Horseracing Bettors Forum is YOUR forum

YOUR New Forum…

Horseracing Bettors Forum is YOUR forum

Horseracing Bettors Forum is YOUR forum

Racing in Britain is a broad church and one with a vast array of disparate parishioners.

Historically, it has only invited horsemen, bookmakers and racecourse owners up to its lectern to preach, with the great unwashed sat in cold pews from where they were obliged to listen to self-serving soliloquies, and then asked to dig deep for the collection plate.

If you'll excuse the long and laboured (and overly dramatic) analogy, by "the great unwashed" I am of course referring to the largest and, arguably at least, most important group of stakeholders in racing, its punters.

Punters, or bettors as they... we... are more formally known, have hitherto never been invited to partake of racing's biggest debates, despite being the main contributor to the funding of the sport. But all that is about to change.

With the announcement yesterday of the launch of a Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF), people who bet on horse racing - you and me and nine million others - have a formal voice for what I think is the very first time. Under the initial stewardship of Simon Rowlands, Head of Research & Development at Timeform, eight men and women - punters all - will act as conduits for the horse racing betting public, correlating, discussing and recommending changes which can enhance racing's 'product' from a wagering perspective.

I am honoured to say that I will be one of the eight, and I take the responsibility very seriously. Representing the millions of people who have a bet on racing each year is a big challenge for the HBF, who will meet for their inaugural quarterly meeting on September 4th.

Our remit is to discuss such as the fixture list and race programme; information and data availability; and potential enhancements to the range of betting products for horse racing. More importantly, it is to make recommendations to the BHA to take forward principally through their own Racing and Betting Group.

Allowing punters to have a formal voice is a step change in the running of British racing, and cynics might say it is a measure of how bad things have become. That view is unfair in my opinion, with the new BHA chief executive, Nick Rust, an ex-Ladbrokes Retail managing director and, therefore, a man who knows the betting industry better than any of his predecessors at High Holborn, Portman Square or Newmarket's Jockey Club Rooms.

Rust recognises the need to generate additional revenues from betting on racing, and has gone on record with an intent to increase by 5% annual turnover on racing betting over the next few years. In order for that to happen, there will likely need to be some concessions made by other stakeholder groups, and not just the bookmakers.

Calls for additional information to support wagering activity could impact horsemen and racecourses, and in my opinion, the HBF will stand and fall by how much resistance proposals are met with by those established diners at the top table.

That said, I embark on this - as I'm sure my fellow Forum members do - with a completely open mind and optimism about what we can achieve. After all, any change will be positive change, and there is so much to go at.

Indeed, therein lies a potential early hurdle for the Forum, in that how the agenda is drawn up and prioritized may be a subject of significant debate.

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A range of subjects which might include race distances, official going descriptions, Rule 4 manipulation, declaration of minor surgery (especially wind ops) and of mares in foal, the unchecked growth of handicaps in the race programme, the Saturday-centric big race programme, disproportionate growth of the Pattern, 24/48 hour declarations, bookmaker restrictions, sectional timing, and the starting price procedures, to name but a (good) few, will presumably mean a number of areas will necessarily be deferred.

My own view, for what it's worth, is that a utilitarian approach - that is, one which provides the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people - is sensible, though that needs to be factored against perceived (and real) resistance from impacted parties.

In any case, the mechanics are less important than the machine at this stage, and the fact that a Horseracing Betting Forum now exists is a step forward for the industry and a giant stride forwards for punters.

HBF is, as I've screamed in the headline, YOUR forum. All punters are invited to make suggestions and, as time passes, feed back on progress made. The place to do that is NOT here, but rather via either HBF's newly established twitter account - @HBFBritain - or its newly established email address -

As should be clear from the range of candidate areas listed above, it will probably not be possible to consider every single suggestion, but there is a real volition to cover as much ground as we can; and, fundamentally, to try to improve the lot of punters and of the sport as a whole.

I'm excited to see what we can achieve, together.


p.s. you can read more about the HBF here:

p.p.s. An important reminder:



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42 replies
  1. Salvaje says:

    They couldn’t have chosen a better representative than your good self. As you say, any change will be positive. Best wishes in the work ahead!

    • Peter Colledge says:

      Great news, Matt. As has been said, they could not have chosen better. Good luck in the months and years ahead.

