Punters at Salisbury on Sunday might well have done at least a double take when they looked at the each way terms on offer from bookmaker Peter Wilson. He was going one-twelfth the odds each way on the eight runner maiden, and not surprisingly there were complaints from customers that they were being ripped off, and from fellow bookies who claimed he was bringing them all into disrepute.
Wilson, who trades as Jack Wilson, was quick to defend himself by saying that he was offering much better prices than his competitors on the outsiders in the race. That’s true enough; he was 125/1 on Gavi (SP 50/1), 250/1 Alfie Joe (SP 66/1) and 250/1 Moonshine Ruby (SP 100/1). For the record, they filled three of the last four places, so Wilson wasn’t paying out on any of them.
Andy Smith, who operates as Festival Racing was also at Salisbury. He said, “It’s wrong. In my opinion the racecourses should say in their contracts with on-course bookmakers that to bet on their track we should bet at either the standard (each way) terms or win only.”
Neil Roddis, development director for Racing For Change also supported the approach of win only bets if a bookie is offering significantly higher odds. He said, “Doing the maths and calculations in peoples’ heads is difficult, and I think it’s in some ways taking advantage of novice and infrequent racegoers who don’t understand the nuances of betting. If a bookmaker wants to offer those sort of odds, don’t bet each way, bet win only and make it clear.”
Wilson was quick to counter with a blast at his colleagues. He claimed, “Other bookmakers are fleecing them (the punters) because they are falsifying the win prices to compromise the place terms. I am giving full win odds which reflect my place terms.”
Whilst clearly a return if one of those horses wins is substantially higher, in place terms the much lower rate means that the difference generally amounts to a matter of pence. In the maiden at Salisbury a place for Gavi would have retuned £11 at one fifth SP, and just £11.41 from Wilson; Moonshine Ruby it was £21 against £21.83. On Alfie Joe the difference was more marked; £14.2 against £21.83. It demonstrates the point Roddis makes quite clearly.
Now Wilson isn’t doing anything contrary to the rules. The 2007 Gambling Act allows bookies to set their own place terms provided they are clearly displayed. Tim Moore, chief executive officer of the Administration of Gambling on Tracks Ltd, confirmed that. After the complaints at Salisbury he said, “The betting ring manager spoke to the bookmaker concerned, but that’s as far as it went because on-course bookmakers are allowed to set their own place terms as long as they are prominently displayed.”
So what are we to make of it all? We’re all used to a quarter, a fifth and occasionally you see one-sixth the odds for place betting. To offer one-twelfth sounds extremely meagre, although if the price differential is right, it can offer a better return even if the horse is only placed. But that combination of price gap and placing isn’t going to happen often; in the race examined only one of the three outsiders met the price criteria. In reality place odds of one twelfth feel immoral, beyond the boundary of the battle between bookie and punter, a matter of greed on the part of the bookie offering them.