Don’t forget to gamble responsibly..

Watching the Oikball the other night, sitting next to my Sons, I observed West Ham sporting their snappy outfits pressed and laundered by Betway. Newcastle were sponsored by those nice people that lend money – Wonga. The stadia was adorned with Betway bunting. The adverts during the game were predominately sponsored by companies claiming their users ‘gambled responsibly’ – Especially Ray Winstone, who I doubt has had a tenner on anything in his life. But it’s great viewing for children. Honestly

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If you like to watch sport, you’ll get used to this. If you like your late night telly – you know – stop camera action from the police force in Reading, the best looking penis, or shows about cars with fabulous emission ratings, you’ll also have become used to proliferation of gambling adverts. Some of whom sound almost heroic.
Of course we’re encouraged to ‘gamble responsibly’ by the yellow sign that tells us all (subliminaly) that when we’ve had enough FUN FUN FUN – we must learn to stop.
In other words, when you’ve run out of cash, maxed out every credit card you’ve got, kicked the fruit machine to bits, mortgaged your home to the hilt, turned your Missus into a Lesbian, and of course made the BBC documentary on ‘Britain At The Bookies’ – the home for all genuine sad acts, – then you’ll have truly arrived in the worlds of Bet365 and William Hill
If you’re in the minority, like me, the Mary Whitehouse types, you might pause for a moment and wonder what effect this siege of advertising has on our phsyche- not to mention those of our children. I mean we stop cigarette adverts, so why is it permissable that EVERY ad break tells us we have to spin to win? And sometimes more than once a break?

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And of course, as every independent bookmaker and decent minded citizen knows- The UK’s ‘watchdog’ – the Gambling Commission, with all its fees and hype – does absolutely nothing. Nothing at all, to justify its very existence. ‘To protect the vulnerable.’

The ‘vulnerable’in this case appear to be online gaming giants

Little known- but worth mentioning, back in April I challenged Paddy Power on promotions headlined with the banner ‘money back’ on certain wagers. This was a headline grabber and peddled widely in the press. I invited them to desist from encouraging customers to wager under the entirely false assumption certain stakes would be refunded, when in actuality the customers were being refunded in ‘free bet stakes’. Of course the two are entirely different offers

Paddy Power declined to remove promotions with said headlines.

I challenged this with the ASA as misleading and wholly false. The challenge was upheld and they were ordered by the authority to cease free bet promotions with the headlines money back.

Paddy Power were not alone – Many firms were doing exactly the same, and in direct contravention to an earlier ASA ruling against Betfair for the same type of claims. These firms were directly contravening an earlier ruling

The question is this. Why did the Gambling Commission, the custodian of fair gambling and the vulnerable, not step in at any stage to order such promotions to be withdrawn? Is this agency actively complicit in protecting such firms from basic licensing conditions? Were said firms not in fact contravening several codes in licensing practices with such claims?

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I think I’m a fair minded bookie. I try to give my customers a better class of service and compete on odds with the high street. And as a bookie you might expect me to side with my own. I mean I do have a gambling site. But I don’t bombard people with adverts at 2am about it, and if I were to shove it on my occasional trips to Channel 4, where I upset the establishment for your viewing entertainment, I’d get my backside kicked off pronto.
I’m deeply uncomfortable with what goes on. I feel for those who are suffering. I favour a UK wide ban on anyone who self excludes – not backed by the Gambling Commission. I disagree with the use of credit cards to fund gambling. I disagree with Gibraltar outfits shoving their ‘online’ products to Racing. Although I scoff at the BHA’s lack of backbone in any department, all sound bytes.
I hear a lot of complaints from punters, some of whom could accurately be described as ‘bonus junkies.’ The new breed of professionals who scour the bookie websites for top of the market hits. I have some sympathy with the bookie view that a lot of those types of customer are worthless to us in business.
BUT. If Paddy Power are to offer even money each of two in a Rugby match, with just the outside chance of a handicap ‘tie’ to save them, if Skybet are to offer a loss leading 6 places on the Cambridgeshire, if Coral are to offer 6/1 each of 2 in a tennis match to new customers only – and all of them make money, then I know they’re not getting fat on those sports, especially the increasingly worthless racing product.
So they’re fattening on gaming. – NAP

