Royal Ascot, the Bookies view

Please note. You are only reading this garbage because you’ve given me permission to write it, and by reading this you agree and understand you may not always smile, laugh or hate me any less if you’ve ever given me money. That I signed up with the information commissioners office because I had to, not because I understand it
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Let’s talk Ascot.
For the Yah Yah’s and Carolines, Ascot represents the pinnacle of their (racing) social calendar. Said types wouldn’t be seen dead at Kempton. No surprise there, you have to like your food from vans there. Of the fifty thousand who make the daily pilgrimage to the great track, I’d hazard only 38 are actually aware there are horses on the premises.

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For dirty stinking low life Bookmakers who never lay a bet and have turned the whole planet into problem Gamblers, because that’s what we do of course, Ascot is another fun week on our cosial come working calendar. Not the Cheltenham type of money. That’s proper Irish cash. A chance simply to get some of our bail out cash back, and watch Ruby fall at the last.  Ascot by comparison far more the social event. With the Sovereign riding down the long mile in her plush carriage, reminding us gently who is, in fact in charge of the place. Bookies desperately bet on the colour of her hat, to disgraceful margins. Everyone gets on, and no restrictions.  I hear the great Paddy Power was once called to explain how they ‘knew’ she was going to wear a black hat. These days we have the Gambling Commission to get involved in such serious breaches of protocol. Like they did over the goalkeeper who ate the pie.. big deal.

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I do enjoy the pomp and circumstance of Ascot, but increasingly it’s straight in, straight out, i can’t share my space anymore with people who’ve so evidently been on the lash all day, whilst I’m forced to work. Perhaps I’ve discovered religion? HRbannerwp
A dog sniffs me on the way in. To check I’ve got money?  Everyone is terribly polite. I do know many of the gatemen at Ascot, they seem a nice bunch. A long way from their snooty predecessors. Thr Ring is full of Bookies waiting to pitch up. They try to fool those ahead of them in the pick as to where the best places to bet are. Moanng hour has started. They gather to complain about their lot. Favourite topic are usually racecourse expenses, exchanges, how few bets they take. That sort of thing. Doesn’t matter how much they moan though in the given hour, they’ll never actually contemplate change. Bless

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I’ve decided since Epsom to offer Best Odds Guarantee to my customers on track. It should be a real tonic to all bettors. Particularly if one of those daft buggers betting with firms betting to 1/5th the odds on handicaps, when it should be a 1/4. I mean how stupid can you get? I don’t understand such tactics. It’s as if my colleagues aren’t aware they’re in competition with cyber bookies.

 
Best Odds is a tonic for all customers. Unfortunately the majority of those who wager haven’t the first clue what it means. Basically if you take 7/1, and it drifts to 10/1 at the starting price (SP) – you get the 10/1. Off track, all punters expect this deal, on track most don’t know what it means.. I believe the On Course market needs to compete with the off course, if it is to survive, and prosper. That will require racetrack management to work with its Bookmakers a lot more, not just turn them upside down and shake for change. Ascot for its part is soon to be the beneficiary of a new Tote system, aligned with Hong Kong players. Wouldn’t it be sweet if the executive to pass on some of those benefits to its hard pressed ring?

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So if you see a Bookmaker offering 1/4 the odds in all handicaps, AND best odds guarantees,  support the Bookmakers making a fair stand. Punters like to gripe about such things, but universally fail to support them when they’re offered. I hear people bellyaching about Bet365 all the time, yet they still sign up every time they give away a tenner. This is why business doesn’t care what you think.

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I enjoyed my spat with Star Sports, led by the amiable Ben Keith. Those so so regularly ”bigged up” by  their personal communications director, Matt Chapman, who bizzarely eats up whatever they tell him with a giant spoon. Whilst I admire their stance on greyhound funding,  a leading Bookmaker gloating over monies it has won off of its customers is all in poor taste. As for the bets they claim to have laid? Well who’s checking the truth of those wagers when the cameras are about?  We won’t know and they can’t tell us. Anyone heard of ‘top of the book?’ How big was the fish you caught??

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Despite these ‘whoppers’ the firm bets to 1/5th the odds, in handicaps where the Tattersalls standard is 1/4. Ben well knows how little the 1/5th the odds trick is understood by inexperienced gamblers. No leading Bookmaker, Stephen Little, David Power, John Banks or Tony Morris in my career has ever ‘bent’ on standard terms and I thoroughly object to this penny-pinching measure. Paradoxic to the ‘we’ve laid another whopper’ when you’re short-changing someone £5 on the place book. David Power crowing about how much he made – never happened. It;s vulgar and cheap.

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For me, such small-minded tactics aren’t in any way praiseworthy, and by no token ‘representing on course bookmakers.’  Particularly not me. I’m proud to say in my career, I’ve never bent on each way terms. If Star Sports want to set themselves up as Kings Of The Ring – bet with honour.

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When it comes to big field events- the casual first time punter rules OK.

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‘Please give us the horse numbers!’
‘£5 each way Red Rum please’
‘Which horse number please?’
‘err, ehm, 13/8?’
That bet costs £10, do you mean £5 as that’s what you’ve given me?’
‘Yes, £5, but I’ve given you the wrong horse, I want L’escargot – is that ridden by Frankie Destori??’

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Repeat 1500 times daily.

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Ascot for me has to be one of the pinnacle of the Racing season. It’s by a long stretch the smartest and best run racetrack, probably the world, and a showpiece week for the sport. Whilst Royal Ascot remains the showpiece event of the year, it’s not all praiseworthy. I am concerned at spiraling costs for the casual racegoer, – which results in less families. £75 to get into the Grandstand enclosure is excessively steep. £95 for a bottle of champagne, retailing at Waitrose for £32 is grand larceny, unless you get a Sheila with every glass? York manages to charge £50 for the same and offers a daily champagne for under £40.  £20 to park your car in a field 1/2 a mile from the front gate is simply beyond the pale.

If paying off the debt it ran up building such an impressive Grandstand, earlier than it needs to, puts the right people off attending such a great event, then let the Bank wait on its cash.

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If a track is not fit for families, its not fit at all. 17 arrests over Ascot from various offences, perversion (no it wasn’t me..) to brawling, is not a success. The fact remains drugs are getting into these venues, sniffer dogs at entrances are spectacularly easy to circumvent. And alcohol is sold to utter excess, check the condition of people leaving race tracks these days. Thrown out on local communities. It really is entirely unacceptable.Football learned how to deal with its problems. We surely do no need to reinvent the wheel here. The front of every race track should be alcohol free.

