Are bookies losing their own business?. 12/1/2013 Pic Steve Davies/

10 Things I think about the Betting Industry

The betting industry has been getting about as much coverage as Brexit negotiations in the past month or so and at times it seems about as complex; so if you’re expecting a unified view on the subject you are in the wrong place, writes Tony Keenan. That said, I’ve tried to read most of the coverage and have thoughts on a number of areas within the subject that might be worth mentioning so I’m going to ramble on and see what comes back from readers.


One: The Issue

Aside from any views I have on the content of the betting industry coverage in recent weeks, it is a good thing that the area is being addressed at all. In this period, there has been discussion on the AtTheRaces Sunday Forum and with Bruce Millington on Racing UK’s Luck on Sunday along with articles on account restrictions, the work of the UK Gambling Commission, the David Evans/Ladbrokes case and so on.

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This cannot be a bad thing as there are lots of punters, winning and losing, who have issues with how the industry is being run. It is difficult to make any progress without discussion and hopefully this media engagement with the industry will continue.


Two: Who cares about restrictions?

There is a belief out there, perhaps propagated by bookmakers, that few people have any interest in the workings of the betting industry, particularly with regard to restrictions; we are often told that the vast majority of punters get their bets out without issue and it is only a few vocal customers who have been restricted who care about the issue. I could not disagree more with this.

Maybe it’s naïve of me to think so but I’ve always believed that bookmakers, to some degree at least, are in the business of selling hope, whether it is the hope of having one’s opinion validated or the hope of winning money. Even the most unprofitable punter hopes that one day he will win and the thought that this may be impossible due to restrictions is not an appealing one.

Furthermore, stories of trading practices that may be less than ethical or at the very least skirt into grey areas are interesting for the wider, non-betting public to read about. Bookmakers and their various hues of blue, red and green are ubiquitous on our high streets with betting becoming big business and now more socially acceptable than ever; the demographic of your local betting shop has likely become more diverse in the last few years. When I speak to non-betting people about the idea of restrictions, they are invariably fascinated and surprised by the practice and to say that this is a non-story is a gross misrepresentation of the reality.


Three: Insiders

I have never worked inside the betting industry with the closest I came to getting a job in one of the companies when I got sacked from a cashier’s job with Sean Graham before I even started; there was confusion over the date of first day rather than anything more sinister! Thus everything I write here lacks insider knowledge and is inevitably biased towards the punter. The one thing I find irritating however is when punters suggest a change in the industry only to be told by those working inside it that their ideas could never work.

Perhaps they are correct but many of these industry insiders are less willing to put forward ideas that might help improve their product and can become quite uppity when challenged on this; it’s almost the ‘how many races have you traded’ argument! On a related point, one of the most interesting things to emerge from Bruce Millington’s appearance on Luck On Sunday was his comment – and I paraphrase – that the betting industry is not set up to write monthly cheques to former employees of the bookmaking firms. I sometimes think that these sorts of punters might be about the most dangerous for the bookies in the modern betting landscape; they know the systems and models used but more importantly they know their weaknesses and are really playing anything but a fair game with the layers.


Four: Winning recreational punters

Another thing that piqued my attention in the Millington interview was his comment about the ‘clued-in, recreational, price-sensitive punter’ who should be permitted to win somewhere between two and five grand in a year. I realise Millington was on the spot and likely pulling figures out of thin air but perhaps he has thought deeply about it and believes these are valid numbers and I certainly wouldn’t disagree.

They are far from outlandish in terms of profit and I strongly suspect that such a punter would give plenty back to racing in terms of things like subscriptions to TV channels and digital media, purchasing a Racing Post a few days a week or simply going racing. In short, they are exactly the sort of enthusiastic customers racing wants. I would however by very doubtful that such punters are avoiding restrictions and, speaking to other gamblers, it does seem to be the case anecdotally.


Five: Self-Regulation

Ireland and the UK are two different betting jurisdictions and have different levels of regulation, with the level of control in the latter becoming much stronger through the Gambling Commission who have made some major rulings on things like terms and conditions and treatment of customers who self-excluded. There is no such body in Ireland though HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh has recently called for something similar here.

