Tuesday, 30 November 2010

the real winter sport starts tomorrow

(The Canadian women's biathlon team posing for a fundraising calendar in the lead-up to Vancouver. Image from CTV.ca, Rachel Boekel)

Tomorrow marks the opening of the IBU Biathlon World Cup season, with the Women's Individual race at Ostersund in Sweden, the first of six events spread over five days. You may wonder why an Aussie who is not particularly fond of cold weather (or guns) loves the sport of biathlon so much. Read on....

"The combination of two very contradictory disciplines, skiing and shooting, in the same competition confronts an athlete with a very demanding challenge. Cross-country ski racing required intense, full out physical exertion over an extended period of time whereas shooting demands extremely fine control, stability and focus. When athletes arrive at the shooting range, they have to shoot at very small targets, with a racing heartbeat and heaving chest because the clock is running even while they are shooting and a missed target results in a penalty." (IBU Media Guide)

It's the perfect sport for betting in-running. Competitors have to strike a balance between skiing too hard (they'll be out of puff and heart racing too much to shoot accurately) and saving themselves for the shoot (ski times too slow). There are some red-hot skiers who are average shooters, and precision shooters who are too slow on their skis. Imagine skiing so fast you have a 20 second lead coming into the last set of five shots, in a standing position (much harder than prone), your heart is racing, there's a strong cross breeze and with a bit of snow falling, and your nerves are not your best asset. Just like there are some golfers you always want to oppose when they come down the final hole with a one-stroke lead, biathlon has very similar traits.

Weather and course conditions play a big part in it - heavy snow during the race gives a big advantage to those starting early as can sunshine which can melt the ice. For sprint and individual races where athletes are individually timed and start separately(like a cycling time trial), the best racers usually start in the middle of the pack (often 120 starters).

This season will be better for betting as there will be no Olympics at the end of the season, which saw a lot of athletes peak at different times last season, missing some events and racing in others. Magdalena Neuner (below) is the glamour girl and star of the sport - super-quick on her skis, but can be prone to bad days shooting.


My advice is watch and learn. The coverage is live on Eurosport, the commentators are quiet knowledgeable and at the right level to explain it to newbies. You'll soon get an idea for who are the leading biathletes and what factors affect them in a race. The betting markets in-running on Betfair are highly volatile - miss a couple of shots and a 1.15 shot can suddenly drift out to 100, it's a brilliant sport for trading. And if you're keen to give it a go, follow me on Twitter (@borisranting) - I'll be tweeting throughout any event I'm trading live and will be happy to share knowledge of this fine sport.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Dire straits

That sums up the Australian cricket team this series - it is simply a mediocre side and no matter who they bring in, it is highly unlikely to change it. Is Twenty20 cricket to blame? Have other sports stolen cricket's thunder by snapping up the promising young players, who are often gifted at more than one sport? Is it a backlash against an overly cocky Australian team since Ponting took the helm? Or is it simply a regression to the mean after a superstar-studded golden era, now we have to return to a more 'normal' set of cricketers, with no match-winners amongst them?

Things don't look good for either side to be honest. 11 wickets each over five full days on a pitch which usually has plenty of life in it doesn't augur well for the bowlers of either nation. Let's hope there's some life in the remaining pitches of the series because we all slag off the lifeless pitches on the subcontinent which lead to huge scores. The crowd on the final day showed what they thought of that. Over 1350 runs scored, 22 wickets in total, almost two double-centuries (235 and 195) and scoring rates only just above three - it won't bring the crowds in and without a few sporting declarations, we could be seeing a few draws - usually unthinkable on Aussie soil without severe weather interruptions.

England took the points in this Test, I doubt there's a need to change to their XI. Australians will be up in arms declaring that half the team need to be replaced but would it really make any difference?

North failed with the bat but I don't see the point in changing any of the batsmen when it wasn't their fault the team couldn't turn the screws and kill off England from a commanding position. And he held his own as a bowler. His offies will be useful turning away from the left-handed openers throughout the series.