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Bet365 seem totally content to treat their customers with err, uhm contempt, by offering a customer, their customers, a £1 wager. They don’t care about the PR implications of being described by the same as ‘total frauds’ for describing themselves as ‘Bookmakers.’ Because they’re global. And for every clued up punter they treat so poorly over here, there are perhaps 5% of these new accounts they dig up that make the whole exercise of pushing for new business worthwhile. And deeply profitable. One can admire their bottom line, if not their methodology
Should we feel sympathy for those professional types who complain so vociferously? Clearly we care about the genuine punters who fluke a 16/1 winner and find their next wager batted down to 36p. But the pros?
For myself, I never keep a customer on if I’m not prepared to lay him or her a bet to lose at least £50 as a minimum, and remember that’s my minimum, not the average of what we’re prepared to lay. But that’s because I have standards. I may not like what some customers get up to, but if I do, I close them down with a fair explanation of why it’s been done. We do not hide behind ‘trading decisions’
But the big companies are the ones peddling the prices and offers. They’re continuously driving for new gaming custom and fully prepared to be ‘best odds guaranteed’ or ‘best prices for all Channel 4 races’ – even if it guarantees a loss. It’s a bit like the supermarkets claiming they make nothing from milk, because they choose to sell it so cheap to get the customers into the stores in the first place. They don’t care if the dairy farmer ends up out of business.

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These ‘companies’ have created the bonus and offer culture. The free bet. I heard recently Coral offering a guarantee to lay any horse to lose a decent amount, I’m uncertain if it was Coral’s diminutive UK division or their Gibraltar arm making the offer, because its hardly clear who you’re wagering with when you call up ‘Coral.co.uk’ . They’re not prepared to offer it online, nor even on their phones. Once again a headling grabbing offer that turns out not quite as good as it sounds. But in a way I support any move towards a sensible lay to lose – I’ve always advocated £100 as a startpoint. Coral stand alone in proferring any sort of guarantee to date, even if it’s only in their shops.
But they’re a multi million pound outfit, still un prepared to offer their advertised odds to all of their customers. A bit like Waitrose saying it’s 50p for that Cadbury’s flake, but not to everyone. Isn’t this sort of thing a trading standards issue? And of course pretty much all of the other outfits are exactly the same. Complaints litter about what they don’t do, far more than what they do. Now why is that?
So the next time you think about grabbing yourself a ‘free bet’ for a tenner. Ponder awhile. If you can afford not to support firms who behave with such overall disdain for large sections of their customers, why would you support them with your business? If you want change, you have to be prepared to boycott those firms you consider place little real value on loyalty.
And should they be mandated, as they are in parts of Australia, to lay a fair bet to any price they offer?
Well the Gambling Commission don’t agree with you, but I most certainly do.

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Bing Bong – Pay Pay – the Bookies view of Ascot..

Anyone that describes racing as dull has to be an astronaut. If the highlight for your average rocket man involves periods of sheer terror sitting on tonnes of high explosive jet fuel, punctuated by moments spent trying to work out the on board toilet then I suppose racing falls somewhere between the two. Racing provides so much more gripping entertainment. My week started with ten minutes of fame on Channel 4. The director in my ear telling me to ‘pipe down’  – this is fairly standard. Two large security guards stand off camera ready to drag me off set.

So we chat about Gosden Horn, sitting in the sun, with forecast temperatures of 18 degrees. Lucky asks if I feel the greatest horse on the planet will take his chance. Now, I’m supposed to have done my research, which includes looking at this horse’s form.. – Unless I’m mistaken, the brute beat none other than Storm The Stars at Nottingham on ground described as good to soft- soft in places. Add the paltry 700 grand on offer, the thousands who had paid to see him, the kudos in doing the Derby-George double, that the horse had travelled, that the field was inferior, and that I’m paid to speak my mind – I said I was confident he would indeed take place.

Everyone knows I’m rarely wrong.

