Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Nikolic case collapses without major conviction

A blow to keeping corruption out of racing, or vindication for a jockey who did nothing more than discuss his rides with blokes who punt, and then made their own independent decisions?

Leading Australian jockey Danny Nikolic was charged over several races where his rides were unplaced and the horses in question were laid for substantial amounts by punters he regularly spoke to.

Nikolic cleared of serious charges

In dismissing the four charges, RADB chairman Judge Russell Lewis said the board was not satisfied that Nikolic had communicated with the associates or some of them about the chances of his mounts resulting in the associates making lay bets outside their normal betting parameters.

"The evidence relied upon by the stewards as a basis for drawing an inference that Nikolic communicated the chances of his mounts raises suspicions about what transpired," Judge Lewis said.

"But harbouring suspicions about his conduct is not sufficient to prove the charges."



One thing this does prove, is without phone tapping, then proving allegations of not allowing a horse to perform to its best linked with significant betting patterns against the horse will be nigh on impossible to uphold, unless the persons involved are thicker than two short planks (so yes it will still happen).

Here's an excellent summary of the case and proceedings from Ralph Horowitz, noted Australian form analyst.

No surprises as Nikolic beats the rap

Jockeys should be able to talk to form students - after all, few will have a better understanding of the race and how it should pan out. You can say someone else could do that for them and not bet... but like the bloke who does the morning odds in the newspapers, his opinion isn't worth a penny if there is no risk behind it. The seasoned punter understands the risks and the value of every action and comment.

But of course it brings in the question of laying for profit, particularly when said punter has access to information (which they have not necessarily received) which may improve their chances. This covers similar ground to the recent Harry Findlay case in the UK which I will comment on in the next few days.

There are people in privileged positions who are allowed to lay their own horses - bookmakers. It's well known that some of the biggest bookmakers around own horses - in Australia, Colin Tidy and Michael Sullivan; in the UK, Victor Chandler; just to name a few of the recognisable names. If they ever tried laying one of their own to win a fortune, only to see it pulled up, they would be hauled over the coals big time. If Neville Clements or Harry Findlay want to be able to lay horses they are connected to, directly or indirectly, without suspicion and with an audit trail directly accessible to stewards, then how about creating a licence somewhere between bookmaker and owner? Bring it under the auspices of racing officials, let them do whatever they like on the proviso they know they are being watched and charge them a reasonable fee for the privilege.

Is it that difficult?

Monday, 28 June 2010

bwin and PartyGaming merger looks off... or is it?

After many months of speculation and discussion between the two firms, it appears that a proposed merger between bwin and PartyGaming is off. This would have been a genuine super-merger, unseen before in the gambling industry, but reasonably common in other business sectors.

bwin chief says Party Gaming merger talks failed

bwin have long admitted to being keen on acquisition and mergers rather than natural growth, so expect more activity from them in the near future. The article even quotes the bwin boffins as chasing partners in the US.

----

Two minutes after I posted this article, through comes a report denying the original statement...

Androsch refutes bwin/Party comments


So who do we believe? Was that genuine or trying to protect the share price? Either way, it looks like things aren't progressing quickly.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Malaysian sports betting licence scrapped

After much excitement about granting the first Malaysian sports betting licence to Ascot Sports Sdn Bhd, part of the Berjaya Corp, the government has succumbed to pressure from local Muslim groups and rescinded the offer. This was always a possibility in a country with such a large Muslim population, but one can't help but think they'd missed their big opportunity to cash in on the licence anyway, with the original announcement coming too late for World Cup 2010.

Malaysia scraps betting licence amid Muslim anger

The local illegal bookies will be very happy!

European F1 Grand Prix preview

Another great day for sport, even with a day off at Wimbledon. It's the Irish Derby at The Curragh, England playing Australia in cricket at Old Trafford, and apparently there's a big football match on this afternoon ;)

But before England stops at 3pm, there's a Formula 1 race to watch. Here's my preview, as published at Punting Ace.


The European Grand Prix in Valencia is held on a new circuit with only two previous races under its belt. The waterfront setting of the circuit is spectacular, but unfortunately as a race, it's about as exciting to watch as Paul Collingwood in the fourth innings of a Test match that they cannot win.