The one thing I cannot understand, in the UK but especially in Ireland, is that the major firms have not gone down the road of some form of self-regulation and are essentially leaving themselves open to the whims of government. The current political setup may be inclined towards the industry but there are more left-leaning parties who are much less in favour of racing and by extension gambling and might indeed take great pleasure in installing draconian measures on the industry. At the moment there seems to be a free-for-all but that period without regulation could come to an end at any point and bookmakers may regret not installing some of their own measures of control when that time comes.


Six: Irish Racing Integrity

In a recent interview with Johnny Ward in The Times, Brian Kavanagh commented that ‘it would be fairer to all’ if bookmakers would not restrict bets on Irish racing. Personally, I would love that but it is a very strange comment and one that seems to take no cognisance of the integrity issues, real or perceived, that dog Irish racing.

There has to be some give-and-take with the HRI and the bookmakers and I suspect that our horse racing rulers have much more of a take-and-take approach to the big firms, constantly appealing for betting tax increases but offering little in return. The share of betting turnover in Ireland that is actually on Irish racing is relatively small and I would question what HRI have done to grow this market.

They have promised sectional times at all tracks in January 2017 and they remain undelivered, seemingly failing to understand that richer data gives betting markets more solidity. The new running and riding regulations (applied by the Turf Club) are often challenged and overturned, and rules around drug testing remain unsatisfactory. With Irish racing, the issue is perception and, while I think our racing is much straighter than many believe, what the wider betting public believe is important and you have to try to do something to redress the balance.


Seven: FOBTs

We are constantly warned not to conflate the argument about FOBTs and restrictions on horse racing which is fair enough but I do find it hard to get past a visceral, deep-seated loathing of these machines; as a horse racing punter who wants to play a gambling game of skill, I find these games of chance pointless as you simply cannot win over a period of time.

FOBTs are not in Ireland and there seems to be little appetite for them here though it is worth pointing out that society in general is becoming more automated; Paddy Power shops all over the country have recently been fitted out with more betting terminals though in this case they are used for sport only which is obviously fine.

There are those who argue that there is no reason why Irish shops should not have FOBTs, taking a libertarian view that people should be allowed to spend their money in whatever way they wish provided no one is harmed. Sometimes however people need to be protected from themselves and that is what a proper society should do, paternalistic though that may seem.


Eight: Too many markets

As of last Thursday at 5:16pm, there were 63,524 markets available to bet on with 888Sport across 37 sports, though admittedly almost 51,000 of those were on football; the reason I choose this company was ease of calculation as they tell you how many markets are up in each category but the number of betting opportunities is hardly unusual for the big firms.

It is not unreasonable to wonder what is the point of all these markets and who do they serve? Many of them are derivative and take little effort in terms of creation; a team total in a US sport is derived from a combination of the spread and overall total while a without the favourite market in horse racing simply comes from removing the market leader from the betting. Yet even so, one has to suspect that some of the bookmakers are on a hiding to nothing with these and they could be ripe for exploitation allowing that many will have low limits and hefty overrounds; from the point of view of sheer numbers, they have to be difficult if not impossible to monitor.

One of the best podcasts I listened to recently was an interview with Marco Blume, Director of Trading at Pinnacle Sports, on the Business of Betting where he basically said he had little or no interest in endless sub-markets, pointing out that the vast majority of their business came in the big three markets of outright, handicap and total.

The Pinnacle model has proved hard to replicate and likely is impossible in horse racing where wild price moves are common but his views on the huge number of markets seem valid. No bookmaker can reasonably trade thousands of markets and it seems they are only trying to price them up because everyone else has. Herd mentality in bookmaker business seems deep-rooted.


Nine: Line-tracking

Line-tracking seems to be the new buzz concern for bookies; for those that are unclear on what line-tracking is, it means taking a priced with a fixed-odds firm when the selection is trading below those odds on the exchanges. Simon Clare on the Sunday Forum implied that there is an army of these methodical line trackers out there, ‘a sea of punters’, some real and some robotic, seeking to take advantage of this approach.