A gaggle of press accompanied Lord John on his perambulation around the track, sporting a knitting needle to stick in the muddy bits and accompanied by Anthony Oppenheimer, -carefully dipping his cheque book into the ground. And yes, indeed, race fans – it came up ‘moist’. Of course I jest – it was his credit card. Breeding beats prize money, there’s no appetite for a tussle anymore amongst the top owners

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Feature of Ascot’s excellent support card – a big sprinty thing where they split into 9 groups and the commentator takes a pot shot at who’s actually in front. Now this gets entertaining! Unless you’re an official

History says Speculative Bid travelled the course without the jockey because Spencer was sitting on the stalls rather than the horse. Perhaps he was practicing his dismount? Starters don’t react to cries of ‘No No No’ these days- nor do they speedily inform the stewards of the status of the horse in this age of walkie talkies.

Now I know you’re dozing off here- because who gives a monkies if the bookies done more of their money than they should? Rub of the green. But there’s a strong message here – and it’s important not only to learn from it, but hold the BHA properly to account, because that is how we progress change. Of course folks make errors, but what struck me  was the abject lack of taking responsibility or a will to apologise. A thorough lack of understanding from one of the most professional group of stewards in the game, that they’re responsible to the betting community and the general public- most of whom have had a bet.

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Error one – ‘we’re looking into an incident at the start- but the placings are unaffected

Wrong.

If you’re enquiring into the status of the favourite as a runner, you’re most definitely affecting betting markets. Why not mention what you’re actually discussing?

Bookies paid out dutifully and swiftly without deducting one fifth of winnings as rules dictate.

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‘Weighed in’ –Now we all know someone didn’t do their job here. Who to blame? Perhaps the stewards themselves for taking so very long to find out what happened to the favourite

Bing Bong – Bing Bong Along

‘Stewards Enquiry – we’re looking into the status of the favourite and whether he was a runner or not’   – Say what??

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‘The favourite was a non runner’ customers can get their money back – oh right, sure thing.

So we pay everyone out on the favourite. Which was an illegal instruction. In the meantime the Betting ring managers are besieged with confused customers. Although most bookies had paid out. Not to have done so under the instructions given by the stewards would have been unprecedented – would have potentially resulted in loss of licenses – and would have most certainly caused a riot.

90 minutes pass, during which time the betting ring manager high tails it to the stewards secretary to remind him that what they had done was an illegal instruction under the rules of racing and explain what a bet is. Oh and what ‘weighed in actually represents..

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‘Stewards now instruct that Speculative Bid was in fact a runner for betting purposes ‘ tra la la la la – go back to the bookies for more

Those few who had had rule 4’s deducted took the opportunity to return for another refund. Tee hee. (not all I would add- most realised the bookies were as much victims here- and behaved impeccably)

Jamie Stiers took to Racing UK to explain what went on, roughly. He refused to apologise. Not in his remit.

Here is the ‘decline to apologise video’ – this from the BHA’s head of regulation – so we should expect a polished performance. Instead it adds to the shambles by giving the impression even he didn’t understand the rules- or know what was occurring. ‘I am advised a rule 4 should have come with the withdrawal of the favourite’ – this is a staggering remark. I believe my 12 year old knows this one! As head of regulation he clearly had to have the rules of betting explained to him.

http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/36742/bha-to-launch-bid-inquiry

The stewards made enquiries and in their report they mentioned those findings would be shared with the Authority. Oh, I’ve heard this one before. The brush.

the official report from Ascot:-

The Stewards held an enquiry into the start to ascertain why SPECULATIVE BID (IRE), ridden by Jamie Spencer, failed to start and eventually left the stalls rider-less. They heard evidence from the rider and the starters. Spencer stated that the gelding was loaded late as he was known to be difficult in the stalls and just prior to the stalls being released SPECULATIVE BID (IRE) got his head over the adjacent stall 23. He added that when the stalls were released he was off the horse. Having heard their evidence and viewed video recordings of the start, they found that SPECULATIVE BID (IRE) was deemed not to have started and, under Rule (B)10.5, ordered the gelding to be withdrawn.

The Stewards further enquired into why the Weighed In signal was given before the enquiry into the start of the race had been concluded. They heard evidence from the Stipendiary Steward, the Clerk of the Scales and the Racecourse Announcer. Having heard their evidence they forwarded the matter to the British Horseracing Authority for further consideration.