  2. maverick99 says:

    Excellent news Matt and congratulations on your appointment. I really do hope that more accurate going descriptions are given a priority for all engaged within the industry. Looking at the Turftrax historical data for Ripon and within the past 18 months you see a reading of 8.4 described as both Good (Gd to Firm)18/06/2014 and Good – Soft (Soft) on 03/06/2014. If anyone cares to look at the Turftrax historical going data they will see a great number of instances where the going stick readings have no conformity between different courses and even the same courses on different dates.

  3. Ian says:

    Matt, a fantastic appointment for you to pass on your knowledge and views on behalf of us.

    My own views will resonate with many I’m sure; proper detailed Going descriptions, more detail about minor op’s and wind op’s; LESS not more AW racing; LESS not more fixtures, quality over quantity, the use of the “reserve system” as we see in Ireland to stop the inevitable drain of races below 16 runners, no more “FIXED” Rule 4 deductions on the basis of a horse dropping in price whilst clearly incapacitated (as we all saw yesterday) and my biggest grip, a member of the BHA with at least an “o” level in Geography so that on any given day there is racing in the North; The South and the Midlands at least and not 3 fixtures within a 50 mile radius (normally around the bloody M25).

  4. Al says:

    I’m glad some things will get better,maybe,like accurate updated going would be pretty good,and not withdrawing horses at the last minute to reduce the number of places.Best of luck with it.Alan

  5. IanMac says:

    When I first heard this Forum mooted yours was the first name which sprung to mind!
    Delighted to see you have stepped forward : Good Luck,Sir
    Best Regards

  6. sondrio2 says:

    congratulations matt on having been chosen to partake on such an important task.
    i wish you and your fellow forum members all the best in your quest and im sure you will do your utmost to make this great sport fairer and more transparent than ever before.

  7. Mal Boyle
    Mal Boyle says:

    Very best of luck Matt which unfortunately, you and your good seven though straight and true, desperately need as you have a mountain to climb.

    You have to over some the ‘Cabbage Patch Doll brigade, Ascot Beaurocracy et all and plenty more besides Sir!


  8. John says:

    Hi Matt,
    my problem is that even putting a £20 e/w bet on a horse in The Stewards Cup is a no go except with 3 bookmakers!
    l do not even make that much profit last year l must have turned over £70 000 to make my £7000 and most of my life before l discovered discipline was spent losing money!
    Unless you play the bookmakers Casino Games etc they are so quick to close or vastly restrict an account nowadays and with bookmakers advertising revenue its a taboo subject with most of the racing press or ATR etc.
    Is it true that in Australia bookmakers have to lay modest amounts, l think our bookmakers should at least take a tenner on the price online and not close an account for making a small profit but no one seems to care how lots of lifelong punters are being treated like criminals!
    Sorry to go on but l love betting on horse races,
    regards, John

    • Blokeshead says:

      I echo that comment.

      If Pinnacle can (or so they claim) keep accounts open even when they (the bookie)are losing, why can’t any of the UK BOGs bookmakers?

      I find it very hard to believe that the UK’s biggest bookies (e.g. Bet365, to name but one who seem mightily quick off the mark to close down winning punters) face greater competition and therefore smaller margins than someone like Pinnacle, who from what I remember concentrate on things like American sports (where surely there is even more volume?) and the top international football leagues.

      Finally, good luck with your new job, Matt. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and I doubt if they could have chosen a better chap for the role.

      • Matt Bisogno says:

        Pretty simple answer to the Pinnacle point, Stuart. They’re not taking bets on horse racing. Pinnacle were quoted in ‘that’ podcast the other day, but they shouldn’t be because they don’t operate in a relevant market.


        • Charob says:

          Not only that – according to their customer service department
          “Due to British gambling licensing regulations, Pinnacle Sports will no longer be able to offer our services to any players residing in the United Kingdom.

          As such we are no longer able to allow customers residing in the United Kingdom to access the Pinnacle Sports website.”

        • Blokeshead says:

          Indeed, but there’s tremendous competition in the markets they do operate in (at least some – perhaps not all?), yet they still state they won’t shut you down if you win.

          I have no idea what margins they operate with in things like baseball and basketball, but their prices have always looked pretty competitive to me whenever I’ve checked. Yet they don’t can you for winning? That’s a very different attitude to our friends in the UK market.

          But I accept that maybe horseracing margins are even thinner (even if the cynic in me doubts that), in which case you are, of course, entirely correct to suggest I might be comparing apples with oranges.