That may be the case but it is easy to see how an ordinary punter could be misclassified as such; in effect, we are all line-trackers as it essentially means being price-sensitive which can hardly be seen as a sin. For instance, let’s say I fancy a horse that is running later in the afternoon and I decide to wait until later to back it, holding off until liquidity enters the exchange markets or I can get to a betting shop. That plan goes out the window when a major tipster puts up the selection, someone like Andy Holding or Gary O’Brien with a big following, and I need to make a move now to back it or else I will miss the price entirely.

The selection was my own but if I think the odds are wrong then it is more likely others will too and I am being lumped into the bracket of a line-tracker which isn’t accurate, at least in the sense that these line-trackers are systematic in their approach.


Ten: Patterns of Play

The whole idea of betting fair is a fascinating one and it seems the Gambling Commission are interested in this area, looking to set down some rules about what is acceptable in terms of patterns of play. We all know things that are likely to be frowned upon by bookmakers from exploiting bad each way to trying to grab stale prices. But what might be seen as ok seems more difficult to define.

Simon Clare commented on AtTheRaces that punters need to be original in terms of their selections if they want to avoid restrictions, but I have already pointed out in the line-tracking section that there are problems with this sort of view. Punters may do their best to be original – that is certainly how I tend to construct most of my bets – but the issue is that the bookmakers may simply have made a mistake in terms of pricing the race and most punters are spotting the same error and wanting to back the same horse. Rather than the bookmaker being punished for poor odds-making, too often it is the punter who bears the brunt of their error, made to pay in terms of restrictions.

- Tony Keenan

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33 replies
  1. Blokeshead
    Blokeshead says:

    Excellent article – thank you.

    Just to throw my two bob’s worth into the debate on restrictions, I’m one of those punters who roughly breaks even overall. Some months I win, some months I lose. Over a year, I’m plus/minus zero, something I know to my certain knowledge as I keep all of my betting money in a separate betting bank (which I never top up but am never in a position to smugly withdraw from either). However, despite not being one of the 1-2% (?) group who wins….

    I’m either banned or restricted at all of the BOGs bookies bar three. At least two of the offending bookies banned me when I hadn’t actually won anything. I say this also to my certain knowledge, because I demanded and eventually got an annual statement from them both – yet both now restrict me to 50p a bet and no bonuses and/or accumulators and/or anything else worth having Bet365 was the particularly galling one of the two, as they were my main bookmaker at the time, and I was just about breaking even over the year in question, even after their bonuses. They’re often first up with odds in one market I used to play, and I miss them. Pah.

    I was actually losing money at the other one – presumably simply not fast enough. I should add that I wasn’t arbing at any of these bookies either – just finding good bets (often via Geegeez website info including, of course, Stat of the Day). They clearly don’t/didn’t like the look of me. I wonder how long I’ll last at the three remaining? I’m pretty sure I’m on the radar at one of them, having had a good month (i.e. I’ve just won back what I lost last month – thanks Chris!)

    Thanks again, Tony – a great read.

  2. Chris Rees
    Chris Rees says:

    As a recreational punter, it only took me a year to be restricted to winning £50 (maximum) by B365.

  3. John
    John says:

    Even punters that join a successful service tend to to lose long term because the good run rarely lasts in the end they crash also prices becomes unattainable even if they do
    Good services are hard to find so banning those punters is short sighted it’s lazy and it seems they only want the casino business that has no winning punters and the idea they tolerate punters winning £2000 to £5000 is laughable

  4. Steve
    Steve says:

    The shysters who run the bookmakers will never change their spots.
    I am restricted by every bookmaker on oddschecker apart from 188 and Sportpesa and I am a £10 punter not a heavy hitter.
    The comment by Simon Clare about punters needing to be original in their selections if they want to avoid restrictions is quite frankly bollocks.
    You can be as original as you want but as soon as they see you continually winning/ beating sp you are doomed for the chop!!
    ITV’s mouthpiece for the bookmakers, Ed Chamberlain, might be allowed to get on the prices he continually quotes after nearly every race but ordinary punters have got no chance.
    The Ladbrokes/Evans affair should not surprise anyone, it has been going on for years. I suspect most Trading Rooms have Trainers/Stable Staff etc who are allowed to mark the bookmakers cards for them.
    Giving the bookmakers mouthpieces a platform on the Racing Channels should also be banned.Why are they telling the general public that horse A has been well backed by shrewd connections? Simply to dupe the ordinary punter into losing his money.

