertise. His view the ASA would likely rule against such operators for their failures to lay what they peddle. So why haven’t punters done precisely that?

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Apathy. Punters love a moan, but most are simply too damn lazy or feckless to do anything about it. They whine about Bet365 not laying them a bet, but meekly sign up to their next offer. Donald Trump was elected despite offending the sensibilities of women, Mexicans, immigrants.  People howl, then line up to sign on.

The bottom line, what it all comes down to, in betting, is PRICE. That’s the sole determinant of whether you lay a bet or perhaps not. And naturally how much you lay. Since so many offers are so very unsustainable in commercial terms, yet attractive in new customers.

If I look at a sea of punters in front of me at Cheltenham, I don’t think of who is undesirable or not. We simply don’t restrict bets on course since we run a book based purely on the odds. Indeed, the smallest fiddler on the racetrack would comfortably lay a bet to lose £105 to everyone. Something Skybet will not.

When on course bookmakers were mandated to respect each way standard place terms, they adapted. And so can big betting to any ‘lay to lose’ minimum.

Would some punters lose out? No, but traders would. Those currently utilising bookmakers to facilitate a business. Casual punters are not as obsessed by price as you’d imagine. They just want a bet and I have every sympathy with their complaints.

So a business based on PRICE and not MARKET SHARE would accommodate all of its customers. Isn’t that right Richard?

My point to the committee involved the UK Gambling Commission. They collect essential data from online operators for every quarter. Number of self-exclusions, cooling off, age and sex of new customers is all collated. Lots of interesting material on the demographics of the UK gambling sector. But they currently do not require operators to provide data on how many they close, how many they restrict. They seem afraid to tackle the subject. Why? Surely Parliament and the DCMS must be provided with this information, if they are to have an accurate picture of the sheer scale of the problem.

There’s a clear problem. They are responsible for fair play. Make it your business to find out what’s going on. That’s how you justify your wages lads.

Richard Flint claimed they only restrict 2% of their customers. I’m not sure if he was discussing ten pin bowling, but with my online experience, I’d say that figure was fanciful. In the absence of data who can accurately dispute anything he says?

How do restrictions work? You’d be human to imagine such impressive companies have the very latest tools and analysis, not to mention teams of staffers working on the problem. In fact, it’s depressingly low tech. Broadly based on rather simple software tools working at the point of sale. Bookmaker price vs exchange price. Yes, I did say exchange, the two-bit penny arcade that runs the show.

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Traders for such companies aren’t career bookmakers blooded at Ludlow over twenty years in the rain laying bets and understanding margins. They’re young, impressionable and often ill trained student types, trained to follow Betfair. Many of these traders I’ve met in interview, and their lack of depth and understanding into how punters think and behave is startling.

The truth is Denise Coates of 365 doesn’t engage with customers, – other than via Ray Winstone. They don’t answer questions, offer views, defend or trumpet the business. She’s not alone. William Hill, Betway, Betbright and Betfair have nothing to say on restrictions. They simply refuse to comment. They’re too ashamed to engage.

I’m in the online marketplace. I thoroughly support a lay to lose and it should be £1000 a bet for my customers. That’s what it is, with almost no exception. Yes, we close the traders down or stop them taking prices, but that’s only after personal and detailed analysis of their actions, and only when we conclusively feel they’re operating business off of our backs. And then we tell them exactly why we’re doing what we do.

For those of you thinking of challenging me on why I don’t just lay everybody right now every bet? Well quite simply I’m forced to compete with companies like Bet365 and their restriction culture or put the key in the door. So, patience is what I ask, until government mandates they offer a fair bet to all – I’m manacled to their policies. I do better than any of them in laying a bet to all my customers though. I’ve noticed barely a single restriction in my business in any wager to win at least £1000 in my business in the last month. We’re reacting.

What I support is a culture based on price and respect for all customers. I don’t agree with Simon Clare of ‘never a quarrel Coral’ when he says, ‘some need to be controlled.’ I believe it’s up to the operators to operate a fair platform of betting for all, to an acceptable lay to lose. £1000 is not a gigantic sum for companies turning over billions a year. Any argument against that level I’d challenge in any debate, bring on a straight debate. We operate to that level right now, don’t tell me Skybet, Betfair or Coral cannot match my offer.

 

Good luck getting a bet with them.

 

https://www.racingpost.com/news/news/are-bookmakers-unfairly-closing-customer-accounts-views-from-tuesday-s-debate/316874?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Wednesday%20News&utm_content=Speeches

Racing Post link to speeches given to the panel

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Unibet’s favourite ambassador

There’s a dangerous saying in Racing. ‘How dare you question me?’ One could introduce  perhaps ‘I am beyond reproach.’

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But Nicky, you’re not beyond reproach, for a second. In fact it does appear to coin another well turned phrase, ‘he doth protesteth too much’

Whilst I personally find Nicky,  a most amiable sort, and of appreciable talent, there are two things which he has to take fully on board. One, racing fans don’t have reason to appreciate nor like the commercial stance you are adopting in relationships with Bookmakers. And second, you have to accept that the behaviour of those who work in your yard, or how information is utilised, will be the target for speculation, for as long as you maintain horses are in great order, only to withdraw them a couple of days later.

The ‘some journalists are dead meat’ comment, is unprofessional, and unjustified. Frankly it’s a dangerous precedent, from a yard that so dominates the sport. Journalists have an important role to fulfil, and it’s not to kiss people’s backsides. Fine, we all accept Racing press notoriety not for hard headed sports journalism, rather a deserved reputation for the supine. Printing the rubbish peddled by top trainers as gospel has long since reached epidemic proportion.

See this interview with Matt Chapman from ITV’s feed in which he denies there was a problem with Altior on the Saturday before the Tingle, and maintains there was ‘no issue’

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjn1YjumaXYAhXpCsAKHX7WAJ0QFggwMAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.itv.com%2Fracing%2Farchive-clips%2Fmatt-chapman-speaks-to-nicky-henderson-about-the-altior-controversy&usg=AOvVaw1OlX8-6oTcPV6qZcU03oJu

And here is Nick’s Unibet version which maintains there WAS an issue with ALtior’s breathing the Saturday before

https://t.co/4dfZFYlzfq

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to understand which version I am to believe?

 

To deal with each point. One, the practice of association with Betting companies is an abhorrent development, something Henderson should be fully aware is deeply unpopular. Let me remind people how companies such as Ladbrokes utilise information to their advantage, gained from accounts they operate,  as in the David Evans- Rule 4 saga. Anyone that imagines these betting behemoths behave with impeccably good manners when it comes to money must be living in some form of fantasy world. None of them behave well. In fact there’s compelling daily evidence to show how low they have stooped as companies in their pursuit of accounts and money. They’re bound to use associations with top trainers to their commercial advantage, and to penalize their customers therefore. And Nicky knows this, hence his exaggerated indignation at Cheltenham.  Unibet have no reason to release your ‘information’ promptly. They are not a news service.

Punters simply think they are being cheated, whether that’s true or not, such association used to be outlawed, for very good reason. The BHA haven’t supplied any rationale for this decision, and don’t expect a docile Gambling Commission to do anything about it either.

To boot Unibet have ensured the very latest flow of information from Seven Barrows, via their association with your stable Jockey, Nico De Boinville. Couldn’t get any more insidious.

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Henderson simply shouldn’t be releasing information via any medium other than the stable’s own twitter feed, or perhaps via the racing press feed. Good news, or bad news. A Bookmaker is simply not the right vessel.

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As a bookmaker, we were aware of very significant monies for Fox Norton, for the Tingle Creek in the day PRIOR to the withdrawal of the mighty Altior. And we were not alone as the news was all over Twitter. Betfair exchange and other bookmakers reported the same pattern of monies. Fine, Hendo may not have personally made a final decision as to the participation, but others quite clearly had leaked their doubts to their associates, as to the participation of Altior. The fact remains, some people generously helped themselves before the information was released, and they were proven correct. Who was leaking this information, or were they all better informed than Henderson himself? You were after saying the horse was in ‘magnificent order.’

One concludes either Henderson doesn’t know the well being of his horses, he’s waiting on the strength of the opposition to show their hands, or someone else in his organisation knows his charges better than he does.

Perhaps it could be the myopic focus on the Cheltenham Festival. A subject which concerns many racing fans, excepting the regulator itself. The Tingle, Fighting Fifth and many more top races decimated. The BHA far too slow to establish minimum conditions of entry for the Festival. Something they’re told by the likes of Henderson ‘isn’t possible.’