          • Matt Bisogno says:

            You have to ask why they’re not trading racing markets, Stuart. It’s not like they wouldn’t want to if there was opportunity there. In my opinion, of course.

            It’s an interesting point you make, regardless of my suspicion it may not work for racing.

  9. Anthony says:

    Well done on your appointment Matt. At least we know there’s one level head with an ear and voice who will represent the views of the average punter when needed . I don’t imagine this is going be be a stroll in the park (or racecourse) for you and fellow members.

  10. bentley1 says:

    That’s all very well Matt and congratulations, but when are you going to be on the Morning Line?

  11. debeers says:

    Congratulations on your appointment. I’m sure you will be a valuable member of team.

  12. Colin B says:

    You are an honourable man, Matt, and I share the view there could not be a netter representative
    One thing I ask is that the layperson wishing to make their repsresentations will not be forced to do so through Twitter or even worse, Facebook, as many people, especially we older ones simply will not use those platforms.
    Good luck and don’t let them just use the new set up as a sop to the general public but to be something that can force action

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Colin – very kind. Everyone can use the email address, or even write to the BHA, with suggestions. So need to use twitter!


  13. Colin B says:

    Sorrry about spelling errors above, I have just returned from having eye surgery early this morning and can only see out of my one bad eye !

    • Matt Bisogno says:




      (Thank you) 🙂


  14. Kevin Lane says:

    Good luck Matt, great appointment and I hope that you can drive this forward. I will post my two pen’orth to the relevant email address above but to add to the comments already posted here I would include the ridiculous holding back race starts in Britain while we wait for a handicap hurdle at Naas or Roscommon to finish! Best wishes, Kev.

  15. bigvern63 says:

    Well done Matt, a real honour and I couldn’t think of a better person to voice the opinions of us ‘great unwashed’, let’s hope that your voice gets both heard and, where necessary, acted upon for the benefit of us all.

    Cheers, Chris

  16. Tim says:

    Well done Matt! Nice to know that there will be actual punters rather than ‘virtual’ ones on this new forum. Accurate going reports that are updated timely rather than after the third race when it’s been p!55ing down all morning, has to be good for the punters. Not sure that all the things on your list will be easy to get though. For example I suspect that the reason for race meetings going off in such close proximity, is to make it easy for the ‘top’ jockeys to ride at 2 meetings a day.

    The hidden agendas will be flying around the room like buns in a food fight, so don’t forget to take your tin hat with you.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Tim

      Re “Not sure that all the things on your list will be easy to get though”, I’m not sure that ANY will be easy to get through!

      But we will try, and we will challenge the established status quo as far as we are allowed. Time will tell what mandate from on high supports that challenge.


  17. Bernardo says:

    Good you are one of the eight. Particularly surprised there are no older members to give historical views, particularly as older members can still have forward thinking initiatives. I probably think there should be a ‘disabled’ representative, although there may be, to give their input. I’d feel quarterly meetings would be what the group ends up as and initially monthly meetings to ensure progress can be made would have been more pertinent; what duration will a quarterly meeting have and how much can be discussed, decided in time allocated?
    Probably sounds negative, not meant to be!
    Opinions are bound to be significantly diverse, quality over quantity … When many punters want more racing; less AW when some are happy with the number of AW and others want more.
    Some may say they want more Matt Chapman type commentary/interviews to Nick Luck (I know I do!).
    My main aim would be to get punters going racing, as well as couch bettors; more prize money for winners; higher handicap ratings after three runs, meaning trainers may take six runs to get their horse down to a winning mark which wouldn’t please many owners! Try to increase the attendees at meetings and not have it solely, in the main, for the more affluent,
    Not sure at what point I was bored with what I was writing! But I would suggest two other non racing things.
    1. Make football a non contact sport or allow forwards the same leeway in the penalty area as defenders
    2. Make anyone standing in an offside position included in ‘interfering’ with play
    That would have ensured last night, among many other nights, afternoons and so on, the correct result would have ensued! (PS. I support LFC)

  18. Doug says:

    Thanks for the heads up Matt, I like the look of the people chosen and there should be some very interesting debates. I have emailed my points already, all the best.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Good stuff, Doug. Thanks for your contribution. I suspect/hope that the email address will be busy enough over the coming days/weeks. Sorting through it all will take time, but we unequivocally want the betting public to contribute to this, so thanks again for chipping in.