Look, I can take a joke as much as the next man. I can easily accept errors are made. My problem with the Authority here is the abject lack of transparency, a failure to immediately apologise and take ownership of the problem. All businesses pay for their errors- except the BHA it seems. They want the bookmaking community not only to foot the bill, but take the flak, the assaults that took place on my colleagues, the inconvenience and the loss of face. In the meantime they will conduct internal inquiries and ‘move forward’. If moving forward is to set a precedent whereby we pay for their shambolic and ill informed stewarding – then I have one answer.

No

I’m sorry, but I’m tired of the simple lack of accountability for errors and the high minded attitude that comes with. Appalling race planning, 8 flat meetings on a Saturday in July, 3 jumps meets on a Sunday. Embarrassing integrity enquiries taking years to prosecute in which video of races are lost.The head of integrity is still in his post – headlines ‘we’re consulting ourselves into how we’re doing’. Yup. Race planning is for five year olds, yet its head sits in her chair. A general lack of consultation with the general public. The mundane press releases in the place of open press conferences like other sports in which journalists have an opportunity to test their performance.

I should say it makes me deeply uncomfortable to have to challenge the organisation. But I feel a clear need to defend my colleagues  even if the actual cost to myself is minimal. Let’s hope they behave in a manner befitting new management and the promises made by Nick Rust to come together. Here’s your chance Nick

Of course the BHA have registered successes – more so from it’s rather under funded commercial arm – REL. The Champions series, Qatar involvement, marketing on a shoe string budget. This leaves the authority actually responsible for planning, integrity and regulation. It lacks any clear authority over racecourses to the detriment of the sport – and everyone has a job for life.

Why?

I’m convinced amongst appreciable talent in the BHA are a few individuals without the necessary qualities to represent the sport. In every walk of life it’s critical for performance to be achievably measured. Failing employees and managers to be moved out and replaced with stronger people. And what’s with employing a board lacking in any appreciable experience in racing? So they can be bullied?

A line from excellent columnist Rich Lee – worth quoting –

“ ~~’Has there ever been a racing authority that was not incompetent, lacking in imagination and dynamism, or out of touch with the industry’s needs?’  Guardian racing writer Chris Hawkins…asked this rhetorical question in 1996.”  Plus ca change…!

In between times ‘Britain at the Bookies’ – little to say about this, rather dull if you’re not in betting- and feels like an advert for gamblers anonymous. Can’t help feeling this wasn’t a good idea

Goodwood. ‘Appointment with fear’ my Old Man used to say. A graveyard for bookies, some of whom are buried under Trundle Hill. Good news for the betting men with Hughesie retiring. He’s cost us a pretty sum over the years.. good luck to the legend in his new venture – a gentleman jockey.

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And so we trundle on to York. Another track with a sense of style. A possible meeting for Golden Horn and Gleneagles? On a strip of council land. If you want to get in free, climb under the gate at the ten furlong marker and look like you belong..

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Royal Ascot – 2015 – The Bookies View

www.geoff-banks.com/register.asp

Driving around Ascot is a pretty harrowing experience- streets full of burnt out Bentleys. Every once in a while you’ll pass a Waitrose, and really know you’re in a bad area.. they don’t do Tesco here – no matter what they make (? insert amount ??)

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The trick to Ascot is finding somewhere convenient to park- there’s an exit one way system which sends you back to Sunninghill (a mile away) via Biddlecombe (286 miles away)-  You have to know the system or you’re stuck in the High Street for several days

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Flick knives and knuckledusters  dutifully handed over, you’re greeted by throngs of gatemen. First thing you notice is how polite they are, they check what socks you’re wearing and smile. You see, at Royal Ascot- everyone feels like a Lord for the day – even if you’re entirely potless. Bookies enter with money, – they’re x-rayed on the way out to ensure they’ve left it all with the punters..

