Friday, 29 January 2010

France starts to water down its proposed gambling bill

This was always going to happen - maybe not this particular change, but like any negotiations, you start with a ridiculous offer, then gradually become more realistic.

Betting operators in France will no longer have to close down all French accounts from the time the law is voted until the licences are awarded, but they will have to transfer them all to the .fr site once approved and operating in France. A pain in the arse maybe, but not the end of the world, after all, that's what Betfair did with accounts in Australia & NZ when they got the Tasmanian licence.

Operators in France escape player account shut downs

And to counter their position, they've decided to increase penalties on firms not seeking French licences. Yeah, can really see that one working....

weekend tennis previews

Here's an article I wrote for betting.betfair Australia, previewing the Friday-Sunday schedule at the Australian Open, so it was written before the second men's semi.

Exclusive expert Australian Open preview

Still haven't decided what I'll do with my Federer position, let it ride or hedge it. Took 4 at Boyles, Murray now available at 2.5, should probably take my stake back as I do think Muzza can beat him. The other time they met in a Slam final, I stuck with Murray and did my dough...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

automated bookmaking - soon there will be no-one left!

At the International Gaming Exhibition in London this week, I've been looking closely at some of the modern bookmaking systems. Companies such as BetRadar supply real-time odds feeds from over 250 bookmakers spread around the world, and then you can generate your own odds from that. Set your margins, choose the bookies you want to follow, post the prices, turn on the monitoring which tracks market changes from as few or as many bookies as you like, and you're done. Very few bookies do not take this service, although most just use it to keep an eye on the opposition in real-time, and use it to track mistakes (alerts pop up when a match start time is different to other firms) and potential arbitrage/sure bet opportunities. Dozens of smaller firms - the ones listed on odds comparison sites but you never see any of their marketing etc - do all this with virtually nobody at the controls. Other companies like Entraction and Odds Matrix can offer you a 'bookie in a box' product, a white-label service that can be entirely automated.

Fascinating stuff, but you wonder how long it will be before nobody knows how to set the odds on their own! Between these services and Betfair, there are very few genuine odds compilers out there.

If you'd like some advice on setting up your own bookmaking business in this field, whether it is stand alone or as an addition to another product such as a poker room. you can contact me via the address on my profile, or make a comment and leave your details (I won't publish it).

Monday, 25 January 2010

Aus Open tennis update

Just eight players left now in each event, so I thought it's a nice time to give an update.

Men

Federer - the obvious favourite, and in awesome form. He just toyed with Hewitt and hasn't lost a set since R1. Best asset is he knows what to do at this end of a tournament.

Davydenko - wobbled against Verdasco, led 2-0 and then had a mini-break in the fourth set breaker, before winning in five sets, having given his backers at 1.05 many grey hairs. Has beaten Federer in their last two clashes, after being 0-12 before November. But how will he go over the best of five sets, and with much more at stake?

Djokovic - a bit wayward against Chiudinelli, but otherwise solid. Record is 2-4 v Tsonga, winning their first clash (AO final 08) and Miami last year. He hit a bit of a flat spot in between, the effects of an overloaded schedule and changing racquet brand - I think he is back close to his peak now.

Tsonga - only scraped through against Almagro, almost throwing away a 2-0 lead. His task has gotten tougher with each round, and I'm not sure there's much left for him to improve here. Will be tough for him to go much further.

Roddick - good win over Gonzalez, but was expected to do so, having a 8-3 record before that contest. Had a twinge of the knee late in the match, not sure if that is anything to worry about, but keep an eye on it tonight. QF/SF is his usual level, needs to play exceptional tennis to reach the final from here.

Cilic - lifted a gear to beat del Potro and I think that win was a major mental hurdle for him to clear. JdP had beaten him in Melbourne and New York last year, so put those losses behind him was a step forward. 1-1 vs Roddick, he can do it. I am on him for the title and happy to let it ride through this match, will worry about trading some of the position off later.

Murray - in fine touch against Isner, no sign of the back twinge in the previous round. Record is 3-7 against Nadal but I'm happy to ignore his last two losses - one on clay and the other at Indian Wells when the wind was ridiculous. He'd won three in a row before that. Can go all the way if at the top of his game.

Nadal -solid without being brilliant so far. His main worry is his recent record against top 10 players. Since losing at the French Open, he has lost ten matches and won only two (Tsonga, Paris Masters, Nov) and Soderling (Abu Dhabi exhibition Dec/Jan) against the top guys. That has to start getting into his head...

I'm still happy with my bets on Federer and Cilic.

Women

Serena W - has only dropped 15 games in four rounds so far, and hasn't been broken once (saved 12 break pts). That's up there with her best, but she's lost here with similar form and has also won the title with scrappy, fighting tennis.

Azarenka - displayed another level of maturity with her win over Zvonareva. I thought she was gone at 4-6 1-3 but she dug deep and found a way to win. This time last year she had Serena on toast until she wilted in the heat. Can she find that devastating form again?

Li - brilliant win over Wozniacki, that makes three Slams she has reached the QFs in. Can she go one further though? Leads Venus 1-0.

Venus W. - didn't play that well against Schiavone, but does she ever in Melbourne (at least lately)? It's only her second venture into the quarters here since 2003 when she lost the final to sis.

Henin - how many more things can fall into place for her? Found a way to beat Wickmayer when looked in trouble, but has complained her body is aching as a reaction to playing so many matches again. Might have to oppose her next round, despite leading the h2h 13-2.

Petrova - scrappy win over Kuznetsova, maybe not as pretty as her win over Clijsters where she was ruthless. Waiting for her to crack upstairs, she's finally got her body in full working order, just worried about between the ears.

Zheng - has had the tougher run through than Kirilenko, beating three seeds in style. Came back from 2-4 to beat Wozniacki in straight sets. I think she has a lot left.

Kirilenko - that heavily strapped left thigh makes you think how long before it goes properly. Outlasted Safina in a battle of the crocks, played two reality easy matches between that and her win over Sharapova. Hasn't gone this far before in a Slam, any further will be a great 23rd birthday present for her.

Still happy with my position on Azarenka, but it will be a tough task beating Serena in current form.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

more Betfair float speculation

The Times again having a guess.

Betfair stock market punt

Betfair, the online gaming exchange, has selected two investment banks to advise it on a £1.5 billion stock-market flotation.


The financial columns have been speculating on this for years now. If they keep persevering with the speculation, one day it might actually happen!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

William Hill withdraw from Spain

William Hill's plans to take over the world are taking a hit - now they are pulling out of Spain, just a year after giving up on Italy. I doubt they'll be bothering with applying for a French licence then.

For all that time and money invested, they are selling their share in the joint venture for the grand sum of one euro.

That's two heavy losses in Europe from two - even Celtic aren't that bad when they travel!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Does British racing need a Barry Hearn figure?

They could do worse - at least he can connect with the bloke drinking bitter or an alcopop, as opposed drinking Pimm's or Veuve Clicquot in the private boxes. Here's a response to my Racing for Change discussion from WhatTheBookiesSay.com

Dial 999 for Hearn

Horse racing is currently run by tweed wearing, yar yar spitting, self important members of the upper classes who offer a limp handshake to anyone that’s not called Henrietta or Tarquin and are totally out of touch when it comes to dealing with people called Janet of John, and from what I’ve seen I fear that whilst they may have the best interests of horse racing in mind, Racing for Change, may well fall into the Tarquin category and fail to connect with the likes of Johnny.

The racing hierarchy and those that like to be associated with it put too much emphasis on its history and that’s its main problem (along with the fact that they’re stuck in their ways and lack the creativity to bring the sport up to date). The sport of kings needs to be blown up and reinvented and only Hearn would have the cheek to do that – look at how darts is now flourishing, the Prizefighter series is a breath of fresh air, and of course snooker is about to have the Hearn wand waved at it.


Perhaps British racing will never break away from tradition - but there's no harm in giving it a go at some of the lesser tracks which seemingly only exist to provide turnover for bookies.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Centrebet ready to be bought out?

Could Con Kafataris and family, majority owners of Centrebet, be ready to sell up and get out of the bookmaking business? This report seems to think so:

Centrebet keen to join forces

BOOKMAKER Centrebet has confirmed it is looking to buy a competitor or be taken over after its surging share price drew a speeding ticket from the stock exchange.

The ASX yesterday asked Centrebet to explain a 21 per cent increase in its share price -- from $1.32 at close of trade last Wednesday to a high of $1.60 during trade yesterday.

...

Several potential buyers are reported to be circling Centrebet, with controlling shareholders the Kafataris family said to be willing to sell their 60 per cent stake if the price is right.

...

Centrebet has reportedly been eyeing some of the industry's smaller players, while global operator Ladbrokes is said have considered making a bid for Centrebet.

Centrebet shares closed yesterday up 8.57 per cent at $1.54.



Interesting developments. Centrebet can't get a lot bigger in Australia, they wouldn't gain much by buying a small firm there, and I don't see Con as an individual who wants to head abroad - if they did buy abroad, it would be positioning for an even bigger sale price if they were taken over.

Sportingbet and Paddy Power were the first UK/Irish bookmakers to spread their wings to Australia, it won't be a surprise to see the likes of Ladbrokes or William Hill to follow suit now that the Australian TAB retail monopolies are set to be broken in the next few years...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Australian Open tennis previews

The real betting action of the year starts Down Under on Monday, with the Australian Open in Melbourne. For the best part of a decade I have been writing betting previews for the Grand Slams, and in recent years, they've been published on PuntingAce.

Click here for the men's tournament preview, and here for the women's event.

And if you want to see a history of previous articles and tips - click here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

the Superbowl of biathlon!


That's what they call it at Ruhpolding, it's an amazing venue, with spectators arriving at 9am in subzero temperatures, just to get their prime viewing spots for the evening action. Amazing!



Trading was OK, pinned my hopes too much on the glamour girl, Magdalena Neuner, but once again she bombed out on the standing shoot when she was way ahead. So I ended up chopping out...

Men's event starts at 1720 CET tomorrow, coverage on Eurosport.

welcome to the new bloggers

Time for a bit of admin on the site, I've added a bunch of new blogs so welcome to them all, including:

Stripped1977's Blog
Betfan
No More In Play
A Betting Svendali
Fight The Inner Demons
Betting for a living
Read and Black
The Rev. All Green
WTA Betting
The view from opposite Harrods
Cubone - The Gambling Historian
Bet of the Week
Ibiza Sports Traders
Mets' trading diary
70k Betfair tennis trader
Micks Gamble
Trading Times
Au Coeur Du Trade




Links found on the blogroll to the RHS..... To keep your blog on the 'top 25' displayed normally, keep it active! Those who haven't posted for a while will usually stay on the list, but they just fade off to the end where nobody ever sees them...

I don't link to blogs that are purely tips, affiliate content or selling some dodgy guaranteed winning plan. Have a go, share your thoughts, have a rant about bookmakers/betting exchanges if you feel it's deserved and give us something worth reading other than 'i won/lost today'.

Monday, 11 January 2010

my say on the Racing for Change initiatives

I like to rant about racing issues, so it's about time I had a crack at British racing's Racing For Change.

Here are the points listed as part of the Racing for Change initiatives with my comments inserted:

-Trial of decimal odds at several race meetings over one weekend in spring 2010.
I think this is more to do with the failing education system than racing's problem, but I see their point. But going to 1.5/1 instead of 6/4 is a waste of time. If you're going to change, do it properly and go to proper decimals - the Betfair/Australian bookies way (2.5). One state of Australia went to decimalised fractions (18/10 etc) on its own and it had zero effect. They all ended up going to proper decimal odds in the late 90s.