Last year's race was not won by the polesitter Lewis Hamilton, only because his team stuffed up in the pits. Rubens Barrichello started from third, on the 'clean' side of the track, took second before the opening corner, and that was the only overtaking move required to win the race. In 2008, it went 1-2-3-5 from the grid (position 4 retired), so don't expect this race to keep you awake with excitement. We were spoiled in Canada, the best you'll be able to do here is admire the stunning harbour views.



You can read the full article and tips here

Saturday, 26 June 2010

innovation from a racetrack - wow!

Bringing new punters through the gates, or at least to start betting on racing is one of the biggest tasks the industry has to face. Anything new annoys the dedicated fans and anything old does nothing to convince new faces to get involved. But Canada's leading track Woodbine, often criticised for their high takeout percentages, decided to teach people how to bet and focus on the gambling element rather than fashion, personalities and all the other fluff.

How Woodbine is attracting new fans

At Woodbine, they grew so exasperated that an expensive television production was producing so little in the way of results that they were ready to pull the plug on the show.

But, first, Woodbine management was willing to start over and give it one more try. Their idea was a simple one: make the show all about gambling and portray betting on horses as the exciting cerebral exercise that it is. No longer would they pitch the beauty of the sport or show features on the circuit's top jockeys, trainers or drivers. They would, however, teach you how much a $1 six-horse superfecta box costs.

The results have been nothing short of remarkable. Though ratings are not yet available for all of the shows, which are called "Bet Night Live," one recent broadcast attracted 60,000 viewers or about three times the size of the average audience before the new format was put into place this year. Just as significantly, the new show is producing a significant amount of new customers for Woodbine's on-line wagering site, HorsePlayerInteractive.com. The amount of new sign-ups increased four-fold once the new show started airing.


There are plenty of other TV shows on racing spread around the world - but very few actually TEACH people how to bet or explain the jargon which is so foreign to complete novices. What's a placepot (UK)? What is a superfecta (USA)? What is a quaddie (Aus)? What is a Triple Trio (HK)?

When there is so much else to bet on these days - the plethora of daily sporting events - with mostly very simple bet types, racing must make the effort to educate new punters about the fun of having a bet at the races and break down the barriers and negative connotations towards it.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

utterly daft polticians

How ridiculous is a ban on online poker and casinos in a country where the law is openly flaunted, play-for-fun (.net) sites are widely promoted and companies like PokerStars have offices set up there?


Australia upholds online gaming ban


This is the dilemma in Australia where companies such as Betfair, Centrebet and Sportingbet offer licensed and regulated poker and casino services to punters outside Australia, but by law, can't do so to Australian residents. Yet, the likes of Party Poker and PokerStars can openly advertisely their wares around the nation by sponsoring events and TV coverage through their 'free' sites. Only the extremely daft amongt us, namely Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, believes that these companies do not generate any real money business via this advertising. Australia is one of the biggest markets for foreign poker firms, so all the profits from these companies goes offshore and stays there.

This is the same daft politician who is hellbent on filtering Australian internet services to a level only matched by communist China. Nice idea to attempt block the evils of the world from the public, but the reality is the sites that do provide the biggest dangers don't advertise themselves and can switch URLs quickly. So the net result for Aussies is a much-slower broadband speed and many legitimate businesses will be filtered out, because the government won't publish the list, or the criteria behind it, but like any government department, will stuff it up and include innocent sites in their net.

And meanwhile, the government helps out their mates in the casinos who pay ridiculous amounts of tax so the poorly-run states, who sold off most of their assets long ago, aren't stone broke. Nothing to do with preventing problem gambling as everyone ignores the ban anyway, it's about incompetent politicians helping out their casino-owning mates.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sky falling in on Tabcorp's monopoly

The Productivity Commission has recommended that Tabcorp's ownership of SkyChannel, the primary racing broadcaster, be investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This, in conjunction with recommendations that Tabcorp's retail outlet monopoly be ceased and that NSW and Queensland racing authorities get off their high horse and negotiate product fees not based on turnover, which discriminates against competitors of the TABs, are major blows to Tabcorp.