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One enters the truly vast terminal- had it’s detractors when it was built, but these days thanks to ‘green fingers Barnett’ – the place resembles an advert for house and garden. Full of comfy armchairs- nooks and crannies to enjoy your glass of champagne. Uber civilised.Quality extends to every enclosure, a track run by toffs- but to everyone’s benefit – no enclosure escapes the personal touch – and you can escape the beer swilling hordes if that’s your bag

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They don’t do Pomagne here!

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And yes,  they actually serve a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, not a bag, and with a glass should you so desire. You see, if you’re not at Ascot, York or Goodwood, where they do things with panache- most tracks think you deserve a bowl or tumbler to drink your champagne from.  Odd sort of business plan for your best spending customers wouldn’t you agree? Ascot hasn’t dipped standards to the banal trick of hiding customer service values behind health and safety.  .

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Ascot also don’t do themed evenings for people dressed in football shirts..possibly because they take the view their long standing real racing fans might object to spending their days with Yah Yahs..

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But I digress

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When they rebuilt the old Ascot – some of the members said they’d never return. Well I suppose if you’re pushing up daisy’s and by extension possibly not reading this – that could indeed be true. For the rest of the ‘I’m never going again’ mob – it appears to my inexpert eye, that Ascot have built one of the world’s best sporting arenas –  outstanding restaurants, bars and service. In a racing environment obsessed with sand , it’s refreshing to walk into an Ascot or York where the focus still remains what goes on around the track – not (perhaps) in a betting shop.

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I spot Nick Rust, the new BHA chief exec in the throng – clearly his suit was made for someone bigger – he’s chatting to someone about ‘coming together’. I wonder idly if he’s explaining why they dug up Newcastle to create a terribly interesting series of races in a straight line. For this week though, exceptionally and perenially, we have the best racetrack in the world.

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The first race rolls around – there’s a lump from Hong Kong – ‘Able Friend.’ Our Gallic friends have sent over a Goldikova clone. Most bets are in euros, as the far east specialist proves more suited to racing at the back. Solow wins well and Maxine Guyon flicks a V sign at the toffs as he passes the post. I don’t blame him. The bookmakers rename the winner ‘Sorrow’

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The rest of the day degenerates into the stuff of nightmares for the bookie types as the Festival lurches from Prince this and Queen that . If it’s not the favourite, it’s the galactically talented Ryan Moore sweeping the board. That won’t go down well on the High Street.

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People that know me understand I’m one for speaking plainly. I have listened to several respected scribes eulogising on about the rather evident talents of Mr Moore. Little question he’s probably the most talented jockey we’ve witnessed on the flat. It goes along the lines of ‘isn’t he magnificent? What a rider! And to those that know him – apparently quite a wit’

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Well, to the rest of us, who’d rather a jockey smile when he nails a Derby – he’s a thoroughly morose character – he doesn’t endear himself – nor promote the sport that makes him several millions in any way, shape or form. So no, I don’t find him admirable as a human being. Two weeks ago, we saw a brilliant horse take a Derby with a pilot who will do more for headlining the sport than Golden Horn himself. Leaping out of the saddle and engaging the crowd. That cost me a rake, but I smiled when I saw it. That’s what the fans want – not the taciturn one. He’s for betting – not for Racing. Shape up Ryan! Dettori, McCoy, Hughes, Walsh amongst many happily give of their time –  you can’t manage a smile??

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When you look at the results, you could easily conclude they didn’t look that bad for the bookies, but I suppose it was the combination of several favourites going in – and if they got beat, it was either Moore or Dettori on top. Thursday I think was the most entertaining betting day – with Moore bashing the firms with a 14/1 opener followed by a 5/1 winner. Payouts could potentially dwarf the Mullins quad at Cheltenham.. (Thanks Annie)

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One major off course layer went into hyper drive sending nearly a quarter of a million back for Kingfisher in the Gold Cup- all those 10p accumulators, at guaranteed odds, I expect suddenly come to haunt. This time it was Maxine Guyon to the bookies’ rescue as he held Moore on his inside – causing him to switch paths at the critical stage. For me the week’s unlucky loser. For the major bookie involved- several pence retained on their share price. I expect they were not alone in hiding under their sofas as Kingfisher turned for home..

