Bookies have A LOT TO answer for
Mark argues that punters are being denied their basic consumer rights
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-
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