Mark Coton bemoans the shunting of the July Cup into an absurdly late slot on a busy day of racing
Mark says the July Cup has been moved to a ridiculous slot
THERE are many epithets somewhat less upbeat than‘Super’which can be applied to today’s indigestible racing offer.
It’s the sort of day on which you discover a dark one you’ve been waiting for across a period of months has just gone in unbacked at 14-1 at the meeting you never got around to looking at.
And here’s the July Cup,highlight of the once-iconic midweek summer Newmarket meeting,slated to start at half past four on a Saturday, when you’ve just about finished with the whole thing and are looking forward to a stroll in the fresh air.
Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City is arguably one of the greatest songs ever written about gambling (maybe topped in his own oeuvre by The Promise), though the only direct mention of the subject is to a Gambling Commission said to be “hanging on by the skin of its teeth”.
Our UK equivalent is much more comfortably ensconced,showing no effective signs of wanting to frighten the wild and dangerous horses of the gambling business.
It remains to be seen whether the new focus on customer rights and service promised by chief executive Sarah Harrison adds bite, though you wouldn’t want to be a buyer on the indexes.
Here are three areas into which the Commission might want to cast a hopefully sharpened beam:
1) The “palpable error” rule used by bookmakers to absolve themselves from responsibilities when a punter appears to have significantly and successfully bucked the odds.
No such equivalent luxury is granted to the backer and nor are repayments made when such bets lose,thus violating one of the core rules of betting that if a customer has no chance of winning,a bet should be void.
2) To gamble is arguably a palpable error in itself,yet Harrison doesn’t seem to recognize this,speaking in a recent interview with the The Guardian about “wanting people to enjoy gambling”. You can enjoy a flutter. You can enjoy a bet on the horses. But if you’re gambling you’re already in trouble. Perhaps deep trouble.
(And there is no such thing as “responsible gambling”, an oxymoron the wide use of which should be a profound embarrassment to everybody working in the business, but actually seems to bother nobody at all).
3) The ongoing discriminatory policies of the big bookmakers whose murky rules allow them to accept a bet from one customer but to refuse it to another without adequate reasons being given.
In no other walk of business life, online or otherwise, is the customer who shops around for the best deal treated in this manner. Why should it be any different for betting?
The manner in which Jordan Spieth gathered himself and his game together to win The Open at Royal Birkdale was one of the most impressive sights witnessed in a sporting arena.
The overnight leader entering the final round, Spieth soon had anything but the look of a winner,recording three bogeys in the first four holes,then scrambling to stay in contention against others whose games appeared to be holding up more securely.
Were the nerves getting to him, as it seemed they had at the Masters in 2016, when he lost a five-shot lead in the space of three holes, including an infamous seven on the par three 12th when he drove into the water,exactly as he had done in 2014?
So it seemed on the 13th tee at Royal Birkdale,when his drive flew not so much out of bounds as beyond bounds, somewhere out towards a distant grandstand on another part of the course.
At this stage, almost any other golfer would have retreated into their shell, slashed one away to count three off the tee, before scowling at the caddie and beginning to calculate the prize money due to those finishing in joint 37th place.
You never pull it back when a round of golf is going this badly,just as it never suddenly turns during a bad losing run in betting, as if you are trapped in some exteriorized nightmare, without the knowledge to pinch yourself awake. Not Spieth. As others around him were fretting
about the lie and the rules and all manner of petty calculations, he took as long as was required to plan an exit strategy from his wayward drive, accepting a penalty drop before hitting a stupendous long iron up towards the green.
Soon he’d got it up and down for a 5 when an 8 or 9 was initially favourite.
This triggered an astonishing sequence of birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie over the next four holes, leaving him with an almost unassailable lead approaching the last.
So much to reflect on, not least the fact that a mental “choke” is often nothing of the kind.
According to the experts, there are many others in golf’s upper echelons who have a stronger game than Spieth, but none is as inwardly focused and determined.
Contrary to appearances,it was failings in his game, rather than any mental meltdown which led to his early travails in that final round in The Open, and to that anguish in Augusta.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going,seldom more impressively than this.