Racing festivals haven’t been that great for the firms over the last few years. Most lead with fabulous offers and price boosts created by their marketing departments. Combine that with a dip in on course margins – polarisation of expensive horses shared by a select few jockeys and trainers, and you have a problem for those betting on the product. Expect you’re reaching for a Kleenex right about now

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Racing starts every day with a race for the Royals from the mile start in their fancy carriages. Now I’ve watched this for more years than I can remember- never once has anyone tried to pass the one in front. Surely I can’t be the only one who’s spotted the biggest bunch of non triers in racing?? Fair enough, they put on a good show, the whole event surely organised to give the bookies another betting heat to do their brains in – namely the colour of the Boss’s hat. But I’d like to see more effort from those in behind..I know I speak for all concerned who back the second carriage every year

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God save our Queen..you won’t see a pageant like that at Goodison Park..a uniquely British summer scene.

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I took one wander down from the Royal enclosure towards the Silver Ring. Ascot is so vast, the silver ring is nearer to Egham. As enclosures go, it’s really quite well turned out. I walk as far as is possible before the waft of chips overtake that of Chanel.. There are bookies all the way down the racetrack, making noise, taking bets. I wonder what will happen to the very flavour of racing when the tracks inevitably take over the betting. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re about, with your expansive plans for data charges etc etc – we’re on to your tricks!

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Racetrack bet however, could do well at the festivals, I don’t think the punters are in any way price savvy, we know that from Chester – they just want service. But the diet of midweek racing we’re fed by tracks-horsemen-BHA, has leant itself to poor attendances from both customers and bookmakers. What’s the future without the ring? My dream we wake up before it’s all too late – the major betting firms have deserted racing for football and roulette. I suppose then the sand will go back to the bunkers. No Big Jim, Barry Dennis, Victor Chandler

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Imagine a world where an exec at Channel 4 suddenly decides the network should quit racing, in the face of the often ridiculous criticism of a show affording the sport 44 cameras and the best coverage it has ever experienced. By comparison the BBC with its almost ‘cottage’ coverage. Racing feeds the network a diet of 5 runner group races almost weekly and wonder why the numbers are down- then makes it awkward for them to show alternate meetings in its coverage and ignores Channel 4 in any decision making processes at the highest level. Remember,  they can make more money for less hassle from ‘Everyone loves Raymond.’. Don’t think the BBC will come back to save Racing from itself – they barely mention the National

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Racing has an awful lot invested in very few options. Royal Ascot is amazing, but if Aston Villa play Scunthorpe it’s likely to pull in more sponsors, viewers and press coverage. The next few weeks Racing will go into its shell from Sunday to Friday, bang on 7 meetings on the Saturday, and bolster attendances with pop concerts and a grotesque obsession with selling as much beer as possible. Hmm, get back to the Racing. Ascot leads for me with the right balance and never loses sight of its focus on the Sport

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It’s not supportable, but with a regulator fascinated by commerce, rather than how is the sport best served and gels together, – a board of novices to do as they’re told? As Nick Rust so accurately describes- the underlying trends are declining. He’s just not going to do anything about it. Sorry Nick, I don’t do sound bites. I did enjoy your BHA seminar though, with Rod Fabricious harking on about artificial insemination.. not sure who he wanted impregnated though..

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Fortunately there’s enough quality in York, Goodwood, Cheltenham, Chester and Ascot to name a few to keep British Racing at the very top of the world order, British racing has a unique calendar of major Festivals. I wonder if there’s an RCA man reading this, sympathetic to the view most racetracks are struggling with an identity crisis? A racetrack, a greyhound track or just a vast pub. Here’s one to mull over – try proper segregation of long standing racing fans, who don’t feel to have beer spilt over their girlfriends, or even the often threatening environment, from the oiks that do, – rather than selling all in sundry a pass to the members enclosure, keep some areas with civilised folk in mind. Possible? I think also a lot of racetracks need to integrate their thinking with the words ‘social responsibility’ rather than ‘sales’

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Early evenings at Ascot are spent gate crashing car park parties and pretending you’re one of the owners. Everyone standing quaffing champagne, leaning on their Astons, in an age old and endearing slice of the great meeting. It’s my time to get asked by people stuffed with my cash, how much I’d won that day.. (where’s that sharp knife?) Everyone turns up without being invited – ‘Who ARE you – and why are you stealing my champagne?’