Michael Clarke - is he fit or not? You have to question it after he dropped an absolute sitter in the slips on the final day. Backing up again on Friday might be a problem if he is feeling it, but the selectors haven't called up a backup batsman (yet).

Where do you start with Mitchell Johnson? No runs, no wickets, a dropped catch and never threatened on what was once his home ground. My only concern if he is dropped is that the tail becomes very weak, but sacrificing 20 runs in order to take wickets may be a necessary evil.

Hilfenhaus is a great tandem bowler, tying down one end and putting the batsmen under pressure. With no support at the other end, he becomes a risk. This was only his second Test on home soil, his better results are in the swing-friendly conditions abroad.

Doherty didn't do a lot wrong, but didn't really threaten either. But he ain't Robinson Crusoe there.

Ricky Ponting let out some frustration at the end spanking a 50 off 40-odd balls but his mediocre captaincy shone through again. You can't blame him for everything though, when his bowlers aren't delivering, then there isn't really a great deal you can do. How on earth do you set a field to Johnson? It could go anywhere....

Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris have been added to the squad to give selectors a few choices. Will they improve the squad? Are the selectors just desperately rolling the dice if they making sweeping changes?

England's bowlers aren't that great either, but they are in the position of not having to chase the game. The pressure is on Australia to win at least two Tests to reclaim the Ashes, but where are they going to find 20 wickets from on at least two occasions??

The draw price is currently 2.18 on Betfair, incredibly short for a Test in Australia, even at the Adelaide Oval, but you can't argue it's not a true indication of the series. If anything, a lay of Australia at 3.65 looks tempting.

Friday, 26 November 2010

the analysts start to attack Betfair valuation

There was an article yesterday behind the FT paywall attacking the valuation of Betfair and its growth prospects. This essentially echoed my thoughts in various posts here and discussions with a couple of investment firms. I don't see the price crashing, but I do think that growth prospects are limited in the short-term. Their big upshot will be if one of the biggest nations in the world opens up, such as China, India or the US. Don't hold your breath though, that might take a while.

Betfair reply to analyst’s unfavourable share forecast

After picking up three awards at the eGR Awards on Wednesday night, narrowly missing out on the Operator of the Year award, it’s neigh-on definite that attending on behalf Betfair will have left you quite the hangover to deal with. This will have been made significantly worse by a news item published on FT.com yesterday morning – something that isn’t curable by a Bloody Mary.

After the founders floated it last month, Betfair’s stock was put on the market for £13-a-share and the company valued at around £1.3bn. It hasn’t impressed certain market professionals, which led Investec analyst Paul Leyland to comment: “Betfair is approaching maturity in the UK, faces significant regulatory threats elsewhere, and will gain little traction in financials.

“Betfair needs a liberal tax and regulatory approach to online gambling in order to operate, let alone to thrive. We see this as increasingly unlikely in any major market.”


Betfair, of course, refuted the argument but he makes perfect sense in my opinion....

Thursday, 25 November 2010

the wash-up from day 1 at the Gabba

England all out 260, Australia 0/25 in reply.

The obvious highlight of the day was Peter Siddle's glorious hat-trick. I'd had a bit of a snooze on the couch for a couple of hours, only to be woken by the first wicket, then woke up properly when Prior was skittled and then was jumping around the lounge room when Broad was out first ball. Great performance from the birthday boy, whose selection was questioned by many (not me though, he's a Victorian, thus he is champ!)

Despite England being knocked over on day one, the pitch didn't seem to have any demons in it. The Australian bowlers as a whole performed well, with the exception of left-arm tripe bowler Mitchell Johnson. Expensive and didn't see him threaten at all. The others were discplined, bowling the right line and the right length for the majority of the day. If you put it in the right place often enough against batsmen who aren't the world's best, they'll get themselves out soon enough. Credit to Alistair Cook - he looked awful for most of his innings but still ground out a tidy 67. Unfortunate for me as he was the only batsmen I sold runs on (37) all night. The one negative of Siddle getting so many wickets was Hilfenhaus was denied his ahare - backed him in a bowling H2H against Anderson.