  5. Graham
    Graham says:

    Well said Tony. As one who has had numerous account closed as I am in their parlance ‘not a recreational punter’. What they mean is I am not a consistent loser and I invariably beat the odds when taking a price. I am not clairvoyant and not ;line chaser’ as they call it. I just look at the market and browse Oddschecker and play the best price. When restricted to .50p or no horse bets and have asked why, the answer is ‘we dont have to explain why or ‘you only back with us when we have the best price on offer. Can you believe that, sorry in future I will only take the worst price on offer. Like going into Sainsburys and being told You cant shop here as you only come in when a sales on. What other business could get away with such practice. Basically Bookmakers do not want any business that gives the punter half a chance of using any sort of skill in playing against them . They have got fat and greedy by fools trying to to beat massive odds (which they cant beat the house edge) on FOBT machines and handing over tens of millions in profit, because thats what it is, with no possible risk to them in losing. The whole industry is run by accountants who are just plain short sighted and greedy and dont really want to put anything back to racing, hence all the offshore bases and small nLevy payments, if that still exits.

  6. michael webster
    michael webster says:

    i check into my local bookies to check out BOG prices and special offers, my local bookie friend who i have known most of my life and trust his opinions told me recently 70% of the shops revenue comes from FOTB terminals, he has noticed all the specials have a £25-£50 restriction and often has little has £10?, and when seeming good bet like offering a 10/11 favorite in a future race say at 2/1 but you must place the bet on before a certain time say 12.30 that day funnily the favorite runs a stinker and finishes nearer last to first like the book makers have recieved info on the horse from the stables and want to get it laid…

  7. David Skelly
    David Skelly says:

    Interesting article but it is a little pious. It suggests that most punters be given a fair shake on the basis that they are betting for pleasure and should be given the chance to make a profit. Bookmaking simply cannot allow the latter unless the current model changes. It’s no reflection on small punters but the bookmaker is simply minding his margin and no-one ever became wealthy from being over-generous.

    There is virtually no mention of laying in the piece and the introduction of exchange betting has changed the landscape entirely. If a punter can effectively operate as a bookmaker then the playing field is not only “not level”, it is entirely lopsided. You only need to place a bet on BF this afternoon to be offered an opportunity to “cash out” for profit within moments if you are on the right side of the market fluctuations.

    The graphic used of an empty racecourse ring is entirely apposite. Bookmakers used to be forced to make markets at the track, lay substantial bets and the best operators balanced their books and took certain risks in the likely expectation that most punters eventually lose anyway. Make no mistake virtually ALL punters lose and but for the ability to lay-off wagers there would be a lot less of the current outcry. There is now no on-course market and it must be galling for on-course layers to see quick-fingered unlicensed bookies operating in the stands betting in-running diminishing their turnover even further.

    The betting landscape has changed entirely and, contrary to Tony’s opinion, I see nothing other than fixed odds betting in Irish shops with Lottery Numbers, Roulette, Football coupons doing the bulk of the business. What racing betting goes on stretches from Monday to Saturday with re-cycled but, eventually, lost money from those who use the shops as their primary social outlets.

    Finally, straying slightly off topic, the notion that Irish racing somehow “deserves” the entire take from (a possibly higher-taxed) betting model is so seriously misguided that it is now accepted and unquestioned logic throughout the industry as a whole. There is more enlightened thinking needed to a) fund racing b) getting on-course betting back and c) allow fairer betting markets to prevail if real punting on horse racing is to return. Appealing to bookies “better nature” might be akin the petting the dominant lion at your local zoo-bound to end in failure.

    • Tony Keenan
      Tony Keenan says:


      I don’t know if I’ve every been described as pious; not sure if it’s a compliment or an insult! Some interesting points, not least the final one about Irish racing feeling it is entitled to the whole pie of betting tax here and I would agree with your views that it is amazing this has come to be accepted across the industry.

      • David Skelly
        David Skelly says:

        Tony, “pious” perhaps only in the sense that it’s not just the bookies who are the problem as I see it; many punters have brought about their own demise but everyone now pays.
        The emphasis on a single target – a greater betting tax – seems to result in a lack of imaginative thinking as to how other solutions might be available. For example, the racecourses receive 100% of the TV cash for themselves and as a result some now give little or no heed to race sponsorship which perhaps should attract part of the broadcasting funds. What we have now is the ultimate zero-sum game. Off the point, admittedly.

    • davewood53
      davewood53 says:

      I really do like your use of metaphor (did you input the script for Darkest Hour) and entirely understand your rationale, particularly regarding the way the betting landscape has been transformed by the exchanges and your essential premise that bookmaking is led by a business model to maximise profit (I think we as expectant gamblers sometimes omit this from our understanding of our relationship with our bookmakers.)

      However, much of the Bookmaker practice highlighted in this thread would make not a minor tithe of difference to overall margins and the kind of restrictions being highlighted here represent more the practice of a junior trader trying to make his mark than the intelligent application of business sense. In the long run I’m not sure it will make the slightest difference to the profit line – nor will the collateral damage of disgruntled customers taking their (modest) business elsewhere.

      Its just piss-poor, shoddy practice from lazy (you can’t call them odds-makers anymore) operatives whose priority is to bleed nominal profits from an army of not-so-savvy recreational punters. I have to assume this is now the bread and butter of the bookmaking armoury as opposed to a more full-on-winner-takes-all bloodbath of a previous era (don’t actually see the greasy Simon Clare, for instance, wishing to get anything visceral on his TV suit and FFSS -fixedfacesmarmysmile) but the reality is that if you exclude a raft of customers – like those who are posting here – who have a commitment to gambling and who won’t go away unless you kick them out, then you’re losing sight of the long game. As a businessman – and a gambler – that doesn’t make a lot of business sense to me.

  8. The Judge
    The Judge says:

    I started getting accounts restricted 17 years ago it started oddly enough with a firm called Vickers, then Manny Bernstein who I had to argue the toss with to get a bet paid out before they eventually did. I’ve had 4 accounts with £3.65 closed and the same with Sid James. Paddy restricted an account after 2 bets. Victor closed an account after I placed 5 handicap snooker bets even though 3 lost and therefore I didn’t profit. the only firm I can bet on line with is Hills and that is only to win a maximum £500. I have to use Betfair. I’m not an arber either but was privy to quality horse info and was clued up on snooker and knew instantly when prices were wrong(of course this was my opinion) but they made many ricks in pricing snooker matches 10-15 years ago. I would love to see the goverment do something but sadly they never will. I would also love to see ALL high st shops close especially if the goverment do impose max bets of £2-5 on the machines.

    • Paul Cockerill
      Paul Cockerill says:

      My local WH was adverising on their FOBT machine 3 ways to gamble £50 plus, so they’re already thinking of ways around the possible new regulations regarding staking. Evil basterds.

  9. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Good points Graham, the analogy with price sensitive consumers with say supermarkets is a good one.
    You don’t see supermarkets rushing to stop people shopping with them when they are cheapest, they simply adjust their business model

  10. dpilgrim
    dpilgrim says:

    I think it’s hard to see this group as representative of the overall market, or that of the author. By the very nature that we are discussing this on a premium website, it would be fair to say that we are a random group.

    It’s unfortunate that genuinely recreational punters do get swept up when bookmakers do their risk reduction exercises, and it’s also true that some are harsher with their restrictions that they should. But remeber one thing – it is not in the bookmakers interest to restrict a customer to pennies if they beleive that customer is likely to go on to lose money to them, so they aren’t intentionally being draconian about it.

    We should also remeber, when comparing to industries such as retail, that the bookmaker margin is incredibly tight in this age. Where comparison is easy, as is the opportunity to switch bookmakers with ease, its actually a tremendous challenge. Typical sportsbook gross margin is less than 10%, and after that a bookmaker must pay a 15% GGR, then employ all their staff, provide an office, pay pension contributions, and finally pay a further 20% in corportation tax. To suggest it’s easy would be grossly naive, so risk management has to be part of the process if they are to survive and prosper. That’s the main reason we are seeing such a critically small number of proper operators. Of course there are many small operators, but they are even quicker to restrict and close punters who pose a risk to their business model.

    As far as following Stat of the Day goes, the harsh reality is by doing so, particualarly the evening before a day’s racing, is going to stand you out as someone with an above average angle. Less than 1% of a horse race is traded the day before, so when you are backing a selection which is a sea of blue on oddschecker, and surrounded by other bets from sharp customers (giving that these selections are long term profitable against SP and against the price taken) then its hardly a surprise the bookmakers run for cover a little. I would suggest the answer is more around following a pinnacle style model (progressivly increasing stake limits), but that doesnt really address the problem that you cant get a large bet on at a value price. The bookies arent going to change that as it would threaten their existence.

    I would suggest any bookie who is doing risk well would be taking a longer term view of any business, and evaluating, on balance, are you likely to be a winner or a loser. And given its business, if it’s the former, they must make a decision sooner or later. They cannot force you to have a bet, so why should the rules be any different from them?

    As full disclosure, I work for a bookmaker, but also carve out a decent living betting against other bookmakers. I know its a hard game, and I’ve regularly fallen foul of the restrictions – I’m on about my 7th bank account in different names now, but I can probably see a balance from both sides of the fence.

    It’s also true to say that the vast majority of the public never encounter a restriction (they are surprised when they hear about it), which probably suggests, for the most part, it’s not a major deal.

    • Chris Jones
      Chris Jones says:

      “I would suggest any bookie who is doing risk well would be taking a longer term view of any business, and evaluating, on balance, are you likely to be a winner or a loser. And given its business, if it’s the former, they must make a decision sooner or later. They cannot force you to have a bet, so why should the rules be any different from them?”

      I think the very next poster (Boris) has the answer for you:-

      “Bookies need to be reminded that the entire premise of betting on racing is it must be aspirational. You must accept a reasonable degree of winning from a customer as well as hoovering up their losses. Otherwise, shut up shop and turn off the lights.”

      If bookies aren’t prepared to take the risk of someone winning then they shouldn’t be in the business.

  11. Boris
    Boris says:

    Nice work Tony.

    A few comments – there wouldn’t be so many ex-bookmaker staff going solo if bookies still employed staff who compiled odds, used opinions etc. rather than be robots dictated to by the beancounters above. Few & far between.

    Unique selections – do these people not understand that the more data you make available, the more systems and analysis techniques are created, thus diversifying the risk. (e.g. Australia – min. bet laws in most states, more data available than most jurisdictions).

    Too many markets – All those markets on football are a joke – 95% of them simply clog their content servers. Easy to create via algorithms and trading models, but if you still had to pay someone to type them all in, they wouldn’t pay their way. I laugh at how many people think racing should add extra markets from tracking/sectional data. The end game is still to find the winner.

    Bookies need to be reminded that the entire premise of betting on racing is it must be aspirational. You must accept a reasonable degree of winning from a customer as well as hoovering up their losses. Otherwise, shut up shop and turn off the lights.

  12. Ger Delahunty
    Ger Delahunty says:

    Had a/c with PP for 17 years or whatever it is (since the internet was invented). Stake factor had prob been cut at some stage (but not so much that it mattered). I did okay back when it could be done; I was one of Bruce Millington’s ‘clued-in, recreational, price-sensitive punters’. But my turnover has dwindled over the past 5 years; the buggy in the hall and all that; pretty much gone at the game. Backed 17 consecutive losers on that a/c over the five months from Royal Ascot (not a penny of return in that period). Had the misfortune then to back Granny Biddy at 10/3 (SP 6/4) the other week – a/c ‘closed’. Pathetic would the kindest way to describe them and the industry as a whole.

