The Good, Bad and Ugly
Mike Deasy on the ugly side of bookmaking, and where the racing media fears to tread
If the column you write is called The Good, Bad & Ugly, as Matt Chapman does for Sun Racing, then you need to live up to expectations.
In his latest piece for the red-top’s racing offering, the three categories with which he is lumbered comprised the following:
- Good – the wins over the weekend for Mohaather, Oxted and Pinatubo all deserve a mention as do the riding skills of jockeys Jim Crowley and Cieren Fallon – you might not have backed them but, for the sport as a whole, it’s good news
- Bad – with the caveat that it’s bad for racing fans, the news that Barry Geraghty “has hung up his boots” just about scrapes it, albeit that the family to whom he gave “a big thank you” might have other ideas
- Ugly – it seems that inserting the word “ugly” into the piece by wondering if JP McManus and AP McCoy might take the gloves off for an “ugly smash up” to determine who takes over from Geraghty as JP’s number-one rider cuts the mustard
Of course, Chapman has to tread carefully – it’s far too easy to upset some of the precious souls who are involved in racing. Put them in the Ugly category by questioning their actions or opinions and a tsunami of hissy fits ensues.
I can think of only a handful of racing media folk who ask awkward and pertinent questions or make critical comments about the sport’s participants.
There are also commercial considerations which influence what is or is not said. Take bookmakers. People like Matt Chapman can make jocular remarks about bookmakers. Indeed, their spokespeople sometimes knowingly play the panto villain when it suits.
But, when you generate revenue from the bookies, of which Sun Racing is one example, referring to any of their activities as ugly is pretty much off limit. It’s a shame, because they are some scenarios around to which the Ugly Sisters couldn’t do justice.
The way a firm can restrict customers down to pennies – rather than just growing a pair – and close an online account is enormously frustrating.
In shops too, bets are turned away left, right and centre, and customers can be restricted to Win Only in hugely competitive handicaps. Bookmakers are in a risk business and if prices are chalked up then the bookie should lay them to a set amount – regardless of who the customer is.
Restrictions can be so ludicrous. I know of someone who wanted a £1 each-way Lucky-31 last year which included the Ayr Gold and Silver Cups – they were offered a minimum bet of 1p units or a max of 2p.
On-course, you have the bookies tightening the each-way terms. Such measures can deter racecourse attendance, and certainly drive racegoers’ bets towards the online operators, even with their timid approach.
Before lockdown, I was talking to a racecourse bookmaker who was bemoaning the poor betting market at a major track’s midweek meeting. My daring to suggest that everywhere else in bookmaking there had been innovations but on-course layers seemed to becoming ever-more reactionary did not go down well.
He would have made a good politician as he ignored the question, and responded with a gripe of his own; that a number of racecourse joints were now operated by the same firm. There went the head into the sand.
Back to the frustrations of online betting. The sportsbook side of Betdaq does not take each-way multiples on any sports. Singles, yes – but not each-way multiples. All these big handicaps at, for example, Royal Ascot, and punters can only have win-only Lucky 15s, Yankees and the like.
The timidity of bookmakers is at best disappointing, but the failure to have in place fit for purpose processes to intervene with problem gamblers or prevent money laundering is downright disgusting.
Only this week the Gambling Commission has expressed its concern about VIPs – bookmakers’ high value customers who enjoy tailored bonuses, gifts, hospitality and preferential service from the licensee designed to maintain or increase their custom.
The disproportionate financial value of high value customers to licensees means regulatory compliance can conflict with short-term commercial objectives and, consequently, poses regulatory challenges. The Commission is worried that the challenges have not been consistently met by licensees.
This, says the Commission, has resulted in repeated instances of gambling-related harm and in some cases, failure to prevent criminal proceeds being spent on gambling.
Now that’s ugly.
More Of Course
What next for Serpentine? http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-4nt