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Lumpy cash bets were few in the Ring. I laid 2 grand to one guy a winner at 2/1. Another had £3500 on a 4/1 winner. Another £1000 each way on a 33/1 winner. There’s a pattern here.. overall I showed a profit through the five days, but I won’t be buying another Sikorsky.

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ITV spent three days after Ascot telling each other on Twitter how great they were, everyone nicely on message. Despite registering over a million less viewers, a story their chums at the Racing Post buried in a story headed ‘Ascot goes for sectional timings.’ and described as healthy viewing numbers..Nice bit of editing. Chamblerlin gives Millington extra shots on the golf course- NAP. Fact is the viewing figures were shocking poor. Dumbing down the sport and outlawing betting in favour of fashion isn’t winning the ratings war, along with that wooden delivery

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As I pen this – I’m on business to Munich, squeezed into a British Airways ‘Club Class seat’, which looks a lot like the economy seat next door. He also seems to be eating the same crushed Panini they’ve served me. Which is odd. The crew is explaining how a life jacket will save my life, which is great news, if the airplane heads into the ground like a dart, I shall put my life jacket on of course. I’ll survive the rest are fucked. My Club Class seat also has a silver whistle to attract sharks, in case we land in the pool. Nice touch.

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The ‘come on everyone- let’s self exclude’ Gambling Commission were in the Ring at Ascot sending in 16 year olds, done up to the ninepins, who look like 25 to see who cracks. I don’t mind such things, they seem marvellous punters 🙂 These days nobody asked me for my ID when I placed the odd speculative punt, which is odd.

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I didn’t think the card was particularly good this year unusually. The Gold Cup seemed a poor heat. No Derby winner on parade. No Enable or even that powder puff Winx. Who impressed me the most? Well I think Blue Point running down Battaash was fairly impressive. Lady Aurelia moved smoothly to post, but didn’t head back. Cracksman and Saxon Warrior look done with Racing. You read it here first.

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As for Harry’s Angel getting stuck in the stalls? check the close-ups carefully and you’ll see I had a firm grip of his tail.. No Sir, no ‘justice refunds’ – which wide-eyed boffins came up with that trick?

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See you in 2019. remember lose responsibly.

Banks.

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I guess now they’ll start laying bets?

They limited the stakes. I didn’t think it would happen. Government is basically corrupt where taxation (or cheap votes) is concerned. And votes won the debate, as indeed it should have done. I long argued it was never the intention of the Gambling Act to create mini Casinos in our High Streets. The ruling in spite of Gambling Commission recommendations of spins ‘up to £30.’ Who could possibly take that organisation’s protection of vulnerable consumers stance seriously?

I supported the cut, because it was the right thing to do. Moving forward, that same Government perversely expects the gambling firms to make up for the shortfall in taxation on machines they’ve decided effectively to eradicate. The first is right, the second is wrong. I hope the firms fight that naïve argument robustly, for the sake of we independent bookmakers. It’s accepted we will suffer the most from a 33% hike in duty payments. Firms like my own asked to pay for the failures of poor Governance.

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It’s the age of the guesser.

‘They’ll start behaving like Bookies again and lay me bets.’

No, I’m afraid they won’t.

They’ll be forced to lay to lose a certain amount to all.’

Again they won’t, because the Regulator, the only body with the power to force change, has no appetite to see that happen. None.

Only the Gambling Commission has the power to make such decisions, and right now they show no inclination to force firms to lay what is advertised. A meaningful Racing Press could help force change, but with the most powerful medium, the Racing Post, almost entirely in the pockets of big betting, that’s a voice that will remain resolutely silent. It’s an important voice.

There’s a simple parallel between LBO’s and the On Course market. Faced with the pressure of exchanges and online companies, books at racetracks have slashed margins, even whilst tracks have demanded higher fees. It’s clear they haven’t become more interesting to bet with in doing so. The average Joe punter doesn’t care if its 4/1 or 5/2. They simply want to cheer a horse home. Chester learned that.

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They have created a Tote style environment, bland and uniform. Many of these hard-working individuals I count on as friends, stand out in all weathers. I take no pleasure from criticising them in this way.

On Course bookies exist in transmit mode. They won’t participate in, or discuss with colleagues, meaningful discussions in how to rival big betting for interest. They see no threat from Bet365 or Chesterbet. As a result their businesses are resolutely losing the war with online companies! Firms such as my own online division offer a better customer service standard and more competitive odds, aligned with specials, and best odds guarantees. And we never dip on the place book, we actually enhance it.

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It’s racetrack bet now. Not one of those tracks has been engaged to include their track bookies as a sales point. Isn’t that odd?

What of the shops? That’s a basic economic calculation. Shops that cannot gross sufficient profits will simply close, that’s self evident.  Key in the door stuff.

The Online market is a differing business model. Driven by bums on seats and Casino profits. Take away the shops own mini casino version, and what are you left with? Some argue ‘they will turn to bookmaking again’ That’s offering a low margin Racing product where 60% of the races are won by the front two in the market and every Festival is awash with giveaways. These are the areas marketing divisions of said companies routinely exploit to gain accounts, not profits If you think that’s going to change, lock yourself in a dark room with a damp flannel on your head.

The 4000 number bandied about is a matter of fact. In said regard the executives were correct, it’s inevitable. They answer to shareholders, not public opinion.

Can the bricks and mortars product be forced to lay bets to minimum levels? Unless the lucrative online market is regulated to lay bets to odds it advertises, something the Gambling Commission refuses to countenance. That horse won’t enter the stalls. One thing the FOBT action proved conclusively. Bookmaker board rooms won’t countenance any move, even when threatened by Government, if the opposition doesn’t match their cut. As for example they should have done with fixed odds betting terminals, by reducing the maximum gamble per spin when threatened with regulation.

People vote with their mice. They won’t accept 5/4 in a shop if its 6/4 online. Any other argument is fanciful. There’s little evidence punters would support their ‘local store’ were its odds any less than the online version.  The LBO’s simply cannot compete head on with online and ‘lay bets’ if that alternate market place is not mandated to either. Any argument in that vein is naive.

LBO’s have very substantial costs to shoulder. Media rights alone are over £30,000 a shop to Racing! Expect closures, not change.

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Where is the Regulator?

 

 

There will be more than one track manager peering in on this post. With the woe is me attitude. ‘Lads will fight – not much we can do about that is there?’

Well, they can’t fight on the terraces at football anymore, for fear of being kicked out. Football knows who they are, whilst we make no attempt to ID our customers. They can’t battle at the cricket, or the rugby. This leaves Racing, as the new battleground for thugs. So whilst you’re selling them as much beer as they can stand without care for anyone else’s view of said policy, – consider this.

You’re creating a favourable environment for hooliganism to flourish in Racing.

Bookmakers who work in betting rings will tell you stories of fights they have witnessed at almost every racetrack they attend. Personally I’ve witnessed in the enclosures fights at Newbury, Epsom, Ascot, Goodwood, Sandown, Cheltenham and Newmarket. Odd that I’ve never seen a fight at York. Perhaps the people of the North have more class. Fights north of the border simply don’t happen. Want to look at someone’s girlfriend in Scotland? By all means, isn’t she lovely? Scots folk don’t suffer from the colonial daft mentality of the South.

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It’s hard to pick one of those fights I have seen as the worst. I suppose for me the ten minute fight beside the winning post (in the ‘members enclosure’ ) on a warm day at Sandown as possibly the worst example, although it’s a bunch finish. Whilst folk that Racing should want to attend stood watching in horror as this melee continued unchecked. Little wonder so many don’t come back. That’s when I took the time to find out what arrangements Racetracks have in place to protect the Racing public from these thugs.

Most tracks employ ‘rapid reaction’ teams to deal with brawls. These are specialist trained individuals. It isn’t generally known that regular raceday staff, to include stewards, will not involve themselves in breaking up fights, and at such low rates of pay, why should they?

The ‘Rapid’ force took ten minutes to arrive at Sandown. In the guise of one impressive individual called Nigel, who saved Sandown’s blushes. He was of such girth he was able to break up the fight single handedly. The rapid reaction force, which had been observing the group involved for some time on monitors, were at the other end of the track.

There aren’t enough of these intervenors. Tracks want to plunder drink profits, without ensuring the safety and comfort of attendees, by employing sufficient trained security personnel.

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Some facts about fights we are aware . Most tend to occur on hot days, and involve drunken groups of men, or these days on drugs, quite often egged on by inebriated women! Today’s female can be as aggressive as the male. Racetracks base their finances on food and beverage sales, which is why they favour Saturday meetings. Nobody appears to be in control of what racetracks get up to. Not the BHA, local authorities, nor the Gambling Commission.

Children see these fights, that’s our future. Old people (and the not so old) witness them regularly and have to share enclosures with these unpleasant groups. It must be a sobering and even frightening thing to be so close to. These are race fans too, very often members, but track executives pay them little mind. Their money is already in the pot.This isn’t me being cynical here, there’s absolutely no evidence management give two hoots about people there to view the horse and just the horse.

Newmarket has earned the deserved reputation for the worst excesses of brawls, on Jockey Club land. It’s doubtful any of the executives, who head straight for corporate boxes, witness any of these events occurring, far less care.

Two subjects rarely discussed, but should be on the table at British Racing:

One, the impact on the environment of tens of millions of plastic cups. What happens to all this once used material? Hard not to assume it ends up clogging our seas and killing wildlife. As such topics gain more exposure, it’s not something being discussed in Racing.

Second, why are we not discussing the throwing out into the local community of thousands of drunken individuals? I wonder what it must be like for those living proximate to UK Racetracks at closing time. People being sick in doorways, disheveled, shouting and aggressive. We are supposed to be part of the community.

Jockey Club are simply irresponsible when it comes to sales of drink. I’ve witnessed first hand over many years totally uncontrolled sales of alcohol, to often clearly drunken individuals, by temporary staff literally pumping out the beer. Jockey Club’s reaction to the fight culture? Let’s serve everyone their drink in a plastic cup, perhaps so no-one gets ‘glassed’ on our racetrack. Let’s not sell tickets to children in case they see drunken people carrying on alarmingly. Yes, that’s another scheme they came up with. It’s a perverse management that thinks this way.

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I read recently comments by Simon Bazelgette, the Chief Executive of Jockey Club, telling us we need to do more to encourage people to the sport. So his business plan is to overcharge them at the turnstiles, to park. Sell as much beer as people demand. Preside over many brawls on your properties,  and see more people Racing is it? I guess that’s why 75% of those who come Racing, only go once according to statistics. A poor success rate. Whilst I do not attend Arena Leisure tracks, I’ve heard of major incidents at Lingfield and Chepstow. The problem is pandemic.

The most recent brawl took place at Goodwood. If you have the stomach – view the video links below. This isn’t the first major fight at that track. No sanction has ever brought on Goodwood.

I have included this shocking video because it’s vital that Racing understands and accepts its need to control the excesses of racetracks- alcohol has a social cost. The scenes are graphic. I think you should try to watch it, because we all need to act together to force social responsibility onto our tracks.

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Is this a ‘society problem?’ And therefore not the fault of the tracks? Surely we do not need to re-invent the wheel here. Rugby isn’t afflicted by Racing’s malaise. Wimbledon focuses on delivering a quality service and a great show to their clientele. They’re not interested in beer sales over quality. That’s the ideal we should seek.

But what of the Regulator? The British Horseracing Authority? In any other sport,  tracks or venues would be fined, sanctioned, even had their licenses suspended or removed for such failures. Why is the BHA in absentia? They’re supposed to control matters for the benefit of all of the racegoers, and the good image of the sport. To date absolutely nothing has been said from that body on the subject. I am disgusted at their failure to take firm remedial action on Racetracks, but not totally surprised, given the make up of the BHA board and the influence racetracks have on British Racing Chiefs.

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Many years ago, Football was forced to the negotiating table to deal with its hooligan element. Chairmen of clubs accepting that blaming matters on society was no longer acceptable. Those who attend games are identified. Transgressors are punished by the forfeiture of their seats. Grounds are stewarded by the clubs, at their own cost, with the involvement of police minimal. As a result, football has re-invented itself. I’m quite comfortable to take my children to any football match. I wouldn’t take them to Epsom. Ever. It’s a vile, aggressive place. Fights are routine.

Racetracks might well base their finances on alcohol, but that doesn’t make it right. No more than its dependency on FOBT’s. We needn’t be sympathetic to Goodwood, Epsom or Newmarket or put up with mass brawls because they need to make more money.

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And most certainly – the Regulator of Racing, the BHA, has to engage forcefully, and yes Goodwood should be punished immediately for its security failures here. Only racegoers can be seen trying to break up the brawl. We don’t all want to share our Racing experience with folk too inebriated to stand up and I certainly think it’s a disgrace our children should find themselves outlawed from the sport in favour of alcohol.

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The evaporation of choice

 

 

Despite the many complaints I see on mediums such as Twitter about the manner in which large companies behaves towards their customers, it’s depressingly true that if they offered a 3 quid bet, many line up like soldiers to sign up. Precisely why I look upon complaints from those who have signed up with something approaching disdain. Why are you surprised that they care so little about your business?