Tabcorp on notice

The Productivity Commission recommended the Federal Government refer the ownership to the ACCC.

The commission found that the "vertical integration of Tabcorp's wagering and broadcast business has potentially serious implications for competition in the wagering market".

"As the capacity for punters to view racing is a key factor of production for wagering operators that compete with Tabcorp, this arrangement may frustrate competitive access to racing broadcasts," the report said.

"Were governments to allow bookmakers to establish a retail presence, Tabcorp's ownership of Sky Channel would become even more problematic."

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The Productivity Commission noted that "fair and open competition is a fundamental principle of a market economy".

Consequently, the commission said Tabcorp's retail "exclusivity arrangements represents a rare privilege" and should not be renewed.



Whether of course the Federal Government takes any notice of the Productivity Commission is another matter. They might have other things to worry about at the moment, with a possible vote of no confidence in the current Prime Minister...

If you wish to read through the official document, here's the link.

Greek giant Intralot can't crack Australia

This venture, as the second lotteries company in Victoria, looked doomed from the start, considering the monopoly the incumbent Tattersall's have. They control everything, particularly the retail space which is so crucial to lottery ticket sales.

Gaming giant Intralot out of luck

The spectacular failings of the lottery operator have sunk to new depths and the State Government has engaged legal experts for advice on the "possible cessation of a gambling licensee's operations".


Intralot have incredibly deep pockets so they can keep funding a losing venture, but surely they'll have to see some sign of improvement soon...

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Bookies slaughtered at Royal Ascot

Not a good week for bookies at Royal Ascot, with favourites and plunge horses landing the chocolates all festival. With only six horses winning at 10/1 or bigger - a very low number considering the size of many of the fields - there was no respite at all for bookies. Only Rite of Passage winning the Gold Cup on Thursday at 20/1 was a surprise result in any of the big races.

"Punters have never had it so good. Every single day they've given us a right royal bashing," said Ladbrokes' David Williams. "Thank goodness for the England football team. They are our only salvation in a week of misery for the bookies."

"It has been carnage, no other word for it," said William Hill spokesman David Hood.

"What is it about Ascot? For some bookies the five consecutive losing days of 2010 will make the infamous Dettori day look like a round of drinks.

Totesport told a similar story, with spokesman George Primarolo adding: "Punters have clawed back their Cheltenham losses and more after a woeful week for the layers.

"At this rate, we'll need Honduras to win the World Cup to make the balance sheet look respectable."

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power described it as the "worst Festival meeting ever".

"This has not only been the worst Royal Ascot we have endured, but also the worst Festival meeting we have ever experienced," said Power himself.

Quotes from SportingLife.

And considering my experience with one of the thieving bastards on-course on Wednesday, you reap what you sow!

Wimbledon previews

As with every tennis Grand Slam, I write detailed betting previews for Australian betting website PuntingAce. This year's tournament looks very attractive for outright betting, it's the most excited I have been in a while for a Slam.

For the men's preview, click here


For the women's preview, click here

Happy punting!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

the washup from the Racing NSW v corporates decision

Yesterday's decision doesn't seem to have decided much - Betfair will certainly appeal the verdict against them.Bill Saunders argues that their case was hampered by Racing NSW not releasing relevant information until too late.


Betfair was in fact disadvantaged by its lack of knowledge of the rebate arrangement when preparing its statement of claim. Sportsbet, with its case being heard after Betfair, was able to amend its statement of claim accordingly.


Racing NSW will almost certainly piss more money up the wall appealing against the Sportsbet verdict as well.

One thing that will happen is that all NSW operators, including Tabcorp, will now be forced to pay the fees, which they conveniently didn't have to pay under the flawed V'Landys policy. There is no longer a threshold for payment and no mates' deals for the TABs - one policy for everyone, not just a tax on those evil interstate companies. The last point, re interstate companies, may therefore infringe the constitution, giving Betfair further grounds to take them to a higher court, where they usually win.

Some of the various press reports on the verdicts, the only ones claiming to have any sort of victory are the articles heavily influenced by TAB/Racing NSW.