We all know the Aussie batting line-up isn't as invincible as it was a decade ago, so it's highly possible the home side could fall to a similar total. A bit of cloud to assist movement in the air, a firmer pitch to give more bounce for Swann and you never know what might happen. Australia's big weakness in recent years has been the inability to turn the screw when taking the ascendancy. Siddle isn't a world-beater so if the England bowlers can learn from his tactics, they are right in this. A good night's rest and re-evaluation in the England camp and we could have an exciting first session.

1.44 on Australia at this stage is pretty short, there's plenty more life in this match yet. Two ways to play it as a punter - lay Australia expecting them to drift a bit with wickets, or back the draw expecting Australia to score runs and occupy the crease. The draw will shorten, forcing England's price right out, and then you can lay it back for a small profit.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

as the dust starts to settle

The panic and hyperbole after the Federal Court overturned the NSW racefields legislation case in favour of Racing NSW has been ridiculous. Trainers threatening to move states (from the richest state of racing in Australia to one which has been a basket case for many years, but might just get its hands on a huge wad of cash to piss up against a wall), owners' associations calling for the heads of Racing Victoria for carrying out sound business practice called negotiation rather than wasting years and millions of dollars in court and various Tabcorp press releases handed to their mouthpiece newspapers, particularly the Daily Telegraph, spouting all sorts of crap regarding product fees applying to other sports. Tabcorp, the bed partner of Racing NSW, which somehow manages to cop an exemption from paying the local racefields fees (due to the fees it pays to the government and racing industry under the terms of the privatisation), outrageously also gets exemptions from paying a product fee on any racing outside NSW - unlike any other wagering firm in the country - tote, corporate bookmaker or betting exchange.

Andrew Twaits blogged about it on his site, but of course people will (rightly or wrongly) accuse him of being biased and selective with his facts.

Racing Queensland posted a press release last week to refute all the outlandish claims about how a turnover tax for NSW will put them way ahead of other states.

Racing Victoria collected $45m in race fields fee over the last 12 months, equivalent to a turnover tax of 1.44% by their calculations, rising to 1.82% for the peak period of October.


“It should be noted that turnover on Victorian thoroughbred racing has increased substantially since the introduction of corporate bookmakers,” Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines, said.

“Having these lower margin operators in the market has stimulated wagering and improved returns to the industry by attracting price sensitive customers to racing.

“In the absence of these customers it is likely that total turnover would have been lower with a consequential reduction in revenues to Victorian racing.”


Tabcorp, Racing NSW and bodies such as TROA run by dinosaurs who cannot see past the TAB propaganda, are hell-bent on the turnover model simply because they are incapable of seeing there are other options out there that might actually be better for the industry. They're not trying to increase the overall wagering pie, just snuff out the competition to the almighty TAB, which in any way, shape or form, is an anti-competitive business practice.

Friday, 19 November 2010

football match-fixing

BBC 5 Live are running a programme on Sunday evening devoted to match-fixing in football. Not a lot of new ground by the sound of this article, but to those who don't follow it closely, it will be an eye-opener.

Football Match fixing - how betting gives the game away

Some 300 football games a season are fixed in Europe's top leagues, according to experts. The BBC's Tim Mansel gains exclusive access to Sportradar, which tracks betting on football matches all over the world, looking for evidence of suspicious behaviour.

The former German football manager Sepp Herberger once famously said that people go to football matches because they do not know who will win. I have just watched a match in the almost certain knowledge not only of who would win, but with a fairly shrewd idea of what the score would be.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Russia gets off lightly coming into biathlon season

It's damn cold outside, so the best thing about that weather is that biathlon season must be starting soon! If you haven't read my blog in previous European winters, you'll have missed how excited I get about betting on this sport, particularly trading in-running on Betfair. It is a brilliant sport once you understand how the format works.

Anyway, Russia had five competitors caught for doping last season, including three top 10 biathletes, and the International Biathlon Union (which can't be too harsh against them as Russia is the biggest nation in the sport) has handed out a rather lame $68,000 fine to the national body. Hardly a massive penalty given how endemic in the system it had become, and their past history...