You’re watching a race,without a financial interest, without the eyes being drawn, or skewed, towards a particular runner, and you wonder “who’s riding this?”.
On the positive side, across the last few weeks, it’s often been Kieran Shoemark, on this occasion giving Pacharana a particularly well-judged ride at Bath (3.40).
When John Banks made his notorious observation that a betting shop was “a licence to print money”,he had in mind a traditional business model, largely built around betting on horse racing (the sort of business which scares the wits out of those current operators schooled in less demanding circles).
Even Banks might have balked at the chasms of irresponsibility opened up by the decision to introduce fixed odds betting terminals, with their eye-watering staking options,sufficient to have allowed the given operators to have collectively helped themselves to £1.8billion in profits in the year to September 2016,according to figures recently released by the Gambling Commission.
No accompanying figures were on hand regarding the number of lives undermined by unregulated “play” on these socially worthless machines, but the ongoing government inquiry into the matter,temporarily postponed due to the general election and now due to report in October, might shed some light on the matter. Expect a fudge. A lack of creative thinking, such as a reduction to £2 as the general staking limit, in line with bookmaker rhetoric
about gambling as fun, with those customers wishing to stake at a higher level able to opt in after a given cooling off period (maybe one as little as five minutes being sufficient to bring many to their financial senses).
Broadly speaking,if it wasn’t for the jobs which would be lost,a high percentage of betting shops could close without any negative impact on the given neighbourhood, especially those found in clusters in deprived areas, opened solely with a view to leeching money on the FOBTS.
The big bookmakers’lobbying groups, still considered to be among the most powerful in Parliament, will be pressing hard on the jobs issue,conveniently failing to disclose long-term business models which will be working towards largely staff-free outlets, with betting conducted solely through machines,including what’s left of that struck on horse racing.
Meanwhile, we are left with the predictable yet unedifying sight of the main interest groups in racing, from the BHA through the Parliamentary Racing and Bloodstock Group to the Racing Post, scurrying around like poodles in support of the bookmakers and the status quo.
Undertaking research on a well-known, if dumbed-down racing website,there is an intrusive pop-up from a well-known bookmaker excitably offering a free £25 bet.
It’s “for new customers only. T & C’s apply”.
Given that this particular bookmaker’s terms and conditions prevent me from staking more than £3.87 online without an inner fire alarm sounding,the only thing to do is to delete the wretched intrusion,and proceed with the task in hand.
Is there a near-endless line of these new customers,eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be taken for a ride?
The big bookmakers’ business model seems to be predicated on a positive reply,continuously stoked by irresponsible and disingenuous claims that betting amounts to nothing more than an inconsequential lark, a kind of happy-go-lucky free-for-all in which an unfortunate few get into trouble at the margins of things but,hey,wasn’t that always true even when the odds in shop were marked on a board which you couldn’t see for the smoke come the third or fourth race?
Yes, it was true that an unfortunate few always got into trouble, even in the days when the gambling industry was prevented by law from any kind of advertising inducement to enter its murky waters,yet the fact that the proprietors themselves are now allowed to pitch their soiled product to the unwary and the unprotected, suggests far more will be suffering, and in silence,until the truth breaks out,somewhere down the line, and yet another of those cumbersome public inquiries will be required to try to get to the bottom of it.
James at the gym is a staunch Man Utd fan (wherever you are in the world you can’t get away from them) but he also has an eye for a bet and reckons Real Madrid are the business around 2.15 for tonight’s Super Cup match against his team.
He’d be the type to put his money where his mouth is,too;in other words a player in the true traditions of the game, who can separate his emotions from his intentions, and who knows what a bet looks like when it comes along – the racecourse more than the betting shop, along perhaps with a spieler above the local mini-cab office – though one wonders what is left of these traditions now the bookmakers’ bastardized business model has begun to worm its way into the soul and source of it all,allied to an online invasion which peddles gambling as a different kind of game to the one which used to be played for real and not on tiny screens in darkened rooms, though there were a few of the latter to be encountered along the way, abiding in the memory like the grip of smoke and sleep worked into the corner of an aching eye.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals