Counting down to a crucial decision for racing
We’re only weeks away from what could be one of the most important racing decisions of the decade – whether or not the racecourse run Britbet betting operation participates in a single pool with the Tote, or goes it alone.
Britbet was due to launch in July, but held off when a financial venture called the Alizeti Group bought a 25% stake in the Betfred owned Tote, with a longer-term aim of being majority shareholders.
Whilst the Tote has stagnated under Betfred ownership, Alizeti have promised to revitalise pool betting, spearheaded by lower take-outs and new betting opportunities.
Now Alizeti have announced a raft of senior managerial positions, headlined by the recruitment of seasoned betting industry executives Ian Penrose, who was chief executive of pool betting and technology company Sportech, and Jamie Hart who has on his cv Trading Director at Coral and Head of Innovation at William Hill.
Other positions filled include director of communications and corporate affairs, head of customer marketing, chief financial officer and commercial director. Between them they have experience at Arc, Betfair, J P Morgan, PokerStars and Sky.
The importance of these appointments is that, until now, Alizeti was seen as a bit light on expertise which raised questions about its ability to run something as important to racing as the market-leader in pool betting.
And it’s the market-leader tag that is crucial.
Whilst Britbet is a racecourse-run enterprise, and would have exclusivity at 50 tracks, it would have little if any a much high street or online presence – the Tote holds those aces.
Pool betting is one of those areas where market domination is a necessity, because anything else simply dilutes the pools and reduces dividends.
We now wait to see if Alizeti and Britbet can see eye-to-eye and move forward with a combined pool.
Nothing is being given away, so we wait until the end of October to find out if common sense prevails.
Bookies call foul at Chester
A racecourse where neither Britbet or the Tote are present is Chester, which has gone it alone for over six years with its own fixed-odds racecourse betting offering, which has come in for criticism for poor value.
Not for the first time, Chester’s on-course bookmakers are calling foul because they believe racegoers have been approached by members of ChesterBet with mobile betting terminals roaming the betting ring, an area which should be off-limits to everyone other than the licensed layers for betting purposes.
Maybe it was just an over-zealous representative of ChesterBet, but proper control should be exercised.
No sour grapes
Ascot has become very successful with its themed race meetings, which include a beer festival, Christmas market, and a food and drink fair.
Its most recent meeting was supported by the Italian Tourist Board where there was the opportunity to sample numerous Italian wines which of course is all in a day’s work for a scribbler on The Racing Hub.
There was, however, a bit of an interloper.
Whilst purveyors of Italy’s finest were dishing out varieties from such wine-growing regions as Lombardia, Piemonte, Toscana and Umbria, right under their noses (pun intended) a little corner of England was making its presence felt.
Step forward one of the day’s race sponsors, Chapel Down – a vineyard in North Kent noted for its sparkling wines. Hopefully they didn’t leave a sour note on any Mediterranean taste buds as they grabbed some of the limelight from Bella Italia.
On track for good news
Some of the best pieces of racing news in recent days have been about the future of two racecourses.
Administrators KPMG have had enquiries from 25 interested parties about the purchase of Towcester Racecourse as a going concern which might even see them being able to hold its November fixture.
The Northamptonshire track haemorrhaged millions under a flawed business plan and eventually the money ran out.
Hopefully, the due diligence process will contain evidence that the course is a worthy asset and someone who knows how to successfully run a smaller venue, preferably part of a group with shared resources to reduce costs, can return it to its former glory, not least with a fixture list that does the place justice.
And the BHA has announced the it is extending Musselburgh’s licence to race until the end of the year, as East Lothian Council assesses bids to manage the track, with Arc and Jockey Club Racecourses believed to be the front-runners.
It is the beginning of the end of a sorry saga for the Scottish track where the two sides of the management team, one representing the course owners, the local authority, and the other comprising those who ran the place, were at loggerheads.
Yet despite its problems, Musselburgh has raised its profile, its prize money and its reputation, and it would be good if whoever takes on the management function can continue to use the local talent that had achieved much in adversity.