BUT Australia had a key reason to switch - the totes had taken over and the younger generation were more accustomed to seeing tote odds broadcast on the TV or in the paper. The Tote is almost a non-entity in the UK. I doubt it will make a difference at all - educating punters in general might be a better idea. One weekend will struggle to make a difference.

-Funded media training for jockeys and trainers, together with an appearance fee budget set aside for non-racing media work.
Agree with this, but there should also be penalties for industry participants who refuse to do their bit to promote the sport.

-All jockeys and trainers to be listed on race cards by their first names and surnames.
Nice idea but impractical. Newspapers won't print them and does it really matter anyway? Try paying for more space in the paper to show more than just the fields, especially the night before. Give the punter a chance to do some homework, not all of us can get up at the crack of dawn to do the form for today's racing.

-The outcome of photo finishes to be displayed on screen at the same moment as the judge's announcement. Saddlecloth numbers will be larger to improve visibility.
Why wait that long - why not have them on the screen while the horses are pulling up like in Australia? Digital cameras are easy to put on the broadcast, and it should also remove the horrendous blunders from judges like Jane Stickels awarding the race to the wrong horse and robbing punters (and bookies who end up paying both results). Anything that makes it easier to identify your horse better is a positive.

-Race names to be simplified and racecourse announcements to be modernised.
Drop the sponsor's name and there goes the investment. Some of the long ones can be dropped sure (Bet on Live Cricket at Betdaq Handicap) etc, but it won't work with valuable races.

Changing racecourse announcements is giving in to the drunken summer racegoer. Every industry has its terminology, racing should not be embarrassed by its dialect. 'Weighing in' is not unique to racing, it has a place in other sports too - e.g. boxing. Others just need a little explanation.

Why not give away the racebook to all patrons with explanations of all the terms? UK racebooks are hopeless - there is zero form in there anyway just a comment from some guy you are meant to trust blindly. How about some cold hard numbers so people can make up their own minds?

-On-course bookmakers encouraged to offer standard each way terms and enhanced customer service via agreed minimum service standards.
How about forcing them all to modernise to digital boards instead of some dinosaurs still using crayon and perspex board? Instead of forcing them to offer standard each-way terms which they claim to lose money on automatically, how about letting them offer separate win and place markets? After all, most of them simply follow Betfair anyway, this would give them the ability to standardise terms.

-Racecourse initiatives to improve the enjoyment and understanding of a day at the races for both new and regular racegoers, linked to a new independent quality assessment scheme.
Independent quality assessment scheme recommended by overpaid consultants sounds very expensive. David Ashforth's series of visiting every racetrack in the UK and Ireland in the Racing Post has done most of it for them already.

-The establishment of a new free membership club for younger adults that will offer discounted admission to many racecourses and shares in several racehorses.
See the Timeform Betfair Racing Club - already up and running, and there are probably others. Anything which takes the attention away from alcohol and onto enjoying the racing has to be worth looking at.

-A new website launched to promote horse racing to new and novice customers.
Can't see this doing much for the industry unless a massive amount is spent on promoting it via TV, radio, newspapers and online media.

-A central PR campaign from January to promote racing more effectively to a wider audience.
Maybe, but can still see it being marginalised.

How about a few others?

Invest in a reality TV series about the racing industry, such as Jockeys which ran in the US and launched the stunning Chantal Sutherland into the spotlight. The UK, Ireland and perhaps even France have enough interesting people in the sport to build a profile. It mightn't rate like Spooks, but if Ice Road Truckers can get viewers, surely a racing reality show could? The US industry is trying again with another style of show

Let the central racing body take care of race times. It is ridiculous that so many races go off at the same time, and that races can only start at times ending in 5 or 0. Off-course bookies hate it as they get a mad rush, and then the races in between are often less popular. If the industry wants to maximise betting turnover so they can receive better returns from the betting industry, then they need to address issues like this one.

Programming by geography - it's not rare to see three race meetings in the one day in the Home Counties while patrons up north can't find a meeting within a three-hour drive.

Focus on the good of racing in the non-industry media. If you ask most non-racing people about the sport, they'll say it's crooked because of the hysteria in the press about the Fallon case and other scandals. McCoy's 3000th winner, Denman winning another Hennessy giving at least a stone in weight, Sea The Stars winning everything in sight, Hayley Turner recovering from a serious head injury, famous names such as Sir Alex Ferguson and Andrew Lloyd Webber owning star horses etc are mostly ignored by the mainstream media.

Create some quality flat races for 4yos so that our star juveniles aren't rushed off to stud so early. Sea The Stars would never stay in training, but there will be plenty of last year's 3yos who couldn't get close to him who have been retired as well. Stars with appeal to the new racegoer have longevity.

Serve some real food in the public areas of racecourses rather than burgers and fried junk, and don't let vendors charge extortionate prices for it. It's not 1983 anymore, the health and tastes of the world have progressed.

Punters' clubs. Organise a syndicate where patrons can buy £20 shares and have bets placed in the big pools such as the Scoop6 by media personalities or pro punters. It has been popular in Australia, I've not heard of it in the UK. On big rollover days for the Scoop6, so many people would love to join a syndicate with a chance of winning, but they don't know how to get involved. Put some interesting people in charge of it like Zoey Bird and Dave Nevison, and it will attract people through the gate.

Piggy-back on the interest of high-profile sporting figure owners such as Michael Owen, Sir Alex Ferguson etc with family days, meet the players etc (assuming football fans can avoid fighting for a day).

Promote the Tote at every opportunity. The Tote generates the biggest return for the industry, it has the headline-grabbing jackpot pools on the Scoop6 and could do a lot better. I find it remarkable that its single race pools are so poor, especially exotics such as trifectas - these are huge overseas. Trifectas on big handicap races have the potential for huge payouts. Decimalisation will help its cause indirectly and it won't be sold anytime soon, no matter how desperate Gordon Brown is to save his arse at the ballot box.

Find a way to dilute the power of the rich (mostly Arab) owners. Nothing against them, they do wonders for flat racing, but they do alienate most small owners who can't compete against their wealth. Aus racing has country cups, restricted to horses who race on the smaller tracks, or trainers who operate away from the big training venues. Perhaps a series of decent value races could be created for syndicated horses, or owners with less than 10 horses. Give the little guy more of a go.

That will do for me, they can pay me if they want any more ideas :) Feel free to add your own ideas or slag mine off below, but at least try to be constructive please.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

1.01 beaten in biathlon


Now do you believe me that it's a great trading sport? Until the final round of shooting is finished, they should never be 1.01.

Jonsson looked like she hit the front at the last round of shooting when Tora Berger started missing, but then Jonsson missed some too and Andrea Henkel shot clear to win.

This Mass Start format is great, a mad rush and they're all out on the course together.

rich blokes seek government support to get richer and alienate racing industry even further

Gerry Harvey and John Singleton are very successful Aussie entrepreneurs with a deep interest in horse racing - but this latest story shows their interest in much more about their own pockets than for the good of the industry...

World's richest race pledge

JOHN Singleton and Gerry Harvey want to turn their Magic Millions scamper on the Gold Coast into the world's richest race.

The $2 million Magic Millions Classic will be run over 1200m on Saturday.

Next January, Singleton and Harvey propose an $11 million globe-stopper.

....

Only yearlings sold through the Magic Millions sales are eligible for the Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic, so a jump from $2 million to $11 million prizemoney would provide a massive boost to the business.


There's nothing wrong with big prizemoney in races, after all, it gives owners something to dream about. But having ridiculous amounts of money on offer for two-year-olds in the first half of their season, who have only been purchased via a specific yearling sale, is just plain stupid.