  13. buster1938
    buster1938 says:

    bet fair restricted my account to starting prices only on horse racing , so I closed my account and moved on
    what else can you do.

  14. acranea
    acranea says:

    My blood more or less boiled over watching ITV Racing on Saturday. They interviewed the winner of betting shop manager of the year. My first question was “Why? Who f******g cares?!!”

    But that reaction was swiftly relegated into oblivion when the guy in question (some fat slug from South London) had a rant about how if the govt clobbered FOBTs to 2 quid a spin loads of shops would close & half the finalists in his pointless competition would be out of a job. Again…”Who f*****g cares?”

    The shops that close would be the ones that never existed in the first place before those damned machines appeared & as for job losses, why not train them to compile odds? Plenty of compilers lost their jobs when the industry stopped backing an opinion & started just copying the Betfair prices. Did he cry for them? Doubt it.

    How he could stand there & defend those horrors is beyond me. Of course he’s nothing to worry about. It’s a government review so we all know how it’ll end. A fudged compromise that achieves nothing other than something seeming to be done.

    However it would be nice if they all disappeared. Then these charlatans might have to go back to having some bollocks & backing their opinions instead of hammering any punter with a remotely decent record. I’m restricted almost everywhere, in some cases to 15p!! & the biggest bet I’ve had in 5 years is 50 quid.

    Sadly though, there is no utopia. Even if FOBTs vanished tomorrow all that would happen is the bookies would shut half the shops & push the hell out of football coupons & the like. The days of racing being the dominant betting pastime of the masses & the core of a bookie’s business are gone forever. Mostly because of the rise of football betting. It’s impossible to make any money betting on football unless you bet in the 100s or 1000s of pounds (or you back Leicester to win the Premier League!) The bookies know this well enough. Racing’s future? You only have to look at the Dogs. My Grandad was Racing Manager at Derby dogs in the 50s. They got crowds in the 1000s. It’s an office complex today. When the current generation of multi millionaire owners slide off this mortal coil that’ll be that for racing I think. Maybe a few showcase meetings like the Derby, Cheltenham & the National might survive as “heritage” events but otherwise you’re looking at a few dozen tracks sat on prime development sites. The result is pretty obvious. I say let’s enjoy it while we can (as long as we can actually get a sodding bet on!)

  15. Eddie
    Eddie says:

    The latest bookie SCAM….
    Handicaps of 16 runners or more are supposed to pay 1/4
    the odds a place,but now by paying five or more place they reduce
    the payout on the first four to a fifth the odds.Effectively this means they are stealing from punters on the first four to subsidise their payout on these extra places.
    They should be forced to pay1/4 on the first four and then 1/5 on the extra places,tis pure bookie theft for sure. But it seems to have gone unnoticed.

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      That’s not theft, Eddie. It’s up to punters whether they take more places but lower place fractions. Plenty of standard each way terms available.

  16. psnich
    psnich says:

    I am not an unsuccessful punter so all my online bookmaker accounts were closed/severely restricted a few years ago. I don’t win mega-bucks but it is a long time since I had a losing week. I look for horses where I consider the layers have overpriced my selections. It is my opinion on the price versus the opinion of the traders who work for the bookies. The outcome of this is that Paddy Power, Betfred and Ladbrokes/Corals shops in my area have stopped me from taking prices BOG or not. They will accept SP but I point out to them that if I wanted SP I would use Betfair. I wonder how many people these companies employ purely to monitor customers in their shops.
    What irks me most is that they are allowed to advertise offers, prices, BOG etc in their shops, in their shop windows, in the press and on TV. Nowhere do they say they are discriminatory and only for losers.

  17. reynard
    reynard says:

    since when has betfair restricted bets to sp prices only.
    does buster 1938 mean sportsbook but not exchange?
    many years ago i use to get bets on with sean graham
    no problem but in the end got restricted to 25 p
    you want to say to them you lot are clowns +
    jokers but best to keep quiet + go elsewhere

  18. Clive
    Clive says:

    Gents. Get off your backsides, go to the races. If one firm knocks you back the next down the line will invariably lay it.