It is. Yesterday I heard the NFL, the world’s best sporting body, totally re-jig it’s schedule next week, to put all potential playoff games on at the same time. Doubtless upsetting giant TV networks. That’s how to run sport. Act

The truth is – Altior will be another one of those top stars who turn up in March, having not experienced a real race (of his class) in the six month lead up to Cheltenham.

The pigs ended up in the betting trough, and people are fully entitled to know why, since they are investing in the sport.

Associations with big betting companies by jockeys and stables has to be ended by this BHA. There’s no sensible regulatory reason for such deals, other than to upset the very people who funded the sport to the tune of 52 million last year.

Remember, Mr Rust, the only people to benefit from those deals are the best of trainers and jockeys. The little guys rarely share in such windfalls, and if it in any way has the whiff of impropriety,-  it has to be outlawed.

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Finally, I would add that Henderson’s ‘how dare you’ approach, as a top trainer needs to be roundly condemned, in all quarters. This arrogant approach, that if you dare question anything I do, in the manner so common in other sports, is damaging to the good governance of racing. nobody should be above fair interview. Tell me why Nicky Henderson thinks he only deserves good press?

It wasn’t so long ago Nicky, that you were handed the softest ban in living memory for doctoring records, to conceal guilt, and administering banned substances to your horse. I don’t doubt the shame of reporting in those days leaves a hurtful stain in your memory, but you have to accept that those journalists, then and now, are simply, and fairly, doing their job. You broke the rules, knowingly, and with appropriate disregard for the rules. It’s more than a bit rich to claim the moral high ground over your associations with betting companies, especially if you don’t bet with Unibet. I expect most people get their racing news from the Racing Post, or the Guardian. Aren’t these more appropriate mediums?

So Nicky, accept the brickbats as they come, because you most definitely benefit from a veritable avalanche of good press when your horses do well.

I suppose I’m dead..

 

 

 

 

Tingle Creek – The Bookies View

I start the week at a responsible gambling conference held for on course bookmakers and hosted amongst others by the gambling commission. There’s a few cynical views I don’t agree with bandied about the room by career bookmakers, aimed at the hapless representatives of the Commission. Some say the GC is a pointless quango. I don’t agree.

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It’s hard though, to endorse a commission that claims it’s trying to control spiralling problem gambler numbers, yet makes no moves whatsoever to control the hundreds of television adverts aimed at the vulnerable and yes, let’s admit it, to our children, every single week.

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It’s hard not to be a cynic. One thing I’m certain of. If big betting is peddling James Bond lookalikes on our telly at 8am in the morning on every sporting channel we have? That’s gambling aimed at children. Let’s agree on that Ms Harrison.

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Here I am, teaching problem gambling control to the Gambling Commission..I’m struck by how self-evident such matters are – to everyone but regulators, who seem more bent on protecting big betting firms themselves.

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During the seminar, the phones started humming with texts for southern based bookmakers, bound for Sandown that weekend. Douvan out. He’s better named Divan.

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I don’t think anyone’s one bit surprised. It’s not as if this isn’t a regular occurrence from the thoroughly evasive Willie Mullins. It amuses me Rich Ricci is given oxygen on Attheraces to tell everyone but a day or two prior to pulling him out, that his horse is bound for Sandown. In defence of ATR, who else is there to interview in the sport, if not to prove his pure comic value? The channel’s job is to entertain. You cannot call Ricci a liar, because participation, once again is based on another one of their hometown gallops. No, Ricci isn’t a liar, but what’s certainly true, is your a complete idiot if you believe anything this man has to say about his horses, since he’s proved 100% wrong on multiple occasions. About his own horses.

More to the point, there’s far too many opportunities for such horses, it’s easy to be ambivalent about one target or another.

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Or have you all forgotten ‘Vautour heads for the Gold Cup.’ Such short memories.

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What’s certainly true, is more than 24 hours before the non declaration of the Okie Cokey horse, insiders were helping themselves to 9/4 Fox Norton for the Tingle Creek, and Divan was subject to a notable drift on exchanges in the run up to not actually being declared.

This needs to be investigated, and promptly. It’s not good enough to argue that because antepost markets are much smaller these days, that there’s nothing to see here.

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The question to be asked of Mullins isn’t ‘will he be OK for Cork Willie?’ more pertinent ‘can you explain the drift of Douvan in markets prior to the official notification?’ – Who was running to the betting shop and why? Isn’t this the job of regulators?