Corporate Bookmakers ‘increase’ their worth, by making a series of unsustainable offers whilst growing your customer numbers. The few million you lose offering ten places on the Grand National, dwarfed by the deals done to acquire the businesses.

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The modern punter has a grab a penny attitude. I read one punter saying that ‘he was never going to support on course Bookmakers.’ Reason? Some of them were offering a fifth of the win odds in a handicap race, where off course supermarkets were a quarter for a place. The fact that ring wide there are, in fact, plenty of bookies prepared to offer a quarter the odds, entirely escaped this argument. The On Course market is endlessly pressurized by the availability of betting APP’s – and greedy short-sighted Racetracks ramping up their prices in the face of declining margins and turnover.

Then we have the ‘vested interested party’ in debates about who to bet with. The burgeoning crew of professional ‘matched bettors’ who wait on opportunities to match wagers to their advantage, bookmaker odds against betting exchanges. A group  characterized by two notable traits. They think their excessively clever to finally find a way of beating the bookie, even if the system is so simple. It astonishes me any of these individuals, and their Sisters, moan about being shut down. I suppose it’s because they imagine Bookmakers to be as simple as they are. They consist of some of the most arrogant group of bettors out there, with no respect for not only Bookmakers, but for regular punters, who for the most part continue to lose to Bookies. They sneer at such individuals.

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In all these debates, based on differing views of both Bookmaking, and punters, I’m stuck by the effect of such attitudes on the ever declining Racetrack and independent Bookmaker sector. This is the section of betting that, in my opinion, represents the traditional relationship between a Bookmaker, and his customer. A corporate Bookie treats you as a number. There’s no ‘personal’ in the relationship.

Ask yourself one question. Imagine you walked into Sandown Racetrack and saw no Bookmakers in the ring. How would you feel about your eternal sniping for 8/5 when something was quoted at 6/4? What a boring and depressing betting environment that would be. I wonder if those who favour betting hypermarkets over small enterprise appreciates fully what a racetrack would look without Bookmakers? How sterile it would become. Even those who do not bet still enjoy the ring’s colour.

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You see in all these monotonous calls I hear for better odds, more offers, money back guarantees, people are gradually voting for a world without service, or more importantly – fun. My Father used to say to me that people would come into his shops because winning off John Banks was far more fun that a faceless entity like Coral. Of course, it was.

So, whilst you all sit there, in your underpants with your mouse, fiddling about the websites looking for 2.62 instead of 2.60 – remember that with each offer you sign up for – you’re giving one more resounding vote for said corporate Bookmakers to treat you in any way they see fit. Why should they respect you when you behave so predictably?

You are worthwhile only insofar as wet behind the ears ‘traders,’ who’ve never laid an egg in their young lives determine you’re ‘too sharp’ to lay a bet to. Reward companies, who lead on restrictions, with your business, because their websites let you ‘cash out’ a winning bet, when an independent might not, remember that’s a vote for a decline in service. In the meantime with cashout, you’re casually accepting the worst deal in Betting. Congratulations.

And whilst they busy themselves amalgamating into one or two global Betting supergiant, and you’ve voted the independent Bookmakers out of business, you used to enjoy wagering with, that’s another tick in the box for a decline in choice and value. They’re not buying each other up to offer better value or choice..

A few months ago, one of the legendary family Bookmaker outfits, Richard Power, went out of business in the face of declining turnover. It didn’t offer an online presence and I supposed it weighed against them. It didn’t merit much copy in the Racing Post, less on the Racing channels. The respected presence of David Power left all spheres of the game. A bit like your local green grocer going out of business. You know why? Because you’re all too lazy, or greedy, to make the effort to support the small firms.

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You have a choice. We all respect that. But remember this, for nothing is more true. The bigger a company gets, the worse its service standards and ideals. Remember the little firms when you’re betting. It will pay in the long run. It’s a fallacy to imagine they’re not competitive. The difference is they will appreciate your custom. I certainly value my client’s loyalty.

And when you go Racing? Better favour the course market there before you end up with a faceless Tote, or ‘racetrack bet.’ Remember the famous Grand National 3 percent per runner hoopla? Now try 4 percent per runner (25% worse) in every race every day.

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ITV Racing- avoid stepping in the hyperbole

 

 

I worked for Channel 4. In said regard not only can it be said I’m biased, but also in fairness I experienced first hand what it takes to produce the quality Racing show. Working for Channel 4 doesn’t exclude me from the debate.

I have never subscribed to the view, expostulated by the likes of Fitzgerald of RMG, Bazelgette of JCR or Harman of the BHA that Racing’s ‘reach’ would improve under ITV. This was their ‘spin’ on achieving four million pounds more in fees than Channel 4 was prepared to offer. ITV convinced Racing that it’s impressive share of viewers would benefit the sport, indeed that argument was taken forward. Racing chiefs however should never have permitted Racing on a Channel with 1 percent audience share. ITV4.

 

Quite what the Racing Post’s angle was with their weekly shrieking at what they described as that network’s failures, I struggle to understand. But it’s all quiet there now.

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What’s often not understood is the fundamental difference between the two Channels. Whilst both are easy to find for less technically minded folk, such as pensioners, Channel 4 is a public service broadcaster, whilst ITV is a commercial network. A public  service network will assume responsibilities a commercial one will not.

Channel 4, whilst in the hot seat remained fully committed to the sport. Their Morning Line outputted every week and month in broadly the same slot for years. It was known and understood. Racing was kept, again with few exceptions, on their main channel. People knew where to find it.

From the outset ITV only guaranteed a certain amount of shows on their main Channel, the residue to appear on ITV4 and even ITV3.

A few months ago, Mark Demuth, controller of sport at ITV said in an RCA seminar, that The Opening Show, which has notably struggled, needed to improve. That was a considerable understatement for a Racing show only hitting 30,000 viewers for it’s output at Aintree last year, the figures for many of the shows haven’t been made public, The brush. In the meantime, what has Demuth done about improving that show? He’s kept it on ITV4, and only after various 1970’s Cop shows have had the prime 8am slot, even on Grand National day. You see, that’s when most Racing folk and even non-Racing, would be watching.

ITV1 achieves around 15% of audience share. Channel 4 just 5%. With such a considerable advantage, should we not expect a considerable uplift in audiences? Racing chiefs though, signed up to a deal which consigned many of the meetings to ITV4, with just 1% audience share. Odd decision.