Biathlon union fines Russia $68,000 for doping

BERLIN (AP)—The International Biathlon Union has fined Russia $68,000 for a series of doping violations.

The IBU sanctioned the Russian national federation Monday after five of its athletes were caught doping over the past year.

The IBU can fine national bodies if more than one athlete breaks doping rules in a 12-month period.

Yekaterina Iourieva, Albina Akhatova, Dimitri Yaroshenko, Andrei Prokunin and Veronika Timofeyeva all received doping suspensions.

The IBU says the Russian federation “has imposed all necessary disciplinary consequences” and taken other steps to prevent doping by its athletes in the future.


The first World Cup race weekend will be live on Eurosport in the first week of December. With no Winter Olympics this season, working out which competitors are primed early and which ones are aiming to peak later in the season shouldn't be an issue.

out come the spin doctors for Tabcorp

Australia's biggest betting company, the once government-owned and still heavily protected by said powers, Tabcorp, are pushing out the tripe to rub Betfair and corporate bookmaker's noses in it after the Racing NSW v Betfair court ruling yesterday. How about this piece of tripe from Sydney's biggest daily paper, masquerading as Tabcorp's weekly newsletter, the Daily Telegraph.

Racing bet case bonanza for NRL

The NRL could receive a $17 million a year windfall - or $1 million-plus per club -following a landmark court ruling on Wednesday in favour of Racing NSW.

Racing NSW had their right upheld in the Federal Court to charge all betting agencies and corporate bookmakers 1.5 per cent of their turnover as the price for allowing them to bet on their product.

The decision has given the NSW racing industry an instant $120 million payday from money already collected but so far held in a trust account. It will also earn the body $50 million a year in future revenues.

But the decision will have ripple effects well beyond racing. It creates a precedent that will almost certainly bring a multi-million dollar windfall to the country's major sporting codes - including rugby league, AFL and cricket. These may now all look to put their own 1.5 per cent turnover levies on the betting agencies.

It sounds perfectly logical to people who have no idea about the economics of betting but the reality is horse racing and rugby league as betting events are poles apart.

Horse racing, particularly through the TABs, which this ruling heavily favours, operates on higher margins due to the number of competitors in each market. TABs take an automatic 16% (actually it varies between 14 and 25% depending on market type, but 16% is the average) of turnover from each market, with an average of about 10 runners, sometimes as many as 24 - but that % takeout never changes.

Betting on other sports revolves almost exclusively on head-to-head options, that is, Team A v Team B for the win, or on the handicap. All the exotic markets such as First Try/Goalscorer, HT/FT take very little in comparison. H2H markets are set to about 106% with no guarantee of winning - i.e. there are no pool bets with margin scraped off the top like racing at the TAB. Impose an exorbitant margin of 1.5% of turnover onto that market and that will wipe out 50% of bookies' profits for the year. Bookies won't absorb all of that, so inevitably it means punters will have to cop bad prices - instead of 1.9/1.9 for a close game, it may be as bad as 1.8/1.8, giving punters no chance of winning over the course of a year. It'd be like trying to play roulette with three zeroes on the wheel.

Don't forget that there are still legal avenues open to Betfair to take this further, and it is almost certain they will, although overturning the verdict without a fresh approach seems a longshot.

Two other points:

1. Bookmakers around the world now bet on NRL, AFL and various other Aus events. They won't be forced to pay anything, so punters seeking value will head offshore.

2. Racing is the only sport geared entirely around betting. Without funding from betting, it would collapse. Other sports survive without it. There is no compulsion for bookmakers in Australia to sign up to any agreement where they pay a share back to the sport. Several betting firms have signed deals with the AFL, NRL, FFA, PGA Tour Australasia etc, but purely so they can invest in sponsorship of that sport to gain customers. Chase a higher payment of levy, and that marketing budget will shrink faster than Kevin Rudd's approval rating.