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How good was the meeting? Well to my mind pretty outstanding. How does it compare to Cheltenham? Well they’re rather chalk and cheese. Ascot is very much more about the social scene. But there’s no loss in focus on the racing. Quipco have stepped in. There’s a new Group one sprint attracting foreign raiders that really works. It has management focussed on quality at every turn. Entrance charges to the meeting aren’t steep – considering what is delivered. Cheltenham has a different feel. Far more the betting event, with months focussed on it’s feature races. The two great events provide balance. Is it a bit toffee nosed? I don’t think so, sure the babies are on Smoked Salmon, and they tow away Ford Escorts, but one has to keep the Riff-Raff out 🙂

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See you at York – could it possibly get any better?
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A £3 BET? ARE YOU SURE?

No question about it. The old man wouldn’t understand the metamorphosis in betting in this country. And the victim is very much the long suffering bettor. Of course by this country I include Gibraltar – the puppet state the Government bizarrely supports to the fiscal benefit of our highest grossing companies. The word is ‘avoid’ not ‘evade’ of course. It’s legal folks. At least until we find Politicians who buy their own lunches and look beyond their own term.

Not many times in life I find myself in agreement with Millington of the Post. An Editor obsessed with over-rounds in the 9pm at Kempton, whilst running betting apps often running to 2% a runner. But he’s right in one area – Punters in many regards are treated in a shabby fashion these days.

I was in Cheltenham this week, filming a piece for JPFestival.com on the upcoming season. Two of the locals told me the Coral shop locally was restricting all bets to £20. Now, I want to say up front I don’t believe this to be true for one second. It’s far more likely that for certain customers- markets or times there may be restrictions in place. Stories like this though pervade the industry like a cancer.  However, most LBO managers these days do spend more time ringing through anything exceeding liabilities of £100 than they do actually accepting the bets. But the FOBT’s role on without limits.

I’m going to be as kind as possible here to the modern day ‘Giants’ of Betting. For firms comfortable with a £100 spin on a machine, it’s truly pathetic if you’re holding those same customers to a £20 bet on the horses – or less. Don’t you see their point of view?

A trader gave me some stick this week, he is or had associations with Bet365 most recently, so you’d think he’d have known better.

Anyways, he placed a wager his own firm unlikely to even consider to serious money to a Horse Race trader from a rival firm, given the likelihood the selection is ‘live’, and whined publicly about how he had been ‘restricted’ by my firm. Now, let’s not let the facts ruin a good razz, and note these are already in the public domain because he tweeted the same. The bet would have returned £3600, Laid at the very best odds available. I don’t lay a bet you see. I don’t mind anyone tweeting their disapproval, but a trader for Bet365? Well that takes the biscuit!

Winning and losing isn’t important to me, but I do demand a fair ‘spread’ of business from a customer – in other words I wouldn’t entertain from a client who’d wait like a spider for us to be substantially out of line before offering a bet. Evidently this trader had ‘marks’ in his office as to the pick, and can’t get on elsewhere, or we would have been left in peace. Obviously we will lay bets we don’t always fancy accommodating, but that’s the nature of business

It’s not policy to discuss my client’s business- ever. But you’ll understand I will respond to criticism unfairly levelled in open forums. Expect it if you’re house is made of glass.

Having placed his wager – he tweeted my website as ‘unfit for purpose’ – and that ‘I wasn’t the Bookie I claimed to be.’ Of course the Bet365 website was so much better than mine. Fine – I can accept that – except to say my own Website lays a very fair bet at all times. The same isn’t necessarily  true of Bet365’s, for example on the same event and selection – we could manage but £3.75 win. Hmm. Apparently my website works for placing wagers, it’s the roulette that doesn’t work properly.

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A picture says a thousand words tra la..

Anyway I’ve dealt with his barb.

Bottom line is choice -that’s precisely why people bet with me and I don’t go to bed wishing I were Denise, and she won’t be worried about me.  I lay a fair bet, or rid myself of someone who doesn’t offer me that – win or lose. That was the ethos of John Banks – and that will remain my policy till I push up daisies.