Behind the scenes at Channel 4 racing

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In fact, the total numbers of people watching racing through the year has declined in the millions under ITV. In its second year at Cheltenham declined by 4% on their previous year’s performance and was some 14% down for the Gold Cup.

So ITV has failed to improve on Channel 4 at both of the last two Nationals, the Cheltenham Festival meetings, Champions Day (0.5m) and Royal Ascot.

In 2017 the total viewers for Racing had declined by 3.4 million viewers from Channel 4. A figure not easily explained away by ‘uplifts in people watching racing on streaming devices.’ Or ‘the weather.’ Guess what, we always have weather.

ITV’s first effort at the Blue Riband Racing event the Grand National, experienced a decline of 18% during the race on Channel 4. That’s nearly 2 million less people watching our feature race. Why? Lack of promotion? Format?

You can ‘paint’ the numbers in many ways to suit your argument, and some will argue that. Such as percentage of audience share. But for me if the show is watchable, people will tune in, especially at 5.15pm. This change in time slot was an intelligent move by the Regulator. Whichever way you look at it, the ITV performance has been deeply disappointing, given the Channel’s evident dominance in share over Channel 4

The difference was people associated Racing with 4. With ITV, they simply do not. They often struggle to find their Racing. Channel hopping is a big deal.

So what’s gone wrong? For me the ITV afternoon format works exceptionally well for Royal Ascot, York and Glorious Goodwood, and I really enjoyed the coverage, indeed for me despite the budget spend, the style was more in evidence. The network has obviously attempted to widen the appeal of Racing to a different audience. These meetings work exceptionally well. A+

However, many of the other meetings, especially Aintree and Cheltenham are not based on fashion, social networking or garden parties at all. They’re about betting. In said regard, ITV has totally alienated the core audience for Racing, with a focus on Facebook and girls in nightclub dresses with orange legs.

People ask me why I’m so upset on this subject. Because I feel Racing should never have dropped a committed broadcaster, which guaranteed viewers 90 days Racing a year, a regular morning show and let’s also remember several evening highlight shows. Something ITV have quietly dropped I question their enthusiasm, and I don’t mean Chamberlin. I mean the controllers. Racing is not a good fit for ITV. They’re uncomfortable with the Betting and searching an audience that simply doesn’t exist, whilst alienating their existing fan base.

ITV show little appetite to improve the dismal morning show with consideration to moving ‘Ironside’ from the more favoured slot. What on earth are they playing at? Since when does a broadcaster be awarded a contract to show such an iconic sport, yet favour Colombo, I mean, haven’t we all seen every mystery solved already?

There’s far too much time spent on middle-aged men standing or sitting round a table telling us all what to think of Racing. Surely ITV realise it’s boring? Where are the Racing features, interviews with trainers, stable tours? And why don’t we hear from the eternally engaging Paddy Power on what Bookmakers have been laying. Quite why ITV has decided to outlaw Betting is simply beyond me. Racing is not a hybrid of ‘Good Morning Britain.’ It distances the product from its core audience. Bettors.

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ITV’s ‘gameplan’ in selecting Chamberlin and Cumani, with Fitzgerald, Harvey, Plunkett over Luck, Cunningham, McGrath, had to be about ‘widening the appeal of the sport.’ All very well if you achieve that, which they have not, and if you’re careful not to outlaw the core viewer for Racing – the Punters. Chapman was taken on because he’s popular and could do his man of the people act. For me, Chamberlin and Cumani work. He’s a consummate performer. She struck me as a female version of Lord Snooty. I quickly changed my view when I heard her discuss horse actions and profiles. This is what I feel Channel 4 lacked. How does a horse move on the ground? Does his action favour Chester. Relevant.

Betting was the first consignee to the bin. That’s why Cheltenham and Aintree fail. People don’t tune in to Aintree for the joke fashion parade of the year, they tune in because they like a bet. Quite why ITV ignore the millions of people who watch the Grand National because quite a lot of them are in fact having their one bet of the year. Instead of the eternally dull focus on single white middle-aged males who used to ride in the National, why not rise to the ideal that Betting represents the appeal to many people in this country of the Grand National. Because they want a bet, or they’ve had a bet.

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As for the weekly diatribe of poor quality pundits telling me, I have to think ‘its marvellous.’ I tip my hat to you for keeping a job. Not one of these types adds a single viewer. We’re not dribbling fools with remotes. We’re genuinely not interested in questions to aged jockeys about what it feels like to ride a winner. I think we’d all like to hear good jockeys like Fitzgerald start to tell us when a ride was good, and equally when it was bad in his opinion, or perhaps dare to criticise trainers who use horse welfare as a casual excuse to avoid a difficult race.

The future? There simply isn’t one with ITV. They won’t like the numbers.

Whilst ITV has made every attempt to widen the audience, it hasn’t been successful, in the meantime, they risk losing the interest of their primary audience – the punters.

Chamberlin will end up back at Sky because only they can afford him, and I feel that’s Racing’s loss. Cumani will end up on the sofa of Good Morning Britain, and eventually some wily controller will discover that the ‘marvellous’ lot, telling everyone how they need to react to Racing, don’t add a single bum on seat and get back to servicing the existing Racing public aat a time when they can view, and on one Racing Channel.

http://www.geoff-banks.com

gb33

 

A tonic for the black market.

Few states consider a self exclusion scheme for gamblers. Most are simply ineffective. We are planning to migrate the current exclusion scheme into a multi operator arrangement. In simple terms-exclude with one – exclude with all..

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Operator after operator facing stiff fines for breaches of the current arrangements. Most people take the view these companies are wholly responsible for their actions.That problem gamblers need protection (from themselves). Whilst all operators understand the new regulations I wonder at the level of regulatory action when the scheme is being so routinely abused by punters, as it is today. That’s a factor not fully appreciated.

Why? Because the current scheme was poorly constructed, allowing customers to self exclude with operators and continue to bet elsewhere. That’s a thorough nonsense, really it is, and we as operators have been left dealing with it for far too long. The new scheme is a simple hybrid of the old. And in a further un-recognised twist, we live in a world of professional bit traders and match bettors, who would think nothing of subverting bookmaker systems to cleverly exploit ‘breaches,’ – place wagers, and if lose, run to the Regulator, who very often panders to that complaint. Operators are regularly beseiged by traders, operating multiple ‘friends’ accounts, pretending to be general recreational punters, when they are in fact business users. Opening ghost accounts thereby breaching the agreement they entered into with the operator in the first place. When they are eventually caught, and restricted, they try to revenge by causing an operator issues with the Gambling Commission.