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Why isn’t Mullins and Ricci telling everyone they’re withdrawing him the very moment the gallop is deemed ‘unsatisfactory.’ I’m super aware there are snobbish views with certain trainers that what goes on in the world of betting is beneath you. The integrity of this sport supersedes your personal disdain for betting markets or punters. And Mr Ricci does happen to be the Chairman of Betbright. He has to be seen as super clean.

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Major jumps meetings always draw a sizeable crowd. There’s little doubt pound for pound National Hunt racing bests the flat code for interest. Perhaps it’s because NH stars last more than one season before they’re retired to stud? Whatever, it’s for sure we need to do everything possible to promote a dying sport. Because chasing is terminal to my mind in British Racing. Under pressure from French prize monies and the growth in all weather product.

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So Matt Chapman is right to argue, and I accept, the small field contesting the Tingle Creek is an inevitability. There’s simply not enough grade 1 stock, especially given the BHA is far too free with grade one status gifts to tracks. To boot there’s a positive glut of opportunities for too few horses. I’m of the view Douvan is perhaps gone as the force he was. He’s a big fellah, must be incredibly difficult to keep fully fit. He put in a shocker in the Queen Mum last year, they’re fannying about again this year. That’s if he gets to Cheltenham. Participation seems odds against right now. See if I’m wrong.

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But its up to the sport to appreciate it’s in crisis here. Novice chase numbers have been appalling for some years, averaging 5 per race, and we’re simply not doing enough to arrest it. We all live and breathe a good Gold Cup, or Queen Mother. If we don’t find some way to get more owners interested in bringing ex flat stayers of some worth into this code, we’re in a lot of trouble keeping sponsors and punters interested.

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Sandown has to be the best viewing track in the country and used to win racecourse of the year. Used to. Now I’d hazard for a major racetrack it’s at nearer the bottom of the performance scale. A huge indoor arena selling Guinness from temporary bars, a dwindling number of concessionaires, hardly any coffee bars, and huge queues for the few that remain on a very cold day. Not enough money in coffee? Ask Costa Coffee how it’s done. For indoor areas, see Ascot for quality, bespoke bars, facilities, comfortable seating, and yes, style. Well appointed, comfortable and very profitable. The difference between Sandown and Ascot is plain embarrassing.

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Counter Ascot with Sandown. A big empty hall, is that honestly the best you can do? Under investment? Well it’s self-evident not a dollar more than absolutely necessary is getting spent. Imagination? None. Beer cups, yes of course, JCR are fully committed to plastic.

Where’s the drive to prepare Sandown for the potential closure of Kempton? A tired facility, and no mistake. A thorough lack of creativity or drive from Jockey Club. Vin Ordinaire facility, with superb viewing.  I’d like a look at Jockey Club’s financials right now an organisation I’d hazard a guess, in far from rosy complexion.

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The Tingle Creek, stirring, exciting, perhaps the wrong result for the punters this time, but for all that a great spectacle. I like to see Nicholls pick up major prizes these days, he continues with his success, even if Mullins gains all the available press available for jumps racing.

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Overall impression? Well I still find the day extremely enjoyable, and it’s evident many of the racegoers do too. Winter jumps racing can deliver for this sport some of it’s most noteworthy and exciting finishes. Those in charge of this sport and these racetracks need to discuss how we can wrest interest back from football, cricket and rugby. The underlying numbers are far from impressive.

The Bookmaker’s response to the Simon Clare show.

 

There’s nothing wrong with widening the appeal of a show. There’s little question Attheraces needed to breathe some life into their Sunday Forum, Attenborough couldn’t find more dinosaurs in one room most weeks. A betting debate, with Simon Clare of Coral – Ladbrokes, and why not? I’ve no idea why Coral have set themselves up to be the mouthpiece for big betting. It seems a hiding to nothing to me, but the opposition was predictably weak, and I have to say, extremely ill prepared.
Kevin Blake and Sean Boyce (ex Ladbrokes) provided the ‘panel’ anchor roles. Blake is an amiable enough chap, but as a betting expert? I’ve seen this many times, Racing producers reluctant to have their betting partners questioned, in any way or shape. In the absence of appropriate challenge to Clare’s remarks, let me provide the balance the show lacked.

Sean Boyce, my understanding as a current Ladbrokes-Coral ‘ambassador’ works for Coral’s TV output. Not revealed on the show. Hardly likely is Sean to properly debate matters on behalf of punters when he works for Coral – is he? Does anyone have any integrity anymore, or does everyone slavishly work for big betting? Here’s our impartial anchor doing his thing.