You see all I hear and read about are restrictions from customers these days. Fine, if we’re talking about professional traders, or those working a business through exchanges, I’ve no issue with closures. Step on my toes and I’ll put on the jack boots. But I do have a serious beef with restrictions. And I have been as forthright in that opinion, as I have about modern day traders themselves. Do Bet365 lay decent wagers? Of course they do, but the complaints from those who feel unhappy at ridiculous counter offers simply undermine the good. What’s the point if you’ve determined someone is no good in allowing them to make a meal out of you online? Even if you’re a fair layer – the odd derisory offer paints a false picture of you’re worth.

Now lads, let’s all get on the same page here. If you work for a company comfortable with offering derisory bets, or anything remotely similar, then you have to work to change that policy, or the odds you’re offering that force it. Instead of attempting to compete with the tenners on an exchange for such weak markets as the 3.55pm at Clonmel, price every book up to say a minimum of 2% per runner and offer the customers a better service – a bet commensurate with their ‘average’ stakes. But bets to £10 or less? Oh, come on, you’re making a spectacle of yourself. And as for moaning at me for accommodating you to a more than reasonable bet? Well, put up or bet elsewhere.

No?

Of course the industry is governed by marketeers.  The more names and e mail addresses they gather, the better it sits on their resumes. Add 10,000 new clients to your books and executives should be happy. Although the big five operators are all registering profits in the hundred million range – their net margin as a proportion of their turnover appears dangerously low.  And both Ladbrokes and Hills have announced recent significant profit dips. To be fair, there’s less complaints about what Ladbrokes and Hills lay, as to their rivals. I’m a little surprised to read occasional complaints about BetVictor. Spending too much on quality telly Ads over there?

To those execs staring with rose tinted specs at their marketing departments, I offer you caution – in the world of the internet, you can order a competitively priced pizza and have it delivered to your door. If they invented a cyber doll on the internet, sex would go out the window in a week. Betting is flooded with offers from hundreds of firms – not least my own, – for our part we discount our clients payments. Does it therefore follow, that if you found custom through money back offers – and being that type of customer, you would simply migrate to other companies when the Bookmaker’s bottom line is constantly taking hits- and the offers cease? Experience proves market share wars end up with victims, on both sides of the coin. Middle pin companies and smaller go to the wall and become part of larger organisations. Customers suffer a worse standard of service as a consequence, because smaller firms tailor their service.

I make no bones about the expression – ‘The Ryanair School Of Bookmaking’ – because that’s the modern day thinking. ‘punters get the top of the market- don’t complain if we only lay you a tenner.’ That’s not good enough for me. It’s not customer focussed. That’s the ‘volume’ edict.

You know what happens, with short-sighted policies? Your clients become disaffected, even hateful of your policies. Why should a man who bets in fifties accept or begin to understand why you offer him £5? Yet he can have a spin for £100. When a Betfair comes along, and you’re part of that exchange by playing at Bookie – you almost feel a sense of achievement. Fine you’ll do your bollocks laying anything on the machine – you have to exceed Bookie prices, but that’s not my problem.

If you’re comfortable operating a high tech – high volume website and offering £3 bets from time to time– all well and good, but bear in mind that alienates traditional bettors. Many of whom have simply struck a winning run, as is common in gambling, and inexplicably find some Herbert whose spotted two winning wagers in a row, has dropped them to a silly restriction without due cause. Ensure you only lay the ‘mugs’. Disrespectful and narrow.

Now I give as good as I get. I expect to be ribbed from time to time. I’m not short on opinions on or off course. When you work for a casino operator, you’re bound to defend policy, even if privately you think some of the companies’ offers are a joke.  I don’t doubt the individual I’ve engaged head  on agree their own firm’s restrictions are occasionally difficult to defend. They’re certainly not based at me laying them bets to lose 3 or 4 grand at a pop.

To my mind, if you allow a customer on the one hand to sit on your fruit machine or play roulette, maxing out his cards, and do his brains on either, you leave an open goal when you offer a bet of £3.

Geoff Banks

November 2013