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I’m no fan of any of these large betting companies. They have found themselves in breach of self exclusion schemes they took part in and helped develop. Sic.. Equally I believe the people at the Gambling Commission believe they’re doing the right thing here in editing the existing scheme. They’re not villians. But where I disagree with policy, I’m going to highlight those inconsistencies

I welcomed Sarah Harrison announcing just a year ago that the Commission would start utilising license review as opposed to the series of fines they had previously favoured. I welcomed stiffer regulation. Shortly after that?  The announcement that Ms Harrison had resigned. Most people took no interest. Not me, I was always of the opinion she was respectfully removed because her ambitions for license review didn’t sit well with Ministers, bent on business – whatever the cost in social terms. We’ll never know will we?

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What’s clear is the Commission has absolutely zero appetite for license review. The Birmingham Regulator has shopped its hand on that. Pay your fine and carry on.

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The latest to feel the Regulator’s intervention – Skybet. I’m no particular fan of this Alderney based company, worth 3.6 billion, who cannot seem to guarantee to lay a bet to lose £100. According to the numbers they had 50,000 self-excluded customers. 800 so called duplicated accounts were opened by those who excluded. Marketing wasn’t turned off and monies were not returned.  We are told they ‘fell on their swords’ and shopped the breaches themselves to the Commission. That is simply untrue.  If the level of unreturned funds and duplicated accounts is accurate, the Gambling Commission would have been made fully aware, by many of the customers affected, of what was going on, for many months, as they were for 888Sport. The fine though, one million to a business worth 3.5 billion betrays the Regulator’s discomfiture.

Personally I don’t view Skybet as arch criminals, I think the current SE scheme is a nonsense. The impression I get, probably driven by their Chairman, (heftily involved in several major charities) is of a company moving in the right direction socially. We need at least one major operator to break ranks from their chums and start to engage on their duties in laying bets and trying to act in a responsible manner.

But what of the 800? Were they all ‘children’ really needing protection from themselves, or just more individuals seeing an opportunity for some non risk wagering? I question whose responsibility it is in life when so many abuse a poorly framed scheme.

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I’ve had many conversations with sensible folk at the Commission on Self Exclusion.  They have to be seen doing their best to assist problem gambling. They favour operators establishing air tight exclusion controls, and paying for the treatment of the same, and they have moved to a position where the operators are now responsible for people breaching exclusion orders. Ehm, when did we become the scapegoat for people’s abuse of a well-intentioned scheme?

What the Regulator does not favour, is required controls on the volume of marketing UK consumers face daily. This puts the cart before the horse on the creation of problem gamblers,  and betrays their number one mandate.

  • To create a favourable environment to keep operators operating legally in the UK.

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I’ve spoken to many customers who have self excluded personally. That’s unusual insofar as most companies let them go without discussion. Most exclusion requests are grey, more often than not they’re not related to genuine problem gambling issues.

For me it’s totally necessary to engage personally with my customers. We literally have to fight for every client, because the current scheme is so widely misunderstood. It’s doubtful Skybet’s CEO has spoken to a single excluded customer. In said regard I have a somewhat unique perspective. We get people self excluding because they don’t like the colour of my website, or because I don’t offer cash out. There are as many ridiculous reasons for exclusion, as there appear to be genuine. If we engage with a customer and he says he’s self excluding for reasonings not related to problem gambling, we gently steer them towards closure, or deactivation. It’s the right thing to do. If they discuss gambling issues, any stress, we agree to discuss that instead.

What is a problem gambler? Gamble Aware say:

Problem gambling is behaviour related to gambling which causes harm to the gambler and those around them. This may include family, friends and others who know them or care for them

So the 50,000 Skybet self excluded customers fell under that description? Of course not. Most would very simply have done their money, and like everyone else in life called a temporary pause. Unfortunately the minimum period of ‘pause’ is an incredible six months long!

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Two statements are absolutely true
1. There are not 50,000 problem gamblers with Skybet
2. The majority ( I estimate 80%) of those who do self exclude either return to gambling shortly after their exclusion with a company, or who never actually stop gambling at all.

 

This is primarily because the scheme created for operators, as well as problem gamblers is flawed to its core.

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Most ‘excluded’ customers simply bet elsewhere almost immediately. In that regard it’s impossible to argue they are true problem gamblers. They are most certainly addicts.  Some will leap on that word, surely an ‘addict’ has to be stopped from gambling? Hell no!! Almost 100% of the adult population are addicted in one form or another to alcohol, smoking, shopping, drugs or gambling. Are we to intervene and attempt to control everyone’s lives? Many are quite happy to be addicts! Ever seen an alcoholic enter a bar and be refused his first drink of the night??

Do we see the regulator that makes claim to assist problem gamblers take reasonable steps to control the volume of advertising on all media platforms? No, they don’t see that as a necessary step. They’re simply NOT commited to controlling problem gambling where it could impact their unspoken mandate – to create an open gambling environment gambling operations want to perform business in. Lord Chadlington takes up my concerns below..

adverts

What the Gambling Commission gets right is in stating that an individual ‘has to take responsibility for his own actions.’ It doesn’t seem to stop them, it seems, from assuming every breach is the fault of the companies.

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This leads me increasingly to the view the focus on Operators to ‘manage’ people’s problems, other than by the removal of marketing at sourse, as a deeply flawed approach. I wonder if anyone understands the variance in exclusion requests, and how difficult it is to train staff to deal with each case? The regulator now expects us to routinely lose our customers, without complaint. Further to give responsibility to ordinary folk who can never be expected to understand complex exclusion schemes the red button. With the real likelihood their next wager is with an operator in Russia.

The regulator says it will protect us from unregulated operators doing business with us right now, by taking firm legal action, against those doing business with our citizens. That’s a fiction. Bet365 have been able to operate into China for many years, and there’s apparently nothing that government can do about it. Governments in states licensing operators like Bet365 would have to agree with the Chinese to take action. Practically it doesn’t happen.

http://www.igamingbusiness.com/news/bet365-we-are-not-breaking-chinese-laws-0

 

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I object to the ‘nanny state’ where Governments and its regulators assume everyone to be a dribbling fool, incapable of avoiding Ray Winstone. Most of us are not that way, indeed we are grown adults in a free society and to gamble or drink is our choice. I wonder if the Commission is fully aware how may actively abuse the current scheme, because they know they can wager elsewhere? How many of the 800 or so who signed up with Skybet to gamble with them, when they previously and knowingly self excluded with the same company, were doing it to deliberately subvert the operator from its money? Open a ghost account and if lose, scream the place down. Ah, you say, does that really go on? In a world of matched bettors, who act like their above humanity, indeed- it frequently does.
And should operators be held responsible for those who intentionally breach the rules to return to gambling? I see no reason why we should. .