  19. alpha2 says:

    Congratulations Matt, I can’t think of a better analogy than Hercules cleaning out the augean stables.

    Just recognition for your pioneering online work with Geegeez bringing independence and integrity to an area so riven with quick buck merchants.

    I hope that you have similar success negotiating through all the special interest groups that seem to spend all their time holding each other and then our beloved game back.

    You will meet many people who claim to have had 30 years or more experience in the industry. It may be worth remembering an old uncle of mine who was a dairy farmer. He always used to say the same thing when any changes were mooted; but he hadn’t had 30 years experience, he had had one year 30 times.

    I shall enjoy hearing your tales from the coal face.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Thanks Hugh – I like the story about your old uncle: it rings very true.


  20. Steve Mullington says:

    Well done on your appointment Matt. How are you fixed for pushing some northern racing issues haha? Sadly, we’ve got no representation…again.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Steve

      You absolutely DO have representation, because – certainly speaking for myself – I have no geographical allegiance. I’m interested in how we can improve betting on racing for ALL punters, regardless of location, channel (e.g. internet, shop, on course), or bet size.

      And, like all punters, you WILL be listened to if you contact the mailbox/twitter account. (I personally MUCH prefer the email option for such things, as I expect some people will have strong views which they’d not necessarily want to broadcast publicly – just my perception, though).

      Hope you’re keeping well,

  21. bojitoes says:

    Matt great news on your appointment- I am sure you will not be tempted by the “Dark Side”. I agree with all the previous comments, espescially the geographical spread of each days racing and the need to reduce quantity and improve quality. The growing power of ARENA is also something I feel very strongly about, the closure of Hereford, in particular, and Folkestone in the last couple of years have left a large hole in the midweek calendar and their closure was detrimental to commerce and the race going public in the local areas.
    I wish you the very best of luck

  22. Jez says:

    Hi Matt,
    I’m not sure whether congratulations or commiserations are in order – on the basis that “you cannot please all of the people all of the time” and the displeased tend to be both more vocal and aggressively outraged when they perceive an (pocket talking) injustice. Spam and abuse filters up to high methinks 🙂
    I’ll trot off to the official site for my specific gripes and groans but, would make this comment to those who want only better class racing and fewer all weather fixtures: The vast majority of owners possess, and there’s no polite way to put this, “nags” who are never going to compete at a higher level than Class 6. This is also the largest group of owners in the business and the bread and butter earnings for the majority of trainers. To preclude or restrict this group from the racing calendar would decimate the industry, leaving it in the hands of the major breeding and training conglomerates, surely the exact opposite intent of those who post thusly.

    All the best,


  23. DJC614 says:

    Congratulations on your appointment Matt. I wish you, and the rest of the team, all the best with the many challenges you will face going forward.


  24. RowleyBushes says:

    ‘Bookmaker restrictions’ is the worm in the bud. Left to bet against each other, even supposing a 100% exchange book, all the people currently restricted by bookmakers could not conceivably win.

    Finding some way of forcing bookmakers to allow a bet fulfils the criterion of being ‘utilitarian’ or benefiting most punters, as what drives the take-up of the sport among casual bettors is the engagement and passion of small-time winners. Prohibit the small winners from getting on and instead of engaged analysis (‘he was finishing fast from a wide draw at Goodwood last time and will get a tow through from a low-to-middle draw at York’) new punters will only hear, ‘the game is gone. They won’t accept your bets’. Thus the new punters turn to the FOBTs or football, which are more familiar to them.

  25. FGR says:

    Congratulations on your new post, Matt.
    I may make some suggestions regarding the fixture list, which is a bug-bear of mine!

  26. Rambler says:

    Hi Matt – Just read the exciting news, congratulations to you. Sure it will mean a lot of extra work for you – but could not have been more deserved and it’s always great to be recognised.

    Brilliant for you and Geegeez !

  27. Andy Ryan says:

    Well done Matt.

    I’m sure you’ll do an excellent job of representing the betting public.
    As you mentioned, I hope the focus is on key areas where the major problems lie, as opposed to areas of perceived difficulty. i.e. the route cause of the issues not the symptoms.

    I also hope that this is a very productive process whereby each change/suggestion raised is given the necessary review and consideration. And more importantly, its transparent, so that the public can vote and see the results/considerations of the points raised.

    All in all, its fantastic news. If the process is executed properly, I’m certain we’ll see some really effective reforms made to what is in incredible sport.

    Well done mate.

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