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Little wonder the show turned into an advert for Coral. If Simon Clare could have handpicked ‘opposition’ to his views he couldn’t have done better. Anyone know who produces this material?

The main theme was betting restrictions. Simon is right, all firms are engaged in restricting customers. Blake’s argument, that firms were being too precipitous in factoring so many, so quickly. He’s wide of the mark. It’s frankly quite useless to argue in such a vein, whilst the bookmakers choose to behave in the manner they do now. With a thorough disdain for the customer ideal.

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It’s accepted by both ‘sides’ that punters have never had it quite this good, and that would be true. What’s also true is the current environment allows betting firms like Coral, or perhaps more saliently the market leader, Bet365, who drive the giveaway culture, to make false claim as to odds or bonuses they advertise so freely on every platform. I can think of no other sector of business that’s permitted to advertise products, yet can deny those offerings to such a large customer base.
If something is advertised, but is unavailable to many customers, that’s basically an unsustainable pricing module.
In making such promises on prices or bonuses, these major organisations presurise the smaller independent sector to compete on their terms. The smaller firms arguably behave with more honour and provide better customer service than major betting. They’re left shouldering odds they wouldn’t normally countenance, because that’s what customers expect. The independent secor of bookmaking has been in notable decline as supermarket betting has invaded their space.
The number of accounts that are restricted by the way in one shape or another run into the millions by the way. We’re not talking about a few individuals. It’s right to say that still means the majority still get their bet, but I see no reason why everyone should now be afforded the same service standard.
The argument isn’t therefore about who gets restricted, nor why. It’s about the culture of unsustainable odds and bonus deals which companies like Coral devise and promote every day. Of course there are those punters who benefit, make profit from bookmakers and the manner in which they operate these days. Evens each of two in a Rugby match borders on madness, where the only chance afforded the firm is an unlikely tie.
So Mr Blake, when Clare says that the majority do get their bets on? The question isn’t why more don’t, but why he operates a system of betting, he cannot support to all of his client base as a company.
Also Mr Blake, when Coral claim the moral high ground on lay to lose guarantees, the informed question goes along the lines of- ‘are the prices the same in the shops as online?’ Please write that down.
Many times Simon Clare mentioned how Coral were a licensed and ‘responsible’ bookmaker. An odd claim for a company who were fined 2.3 million pounds but a week ago! This would be their second substantial fine from the Gambling Commission. This for accepting a huge series of wagers from two individuals who stole a staggering amount of money, and they didn’t ask the question where the money came from.

It’s a company that in the last week didn’t deny, indeed even suggested to the BHA investigative team on David Evans, that their traders could well have cynically cut the price of a horse to benefit from rule 4 deductions. After, oh by the way, being told by the trainer that said horse was to be withdrawn. There’s a word for such activity, it’s called fraud.

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Attheraces chose either not to permit any discussion on this topic, or afford time toward this important subject. Despite the importance of the topic to Kevin Blake. Doubtless mindful of their sponsors. They will, of course, argue the incident occurred before Clare took over PR duties for both companies in the recent merger. Surely though the question in discussing how bookmakers behave has merit. Do Coral also indeed ‘buy’ information in the manner ladbrokes did (by providing better odds to Evans)? How do they use such information? There’s no excuse for the decision by the broadcaster not to ask the question. The information is fully in the public domain and the Ladbrokes own regulatory officer made such suggestion himself last week.

Clare himself also commented on the rule 4 issue on behalf of both firms “We will also never knowingly shorten the price of a suspected non-runner to benefit from an improved Rule 4 deduction.’ Draw your own conclusion as to the use of the word ‘will.’
Of course in claiming to be so responsible, Simon Clare side steps the minefield that is the FOBT debate. He says moves to restrict FOBT stakes should be based on empirical evidence. So Mr Clare, are you providing this evidence? How is such evidence comprised? The number of times a machine is booted to death? Perhaps in the number of verbal and physical assaults on staff? Perhaps its in the number of suicides by customers each year?
It’s a widely held view by the general public, as well as players themselves, that these machines shouldn’t just be restricted, but since it was never the intention of the 2005 Gambling Act to create casinos in our High Streets,  should in fact be removed, period. That’s not going to happen, I forecast another substantial fudge from the government.