The Commission, for its part, does have to demonstrate a commitment to the protection of vulnerable folk. I get it. They’re moving forward with Gamstop with the multi operator scheme. What this means, for all of you out there who treat self-exclusion as a knee jerk reaction to losses and who do not see themselves as having a true gambling issue, is that if you self-exclude with Gamstop, the new body, that has a finality you’re not going to understand.

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Unquestionably the black market is going to be the joyful recipient of thousands of the UK’s gamblers, who self exclude and think they can still bet a week later when Cheltenham is on. This seems to be a gamble the Commission is prepared to take. For me, it’s the number one concern, we have to keep people in a well regulated environment.

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I argue the new scheme has to soften on current arrangements, if we are to bolt on the required Multi Operator element. With take a break options as a first measure for all, to give proper pause. And educational options, paid for by operators, to allow earnest gamblers who have changed their mind on exclusion to be able to return to gambling with a regulated operator. We should all share that ideal. I envisage a type of motorists penalty points course, designed to offer a managed return for gamblers, who have recovered from their ills, or just having changed their minds. We simply have to offer a managed loop hole for those who reconsider their actions.

Most certainly the terms of self exclusion cannot be so lengthy. Quite why 6 months was floated, and accepted as a minimum term is beyond me. Once again people who do not deal with gamblers coming up with arrangements affecting so many, but targeted at protection of so few. They’re addicts and they have to be seen that way. They WILL circumvent the scheme.They’re addicts and they have to be seen that way. They WILL circumvent the scheme. The minimum self-exclusion scheme should in fact be one month- to encourage people to use the arrangement and most certainly no longer than one year. A lot can happen in a year in people’s lives. It’s a lot like the Racing Post bigging up their gambling friends and then turning to the whip debate to appear socially responsible. In the same vein the Gambling Commission permits an assault of advertising, encourages offshore giants to prosper at the expense of UK operators, but thinks if it invents a draconian scheme for self-exclusion, that that makes them socially responsible.

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People’s circumstances change, they should be able to change their own minds without an official telling them they cannot do so. If there is to be any gambling going on, let it be in the regulated market. Let’s understand there’s actually only a tiny element of true problem gamblers (less than 0.5%) for which we’re busy creating a scheme based on absolutism.

Neither Gamstop, nor the Commission itself has conducted surveys to ascertain how many of those who do self exclude, actually return to gambling. I feel before you make such decisions, its fairly critical to find out why people are excluding right now.
We are entering into a period, fellow gamblers, where the Regulator has decided, for better, for worse, to cast a wide net over anyone who chooses self exclusion. If you’re not seriously committed to calling a total halt to all gambling activity, best look at take a break options very seriously. As for the Commission, you’re a real tonic to the black market. It’s the UK Gambling Commission that needs to re-assess its approach.

Cheltenham – The Bookies View

After the Sun Alliance I took the staffers to dinner. A lively Greek restaurant where everyone, bar the owner was Irish..  So Ireland have bought Greece with our money. That’s fair. The large group near the bar connected to RSA victor, Presenting Percy – and they were singing like larks. It goes without mention that we could have floated home without a boat. Spirits were high, even if we were the only people in the place to have lost money on the race! It was a tremendous atmosphere and it reminded me how important Cheltenham is to connections, what a buzz it must have been to have one of next year’s Gold Cup prospects in your camp. It’s important to remind yourself of what Cheltenham means to ‘lesser’ owners. I’ll come to that point.

naomi

To a traditional bookmaker, Cheltenham still represents one of the punting weeks of the year. Not many track bookies turn up in yellow Rolls Royce’s these days. It’s a world of ‘match bettors’ and their laptops – crowing about backing an even money chance and laying it back at 1.98. Heroic stuff. Win or lose, its an annual pilgrimage for gamblers, even if ITV think betting should be swept under the carpet. Average crowd sizes of 60,000 are impressive, and a constant. Anyone that listens to Sky News for their weather reports is an idiot. They send the cameras in search of snow and ice to the Northern Hebrides as if such weather paralyses the whole country! Nothing quite like a scary weather story. It was pretty glorious at Cheltenham all week.

 

My office lost an impressive amount of money. I think its lost at the Festival the last five years in a row. It’s a hard heat to make cash in the online world, when supermarket betting uses the Festival as a market share battleground. Non-runner – no bet the stuff of dribbling fools in the marketing department. Money back offers – crazy stuff from any functioning business, why they’re all getting acquired – doh! Clearly we need to compete with such firms and their deals. We decided on 1/4 the odds in all races, and some extra place races every day, indeed six places in the Supreme Novices.

This brings you under the radar of so called ‘each way snipers

 

Here’s your first lesson in why online bookmakers, such as myself, sometimes have to close or restrict an account. It involves maths to understand, so I hope you’re good at sums 🙂

The each way sniper looks for races offering extra places. And any odds with a bookmaker that exceed the Betfair exchange. Even if the difference is small. Say I offer 6/1 a horse, which is 6.7 on Betfair, that offers the arbitrage player two vehicles for a risk free profit. They place £200 each way with a proper layer such as myself, lay the win bet back at 6.7 on Betfair, cop £1200 from me for the win bet, payout £1140 for the Betfair ‘lay’ (requiring a bank of money on Betfair of course) Make a guaranteed, risk free £60 if the horse wins. On the place I paid 1/4 odds all races. Snipers wait on races with extra places, that the bookie pays out on, but on which he collects for his contra ‘lay’ bet on an exchange. You see exchanges pay the recognised official number of places, so if I offer the extra places, or better place odds, the savvy sniper can collect both ways if the horse finishes 5th! This is why the best Racing Festivals are so popular with matched bettors, there’s so many enhanced offerings to scalp money from.

Additionally there are multiple opportunities for each way snipers if the Bookmaker pays 1/4 the odds against a place ‘lay’ on Betfair. On many occasions the bookmaker pays a lot more on the place book than is paid on the exchange. A little understood fact. It permits the snipers to ‘trade’ a guaranteed and significant profit, without any risk whatsoever. Such each way sniper websites offer calculators to assist these individuals to lock in a guaranteed profit. Simply enter the bookmaker odds and the current Betfair odds, and your profit for no risk is clearly displayed.

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The sniper’s calculator tool above.