    • Blokeshead
      Blokeshead says:

      Nice idea, although living a 2-hour flight away from the UK might put a strain on relations at home if I were to do it several days a week….

  19. davewood53
    davewood53 says:

    Thank you Tony. The article was interesting even though I didn’t initially appreciate much of its foundation or importance – you never really do if you think it doesn’t apply to yourself. However, the thread of discussion that follows is eye-popping.

    I’m not so naive that I don’t know I’m being constantly scoped by bookmaker spyware and have always deplored the manipulative way that the betting industry pals up to the racing media to ‘obscure’, under the guise of ‘inform’; which is why I never watch ITV racing and turn the sound off on ATR. However, I had no idea of the range of restrictive practices that appear to be used.

    I love horse racing but it would cease to have any real interest if I was unable to bet (aspirationally, that is – to borrow a term from earlier posts) so I’m genuinely surprised at the level of meanness that the stories represent which are hardly, as David Skelly suggests ‘simply the bookmaker minding his margin’ but an exercise in exclusion.

    Of course, I would have made an assumption that the majority of contributors to this forum are not necessarily representative of the norm of punter experience. But now perhaps I’m doubtful and must anticipate a possible future restricted to the exchanges.

  20. sunchu
    sunchu says:

    i think restrictions is down to loyalty if your fliting from one bookmaker to anther for best odds the bookie somehow knows that and will restrict you. Been a customer of bet365 for years and im not a prolific looser but niether a big stakes winner some years i do well some i break even some show a little loss but what i do is stay loyal to bet365 regardless of other bookies offering better prices i actually only bet with 365 and paddy and sofar they havent restricted me i think always going for the best price is the quickest way to get restricted

  21. davewood53
    davewood53 says:

    Just as a corollary to my post above, to correct my basic ignorance I downloaded the Nick Luck interview with Bruce Millington to be ‘better informed’ since it was highlighted by Tony Keenan as informative to the argument over bookmaker practice. I noted Bruce Millington’s concerns with the ‘restrictive practices’ of bookmakers but also his comments around the importance of the Racing Post as a primary outlet for racing news and stories, in effect he was highlighting its position at the forefront of reporting on issues which affect the integrity of racing. He also specifically pointed out that this priority was driven by the priorities of two stakeholders – owners and punters (not bookmakers, interestingly).

    However, I recall only too well the reason why I stopped buying the Racing Post. One of the biggest integrity news stories – possibly the biggest – in the lifetime of the Racing Post was the systematic use of PED’s by Sheikh Mohammed’s trainer, Al Zarooni. As will be recalled, the trainer himself took the entire weight of this cheating (of punters as much as anyone else in the industry) on the chin as his own misdemeanour. The Racing Post, nor any other media with interest in racing, as far as I can tell, made any effort to question this or to investigate the possibility of complicity across the Godolphin organisation. Case closed by the Racing Media with remarkable haste, forgotten and (the racing authorities being particularly happy I’m sure) consigned to archive.

    It is entirely the case, of course, that the trainer acted alone; nonetheless, in the interest of ‘integrity’ you might have thought that an eyebrow or two might have been raised (look at the armoury of diligent journalism at the RP, like Alistair Down, then as well as now) to at least lob a few grenades at Sheikh Mohammed’s organisation for even allowing it to happen under their jurisdiction and also to question the convenience of A Zarooni’s ‘confession’ and subsequent disappearance from the racing scene. But there were none.

    So whilst, Bruce Millington can piously advocate the importance of the Racing Post in focusing on issues of concern – for the benefit of punters as well as owners – to the integrity of the industry (and racing and gambling are inextricably linked), you will excuse me for not being entirely convinced when he claims the Racing Post’s objectivity in scrutinising issues like the restrictive practices of bookmakers when bookmakers, like Sheikh Mohammed, are integral to the financing of the Racing Post and hence his own position.

    I’m uncertain that representation from the Racing Post is an entirely reliable source of advocacy for punters in this regard.

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