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Simon does have the good grace to look embarrassed in arguing the merits of FOBT’s – I’ll give him that.
The topic came round to a guaranteed lay to lose. To me, this is an utterly sensible solution. Indeed on racetracks, small bookmakers did use to operate such a guarantee, very successfully. Again the Coral spokesman argues against the need for sensible controls. Why? Because he knows current policy simply make said scheme unworkable?
Mr Clare also peddled Racing’s biggest myth. The BHA support for machines. Failure from racing to support their money making schemes, would result in shop closures and a consequent loss to Racing via media rights fees. But Simon, there’s no ’empirical evidence’ for that. Is there? As an embarrassed Boyce pointed out, bookmakers are fully adept at creating betting opportunities , and making profit in the potential absence of FOBT’s. Hell, they run shops on minimum wage basis and often with just one staffer present, who doubles up as the cleaner and refreshes the change tray. They can get by.
Overall the show came over as yet another advert for big betting firms, notably Coral. Many claims made during the hour went totally unchallenged, or were mis-understood. I’m guessing the producer realised this when he put on this soft porn for an important sponsor. But where’s the backbone?
I don’t accept the panel was balanced, it left a sour taste in fact, yet another advert for sponsors in my view. Nor do I accept that Coral, or any of their betting peers are in any way ‘responsible.’ Just about every major operator has been hit with hefty fines by the regulator for unacceptable failings in how they behave to customers. This isn’t an accident. If the regulator had any guts, it would have instigated license review on several major betting enterprises a long time before now. Let’s start with the removal of those firms who contravene the’grey market regulations. Ping Pong Wang Chow Mein Stoke.
Simon Clare ended Coral hour by challenging Kevin Blake to another duel under the lights. Kevin’s a nice fellah, but he’s completely out of his depth here. If Coral, or even Attheraces want a proper debate on the behavioural standards of big betting companies, I stand ready to challenge their assertions. Bring it on, this ‘fight’ has been too long in the offing.

 

Aidan O Brien. A dose of reality.

Roll up for your Ladbrokes sponsored, 18 page Aidan O Brien pullout, in tomorrow’s Racing Post.

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Look, I get everyone likes a winner. And I understand the often unpleasant comments some folk make when you dare to criticise certain Irish horse racing personalities. I mean if you followed and backed Aidan’s group one runners you’d be in clover with 26 wins in Group ones this season. And sure we know he’s a nice guy and a hard worker. I’m not crabbing him for that.

But.. check this list out

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Oops. On the very week everyone is slapping Coolmore on the back, we hear Churchill (3yo) Caravaggio (a baby) and Highland Reel (grand old timer at 5) retired to further the personal worth of those involved.

Check out some of last  year’s entrants, rather departures. Australia, Camelot, The Gurkha. All available at attractive stud fees, and oh yes, I know everyone swallows the excuses peddled for their departure. spots on their noses, heat, a really nasty rash.

An effective and successful cash cow, not always the heroic outfit elements of the press feel bounden to peddle. Of course I know they’re about their jobs, who wouldn’t, but let’s the rest of us keep our feet planted firmly in the mud.

What I simply don’t understand is the lack of balance in reporting on an organisation like Coolmore. All that power in one organisation? They can, and frequently do have sufficient top of the line stock to field between 3 and 5 runners in every Group 1. Why is everyone so surprised at their success? Many of the Irish group races may as well be run in Ballydoyle. Rarely more than a token Godolphin participant.
O Brien plunders the Group one market in England because he can, because he has the tools, because there are frankly too many Group 1’s. He threw in 6 participants in the Derby, and his ‘outsider’ won. How many trainers can send six realistic chances into the blue riband event? Five sired by the outstanding Galileo. That’s 5. A success pattern that’s gone on for as long as Galileo’s started outputting the very cream of racing bloodstock. Galileo is Coolmore. And before Galileo was Saddlers Wells and a reputed three hundred and fifty MILLION in stud fees.

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Other than stoic politeness, keeping them quiet, I’m sure those considering investing in a horse with the potential to compete at racing’s top table are far from impressed at the stud fees, or purchase prices they’re being forced to shoulder in Coolmore world. NOT reported so freely, that.

It’s arguable the likes of Clive Cox wiped the floor in training terms this year, buying horses cheaply and producing the goods. AOB simply cannot fail with the stock. Of course that comment is bound to ruffle a few feathers who’ll declare it’s always possible to lose, but please, get a grip of yerselves, he had three in the Chester vase to escort Venice Beach home. Oh and one from his son. There were 8 runners.