How should I view such ‘customers’ who utilise such tools to guarantee a profit. First I think it’s important to distinguish between the genuine punter who studies his form and places his wager,  what I term a recreational user. Win or lose we almost never close these people down. But the arbitrage players? To me they are ‘business users.’ They’re not interested in the selection, the jockey, the form or even gut feel. They’re simply playing a numbers game for guaranteed gain. Unlicensed and untaxed layers. They are not genuine customers, and in actual fact their activities have an extremely damaging effect on the ‘recreational punters,’ by having their accounts unfairly factored. We for our part try to maintain a lay to lose far greater than any other firm of £1000 for the horses. (And many sports besides.) But we simply have to eradicate ourselves of these ‘business players.’ – if we are to stay in business ourselves.

‘Business’ punters can be identified in two further ways. They scream the place down if they are closed by bookmakers, as you have effectively closed a route to guaranteed income. And they unfairly describe ‘recreational’ punters as ‘mugs.’ They think they’re being clever.

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Why mention the topic of arbitrage players online? Because I think education is important if we are all to understand each other. And to combat bitchy types like Matt Chapman, who felt it might be fun to use his platform online to criticise us publicly for the occasional closure of accounts. More than hypocrisy given his relation to the restriction Kings, Sunbets. . We offer exceptional guarantees, unrivalled in the online industry, and only close down what we see, with proper analysis, ‘business’ accounts.

Matt Chapman is, in my view, an entertaining pundit. He spent the year telling everyone to back ‘The Machine’ as I recall, for that matter, anything owned by Rich Ricci! I wouldn’t criticise such fortitude. Fine he’s a punter, and I respect opinions, but don’t pretend to understand the online betting world for a second Matt, whilst representing Sunbets. And when you’re ready to have someone more entertaining than Aussie Jim McGrath up against you on your various shows, and challenge your views, I stand ready to entertain, and inform. Up to now Matt Chapman prefers sycophantic pundits so he can shine. Let’s see how you do against someone that actually understands betting in front of the camera. I’m not shy and Racing telly certainly needs a kick up the backside..

 

The best performances at Cheltenham came from the girls. Making a compelling argument that if you give them the tools, they can get the job done off level weights. Surely the greatest fortitude came from the diminutive Harriet Tucker, given her chance by Paul Nicholls over the daunting track, winning here race despite a partial dislocated shoulder. Quite outstanding.

harriet

Worst performance, in similar vein, the Cheltenham stewards who sanctioned her for ‘use of the whip over the permitted level.’ Truly they are a stupid and inflexible bunch. It is certainly long overdue for some professional officials to sweep away all those amateur do – gooders.

 

There was a lot of good at the Festival, the track looked in good order, the new changes were impressive around the paddock. I still hate the plastic cup mentality, but it seems our regulator has no appetite to force tracks to consider the dolphins in the chase to sell booze. Races went off to time, near enough, no start dramas and the odd tragedy on the track tenderly handled. It’s a Festival that simply must survive and prosper. It remains the greatest Festival of all, because it is about the true Racing fan and the gutsiest of horses.

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We await the telly figures for ITV, but it must be said their Opening Show as beyond dreadful. Positioned long after people have left for work, or the racetrack. A one hour ‘chatathon’ devoid of features, no interviews with trainers, no form guides of any note. No special guests like Ted Walsh, just the same crusty bores preaching how we need to bow down to Samcro, and anything else under 2/1. Whatever..

ITV simply refuse to acknowledge the presence of punters in their audiences. In a recent speech, the controller of ITV sport promised action on the Show, with its dire figures. He hasn’t however shown any appetite, to spend a penny to save the show, with ‘The Persuaders’ (1970) allotted the prime 8am slots during the celebrated Cheltenham Festival. Committed? No, Mark, you most certainly are not.

ITV

 

There are some very dark clouds though on this code. And do take strong heed of these words. It’s all very well celebrating the achievements of Messrs Mullins, Elliot and Henderson. It is, however, considerably bad news for Racing, other trainers, and the fans, that two of those three named actively pursue policies designed to cut up the National Hunt to their own ends. It’s a matter of fact, that were the stars distributed to lesser stables, we’d see them more in front of the public than for examply Might Bite, out since December.

We should have been able to market and promote the greatest potential battle of the Festival, Douvan vs Altior. Instead we were instead treated to a weekly diet of will he – won’t he. Even the ridiculous ‘Altior stubs toe’ nonsense two days before the race, was the stuff of a truly desperate Racing Press, and a trainer who seeks every opportunity to big up his business in front of the telly. If they stuck a camera in Henderson’s toilet, he can show us which paper he uses. It’s gone beyond ‘nothing else to report.’ Add Henderson to the annual Rich Ricci show and you end up with the season pantomime, both competing for the ass end of the donkey.

It’s long long overdue for the Regulator to enforce minimum conditions of entry to the Festival, to include actually Racing in front of the general public, rather than racecourse gallops. I mean who came up with that plan? Let’s have an end to this annual farce and a BHA who put the sport before such trainers

 

Mullins once again stuck a Champion Hurdler into the Grade 2 mares race. I’d hazard a guess at her true rating of circa 160, some 13 pounds clear of anything else in the field. All very well for Willie, but it’s overdue for this practice to stop. There HAVE to be events at the Festival for lesser owners, who pay exactly the same fees as Ricci, to enjoy and take cheer from. Manchester United cannot play in the EFL trophy for excellent reason, it’s competition aimed at lower leagues. If you fail to give lesser owners an opportunity at podiums, they’ll quit. It is for this reason I famously argued with Ruby Walsh over Quevega. It’s simply wrong to farm the opportunities of lesser owners.

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Poor fields characterised several championship races. Notably the Triumph, Mares and Arkle. With Racing only fielding an average of 4 horses a race in novice chases there’s a clear and terrifying prospect that we cannot put together a decent Gold Cup. As an honest owner told me recently, it pays to race at Southwell as he gets cash down to 8th place. He can race 15 times a season no bother. It’s simply more economic, and he gets into the winning enclosure with his equine love. In the National Hunt, like as not he’d have little chance of victory in regular races against top stable product. A worse situation in Ireland I’d imagine. The small National Hunt owner is at a significant disadvantage against the major stables and owners paying half a million a horse.

 

We simply have to double the prize money available in the jumps code, at ordinary race meetings, and pay down to 8th place in every race. Reward the small owner for their enterprise, rather than Betting Supermarkets and their demands for more all weather racing. Money must be found to save National Hunt from expiration at the hands of the All Weather. Cue Card is gone for all money. Has anyone noticed he’s not the only performer in his last year? Douvan? Faugheen? Such horses are done for all money. Where on earth are we to source product in 2020? we need to act with great vigour right now, if we are to combat Ireland’s new Festivals and keep Cheltenham at the top of the Racing tree.