Judgment in Betfair and Sportsbet Matters

State of flux stymies corporate bookmakers

Racing NSW knew it was illegal

Dumb and Dumber

One thing that does come out of these articles is the integrity of former Racing NSW chairman Gary Pemberton:

Perram's judgment noted that Gary Pemberton, the Racing NSW Chairman at the time, did not agree with this decision and voted against it explicitly asking that his dissent be recorded in the minutes. He resigned from the Board two weeks later.


Bravo sir, racing administrators with integrity, particularly in NSW are very few and far between.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Split decision for Racing NSW

The rulings have been made in the Federal Court today and it ended up as a split decision:

Sportsbet won the case against Racing NSW over race fields legislation, and specifically against a threshold which favours NSW betting operators.

Racing NSW defeated Betfair on the right to charge a turnover fee which, in Betfair's view, discriminates against low-margin operators such as betting exchanges.


The only statements in the press so far are the usual chest-beating 'this is obviously a decision in our favour' whether they won or not, so I'll wait until the smoke clears before writing an elongated rant about it.

Monday, 14 June 2010

well, that's us stuffed!

Very disappointing start to the World Cup for Australia. Yes, we were dreaming beyond our ability about beating Germany, but a draw wasn't totally out of the question. Team selection was a little puzzling, with Kennedy left out and Cahill & Garcia thrown up front, against two huge centre-backs... and then virtually all our attacks were in the air. I know Cahill has played up front for Everton, but that was with decent creativity behind him. Kewell obviously isn't fit, we knew before the match he was unlikely to play.

That one decent chance in the first few minutes might have changed the game if it had gone in, but after that, we were wholeheartedly thrashed. Germany looked very good, with several fresh faces not seen at this level before. Ozil, apart from his ridiculous dive which rightfully got carded, looked very dangerous and four of the five strikers bagged goals. If they haven't peaked too early, they will be right in the mix for the final.

Our defence looked old and slow. Lucas Neill has a reputation as a leg-breaker, and was lucky not to get sent off for a knee straight in the back of Klose, very little attempt to get the ball. Cahill copped a shocker from the Mexican referee who obviously keeps the local Brylcreem factory in business. Yes it was a sloppy tackle, but there were no boots in there, no malice at all. It wouldn't even have got in the top 10 worst tackles of the match.

Without Cahill, we are stuffed. Avenues to goal are almost entirely snuffed out, and our only hope of qualifying now is winning the remaining group games. Ah well, at least it leaves me more time to do the form for Royal Ascot and Wimbledon!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Twitter is melting down!



Has Twitter finally reached breaking point? The Twitter API has been down for hours... what are we supposed to do now? :)

More importantly, how am I supposed to berate the posh prats on the BBC tennis coverage bemoaning the fact that British tennis is in such a poor state, while it's people like them, portraying a middle/upper class image from an era when the sport was nowhere near as tough or competitive, who are a key reason why kids don't want to play the game....

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

guest blogging on France24

During the World Cup, I have been invited to blog for the France24 website. I'll be talking about the different angles of betting, the emotional rollercoaster of cheering for Australia in a sport which doesn't even rank in the top three codes of football in my home country and any controversies that come up - like the demand for video technology at the elite level of the sport.

You can read my opening post here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

French Open final preview

Like any Aussie, I'll be cheering loudly today for Samantha Stosur in the women's final. The fact I have a 50/1 ticket on her from several weeks ago is almost irrelevant :D

In addition to my Punting Ace preview, I've also done some writing for Betfair Australia. Here's the final piece (byline at the very bottom).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

the race for licences in France hots up

As the French government is finally about to push the button to permit online wagering in France and its territories, supposedly in time for the World Cup (gee, don't leave it too late), the big boys are doing the 'proper' thing according to their boards and getting out.

William Hill and Betfair have both announced plans to cease doing business with French residents from June, while they consider their plans of whether to seek a local licence of their own, acquire one via a joint venture or continue with legal action. They won't be the only ones. But will the 'ceasing business' be genuine, or a token effort to appease lazy authorities like elsewhere in Europe?