Fail? He’d have to be a complete fool

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And yes, he has a stable jockey who is pound for pound ten clear of his peers. The quite outstanding Ryan Moore. We can add Moore to Galileo. How many trainers get that?
Let’s tally it up so far. Galileo, Moore and 350 million head start. Not too bad.

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It is, quite simply, a massive imbalance in power. It’s a fact. An obvious fact. We surely don’t need to state the obvious do we? Well, I feel we do, because all I’ve read for years is how amazing Coolmore are. To my mind though, they’re Real Madrid, Man Utd, Juventus and PSG rolled into one outfit. Squaring up to them are the biggest underperformers in the sport. Godolphin. And I remain a Sheikh Mohammed fan resolutely. But his staff have not turned up.

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So yes, Aidan is indeed humble, because he’s no fool and to trumpet such evident success with said material would be obscene. And I like his attitude immensely, he lacks the patronising snobbery of some in racing, but no bother, I’m not about to sit back and listen to one sided reporting.

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Does Aidan manage these stars to their best performance? I think the writing is on the wall in that regard- he’s supremely good at delivering the right winner, even increasing stud values by a form of rotation of his talent. His placement and tactics are superior. I’m not crabbing his ability.
Turning to that Derby, and the master trainer’s tactics. Check out Wings Of Eagles at Chester in this video. In my opinion Chester stewards shamefully failed to address. Six good cracks in the last 2 furlongs for Venice Beach – none for Wings of Eagles. He wasn’t averse to the whip at Epsom. I can be wrong here- but the question simply has to be asked by officials when they see this.

 

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Give thought to the the National Hunt code these days appears far less likely to benefit from flat stayers switching code as in Istabraq’s era, with policy retiring horses at three years of age. Frankly it’s a ridiculous state of affairs. And why isn’t it being declared as such? Sub servience.

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Unlike the hugely unenterprising Willie Mullins, i do appreciate very much that Coolmore races their stars against each other, not all of whom appear to be off for their life, commonly utilising pace makers, an issue authorities need to correct. However, it’s still great for the sport to see Order Of St George, Winter and Capri squaring off in the ARC. It’s refreshing. Not what Willie would give us. In this regard I want to make clear AOB and Coolmore don’t shy from competition.

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Keep also in mind the effect on ownership for those less fortunate than John Magnier. I mean not to demean his achievement in dominating flat racing globally, he’s been eating Godolphin’s lunch for some years. I doubt he’d worry about what I think as Galileo goes about his dailies 🙂 Old bookmaking friends Derek Smith and the mighty Michael Tabor are no slouches when it comes to the business of racing. This is a powerful and enterprising triumverate of business talent.

Guess what? I won’t be getting a stable tour of Ballydoyle next season..but Aidan, personally, you’re a star Sir.

Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie in the world?

Not often you find a bookmaker prepared to answer claims from punters that they don’t lay a bet. Hopefully you’ll afford some credit

http://www.bookiedispute.com/?p=841 Check these claims out.

This is a blog from someone called ‘Rob’ – Rob is anonymous. He wants to make his claims without anyone knowing who he is. Not quite brave enough to make his argument in his own name. Right up there in the highest echelons of the Betfair forum. The place for unlicensed individuals to vent their spleen anonymously. Be as rude as you like and say what you like when no one knows your name can’t you?

Well no. You cannot. Check the headline ‘Rob’ comes up with

‘Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie in the world’ makes overwhelming suggestion that I don’t lay a bet. That my long standing reputation for laying a fair bet is in fact a sham.

His remarks are nothing short of libellous. The fact remains you cannot sit on social networking and say just whatever pleases you. If you  make allegations against another individual, those allegations have to be substantiated, by you, in as court of law. Being unaware that’s the law of the land, doesn’t give you immunity.

The last time I tested these laws was with one particular idiot who thought it would be amusing to describe me as a cokehead on Twitter. That little escapade cost him damages and expenses approaching fifty grand. That’s fifty grand for opening your mouth and letting your tongue wobble Rob.

In the last few months alone my office has paid out 93 grand to one customer and 55 grand to another. Both those customers still wager with me without any restriction. That’s a fact. And we have many customers who bet with us who do in fact show a profit on their betting. Wagering without any appreciable restrictions. Because their business is recreational, win or lose. We work our socks off to give the finest one to one service and all the technology, apps, mobile sites and websites, my nearest rivals deny their customers.

