Book­ies have A LOT TO an­swer for

Mark ar­gues that pun­ters are be­ing de­nied their ba­sic con­sumer rights

Racing Ahead - - MARK COTON -

17 OC­TO­BER

IS BET­TING on horse rac­ing go­ing to last, as we know it?

That is to say, an un­der­tak­ing to be ap­proached with a de­gree of care,qui­etly and me­thod­i­cally,af­ter due con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the ev­i­dence in front of us?

We could work back to the “Sports Fo­rum” col­umn in the Hand­i­cap Book, through Odds On mag­a­zine, to our own reg­u­lar un­der­tak­ings with form book, pa­per and pen, be­fore the click or call to the book­maker,or cash chang­ing hands.

Three broad fac­tors are threat­en­ing to un­der­mine this long-stand­ing cul­ture at source.

First, the growth in fix­tures over the last cou­ple of decades,en­sur­ing it is im­pos­si­ble to keep up with the form as it used to be when the av­er­age was three meet­ings on week­days (two in the win­ter), five on Satur­days, with a pause to gather the breath and the thoughts on the Sun­day.

Sec­ond, the ad­vent of the bet­ting ex­changes, which has had a not al­to­gether agree­able in­flu­ence not only on the sta­tus and rel­e­vance of the on-course bet­ting ring, but on the mind­set of pun­ters. (We won’t speak of in­tegrity is­sues within rac­ing it­self).

We don’t have to re­strict our­selves to back­ing horses now.We can trade, within and across mar­kets.

We can lay horses,if we pre­fer.Un­de­ni­ably it is eas­ier to make money this way, but is it as sat­is­fy­ing? Is there a book­maker ly­ing wait within us all, ready to el­bow the tra­di­tional backer out of the way?.

(In a telling re­cent slip of the tongue a pre­sen­ter on Rac­ing UK was led to re­mark on some “in­ter­est­ing ex­changes in the bet­ting ring”when in truth he would have been re­fer­ring to some in­ter­est­ing ex­changes on the ex­changes.)

Third, and per­haps most im­por­tantly, there is the ex­tra­or­di­nary on­go­ing pol­icy of book­mak­ers across the board to freeze out win­ners,es­pe­cially those tak­ing a tra­di­tional “value” ap­proach.

The cull has af­fected the trad­ing de­part­ments within the big op­er­a­tions them­selves.

Where once it would have been the nerve cen­tre of the en­tire op­er­a­tion, staffed by some of the sharpest brains in the busi­ness and run amid an at­mos­phere of sor­cery and se­crecy which would have im­pressed Ge­orge Smi­ley,now the trad­ing de­part­ment has been re­duced to a few dis­tracted in­di­vid­u­als ban­ished to a cor­ner of an open plan of­fice where they can watch li­a­bil­i­ties com­ing and go­ing on com­puter screens with­out pos­sess­ing the least power to al­ter or in­flu­ence them.

Yet the book­mak­ers in­sist that only a tiny mi­nor­ity of back­ers, prob­a­bly fewer than 1%, are be­ing af­fected by an ex­clu­sion and re­stric­tion pol­icy which com­bines ruth­less­ness and reck­less­ness in equal mea­sure.

What they are ask­ing us to be­lieve, is that hardly any­body bets to win.

That hardly any­body searches for value. (We might be on odd­schecker, but it’s for in­for­ma­tion pur­poses only, a site an­tici-

The Henry Daly-trained Bri­ery Belle

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