Firstly, the RSPCA are already putting heat on the Aus industry over 2yo racing, and I agree with them to an extent. No other country in the world races its juveniles as much as Australia. Go through the starters in big juvenile races and see how many of them managed to win races later in their career - so many of them are over-raced when their bodies aren't ready and suffer for it later on. Do the trainers care? Not many of them, they'll just sell the slow ones to the bush and start all over again with the next crop of juveniles. Regular readers of this blog will know I don't think UK racing does a lot right, but I do applaud them on the way they treat two-year-old racing. The only G1 race of the year is right at the end of the season, and it's only in recent years that sales races have entered the calendar (Goff's in Ireland, Timeform Tattersall's in the UK). They have their place, but hopefully their numbers stay restricted.

Secondly, Gerry Harvey has slammed Betfair and other non-TAB wagering operators for damaging the industry, by not paying their 'dues' over the profits they make. What is Harvey doing here then? Putting his hand out to the government, during the middle of a recession, to put more money in his pocket and to the rich people who can afford to purchase at his sales. Exactly how much from sales at the Magic Millions goes back to the racing industry? He runs a commercial business, just like anyone else. Many of the yearlings bought at his sales head overseas - does that help the Australian industry... or just his bank account?

3. Of all the places to have a big race, the Gold Coast would have to be very low on the list of venues. Summer carnivals there are stinking hot, the facilities are long out-of-date and it can't handle a crowd. Don't spend any money on infrastructure, just run a mega-rich race there.... great idea :S

4. The Dubai World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, the Japan Cup, the Breeders' Cup - all these rich, prestige events are open to all-comers. They are for the best horses from any nation (slight restriction on the Breeders' Cup, but a fee can be paid to be added). Juvenile races can't be entered by horses from the other hemisphere because they would be at a six-month disadvantage and have to go into the category above. Northern hemisphere 2yos don't even race until April of that season. Putting a restriction on horses which are eligible further dilutes the quality of the pool.

After the Queensland Government said they wouldn't contribute to Harvey and Singleton's private party, the pair starting talking to other governments to see who they could suck in to foot the bill for them, although they conveniently twisted it to sound like the Vic govt was chasing them.

Singo gets behind Magic Millions

If you want to be serious about improving the industry, then put your money into upgrading a racecourse, improving the prizemoney and facilities for everyone involved... not just one race which serves as an enormous piece of advertising for your own company.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

what a great day for biathlon trading


With so many football matches out of action, it's a perfect day to get into a true winter sport - biathlon! It's on Eurosport today, kicking off at 11.45am, but best of all, as it's a sprint race where competitors go out one-by-one (think cycling time trial), you won't miss anything by getting involved a bit later.

Conditions in Oberhof yesterday were windy and foggy for the women's sprint, making shooting rather difficult - which is not a bad thing for traders. Uncertainty evens the field a little, increasing the chance of a big-priced winner, or at the very least, volatility in the winner market.

Norwegian superman Ole Einar Bjorndalen is the favourite as per usual, and he warmed up on Thusday with a win in the realy for Norway. He missed one shot (of 10), you can see the stats from that race here.

Ski times and shooting stats give a good guide to what you might expect in this race. When the guys who ski better than they shoot go too hard trying to establish a lead, their hearts race which makes it much harder to hit the targets, while those who don't ski hard enough concede too much time and have to rely on others missing targets. Every target missed in this event means a penalty loop must be skied, which takes around 25 seconds.

Never be afraid to lay the favourite in-running. I've seen 1.01s beaten in this sport, the nerves set in and the final shoot (standing, often with a cross breeze, maybe some snow, and a racing heart) becomes very tough. Watch for the market to swing with every shot missed, and listen for the crowd reaction, especially when the home biathletebs are on the range.

This is the official live site - it will be at least as fast as Eurosport, and can cover all the competitors at once, rather than just who is on screen.

The season really gets serious from here on, so even if you're afraid to bet on it today, watch it closely and get an idea how it all works. As we get closer to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the races get better and better.