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But, and it’s a big but. There are plenty of loud mouth individuals on Twitter or the like who sit at home utilising expensive trading software like Bet angel, price scalping tools, odds scanners or the like, masking their IP address- only offering a bookmaker a bet because their odds have become out of date, and therefore bigger than Betfair’s exchange. Engaged in such activity marks your business out as professional. You’ve no complaint expecting us to help you run business.

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I certainly don’t run a sportsbook to help these unlicensed individuals with their money trading or arbing. I’m not here to support their activities and I do not have to justify not laying them a bet, or restricting such traders to pennies because I see them as simple parasites on my firm.

I don’t owe you a living, and you need to get that into your head. You can’t describe yourself as a ‘punter’ when your machine tells you to back Stau Bucharest on the Asian handicap because it’s less on Betfair. You’re quite simply a money trader. A punter has a bet in the Grand National, or the cup final, because that’s what punting truly is. Not what you do. Scanning bookmaker sites for potential trades isn’t punting. It’s trading.

Of course there are those who say, well you put those odds up so you should lay them. Well, of course we do, we don’t put up prices our customers can’t take. We don’t need a £5000 guarantee on ITV races like Coral offer (shops only of course, they’re simply not mandated to lay the offers they make) because we lay these bets every race, every day. And we don’t mind if the recreational punter helps himself, win or lose. But not the scalper. You justify what you do by saying we only want mugs. That’s not correct at all, we simply don’t want professional arbers. You’ll unfairly describe anyone not sitting at home with their trading tool scanning websites for margin advantages as mugs. That’s disrespectful. They’re not in it for the same reasons you are.

You’re an unlicensed bookmaker- looking for another bookmaker to put bread on your table. Are you serious?

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Let’s deal with Rob. He describes ‘a horse racing enthusiast’ who deposited money with me. Are you joking? Who’s this enthusiast? Name him. If there’s any veracity in your ridiculous claims let him speak for himself.

Let’s be honest here, the enthusiast is in fact our friend Rob, one and the same. Do you think anyone believes the ridiculous claim about some fictional mate who couldn’t get on, and he’s having a rant on his friend’s behalf. Don’t make me laugh. I mean who blogs about someone else’s betting problems?

He describes two wagers. He claims they were placed and neither ‘price was out of line.’ Do you believe him? Do you think it’s in the least bit possible that if those prices were achievable on Betfair exchange at the time, that he wouldn’t have availed himself on the exchange? Traders like Rob require bookmakers to lay them the bets Betfair cannot. That’s a fact of life. That’s precisely why they complain so vociferously. When the bookmaker inevitably restricts them, that’s chipping away at their ‘income.’ There’s a giant difference between someone running a business, and someone just having a bet. One has expectations of guaranteed profit.

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Of course not. Rob is a thorough going liar. Of course the wagers were giant arbs, or perhaps job money. It’s hard to say because we take thousands of bets a month and funnily enough we can’t find any ‘horse racing enthusiast called Rob’ who had anything like these wagers.

Do you think, accepting the possibility we couldn’t find the wagers he describes, but that they exist in some differing form, that we would have restricted this fictional customer after just two wagers if our information wasn’t utterly conclusive that not only these wagers, but subsequent requests he made weren’t all identified as selections picked solely because an arbing or trading situation arose to his benefit?

One final point in dealing with Rob, and the small army of Rob’s out there trading on Betfair in your underpants, forming your own bookie hating communities. A few months ago, I had the unhappy fortune to run into several hundred individuals who were using ghost ‘friend’ accounts to help themselves to bookmaker open account offers. Bear this in mind. If you’re using friends to place wagers on your behalf, there are two inescapable facts. One, your friend becomes your agent and is required to have an agent’s license from the gambling commission. And two, you’re effectively running a business, via agents and you’re liable for taxation on your punting and profiteering from bonus offers. Deal with that.

That’s why they’re anonymous. But your IP address gives the game away.

Is Geoff Banks the lamest bookie? An attention seeking rant is the truth. You’re disrespectful, and dishonest. We work very hard to service our customers and lay their bets of all sizes. Been doing it for years. No BOT trader is going to wobble his tongue in my direction unpunished.

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Geoff Banks, bookmaker Newbury 20.4.13 Pic: Edward Whitaker