Sports betting is now big business in Australia. Start imposing disproportional fees on it and there could be plenty of jobs lost. Betting must be about the third biggest industry in the Northern Territory after tourism and mining, not much else goes on there....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Racing NSW wins racefields legislation case appeal

Must admit this one caught me by surprise. Initially Betfair had won the case alleging Racing NSW had discriminated against them and in favour of their bed partners Tabcorp in charging a 1.5% turnover fee for the use and publication of NSW race fields. Racing NSW appealed the verdict and were today awarded an unanimous verdict in their favour, despite clear evidence that Racing NSW do everything possible in their power to support Tabcorp.


Racing NSW wins Federal Court decision


The financial future of racing in NSW is secure following a decisive legal victory for Racing NSW over corporate betting agencies in the Federal Court today.

Racing NSW executives were elated when three Federal Court handed down a unanimous ruling upholding the right of the NSW racing authority to impose a 1.5 per cent tax on turnover from all wagering operators covering NSW racing.



Naturally Peter V'Landys is claiming victory and that his judgment as supreme ruler of NSW racing should never have been questioned..... Time will tell. Betfair have one port of call left in the judicial system, plus one with the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) before this case is over. If Betfair fail to have this ruling overturned, then other state racing authorities will no doubt swiftly change their legislation to fall into line with the greater rewards of this controversial policy.

On the flipside though, long-term I doubt this actually benefits the industry. If higher fees are imposed on corporate bookmakers and Betfair, that simply forces more punters away from racing and onto sports betting. The majority of corporate bookmaker turnover these days goes through their best tote options, and is then bet back into the various TAB pools - which the TABs incentivise by giving VIP customers (including corporate bookies) chunky rebates. Imposing extra fees will only reduce product range and thus reduce the flow-on turnover back to the totes. There are various reasons why these customers of corporate bookies avoid using the totes directly, and to blindly believe that all money bet on tote products away from the TABs will move back to the TAB pools is incredibly naive.

Racing NSW will land a huge lump sum of cash if the ruling holds up - but they'd better invest it wisely rather than putting all their money on that golden goose continuing forever. British racing is a prime example of a body that should have banked a grand sum in a golden year, now they are almost begging for funding....

Monday, 15 November 2010

pulling no punches - a dissection of the Australian cricket squad

Naming a 17-man squad ten days out from the First Test sounds like a bone-headed decision to me, but the selectors had no control over it apparently - they were told to do it by Cricket Australia who wanted to have the team finalised this week in order to fulfill all their bloody sponsorship and marketing commitments. Reeks of cockiness at a time Australia doesn't deserve it, when their official Test ranking has dropped to fifth - not that anyone particularly cares about that rating but it is obvious Australia no longer rule the roost.

THE INCUMBENTS

Ricky Ponting - still a world-class batsman but the rust is starting to creep in. Have not been convinced by his captaincy for several years now but the lack of a better alternative keeps him in the job. Also, Aussie selectors tend to retire Australian captains rather than let them play under another leader, although that policy hasn't been required for many years now. Should never have kept the job after losing the Ashes twice.

Shane Watson - I've finally been converted from a Watto-hater into a fan. Australia's most consistent batsman since being turned into an opener and provides a reliable fifth-bowler option as well. Our most valuable player and I backed him a few weeks ago at 12/1 to score the first century (either team) of the series. Averages just over 50 in Australia but strangely, only 10 when batting first and sent in (stats only since he began opening).

Michael Clarke - when he sticks to thinking just about his batting, he is very, very good. Unfortunately, there's too much space in his limited grey matter being taken up by admiring his tatts, his hair, his latest bimbo WAG (although his latest is an old friend apparently and may bring him back down to earth) and his captaincy ambitions. A back injury will keep him out of this week's Shield match as a precaution. Not the answer as Ponting's replacement as captain.

Simon Katich - solid and honest as an opener, has formed a strong partnership with Watson. Averages 52.42 in the last three years.

Michael Hussey - averages just 37 for season 2008-10. Scored seven 100s in his first three seasons of Test cricket (05-07, 29 Tests), just four since (35 Tests). His once elite average has now dropped below 50. Has been under pressure for a while and always manages to pull out an innings that saves him for another six months. At 35, there's not long for him left and there are players barking at the door.

Marcus North - 19 Tests, 1122 runs, average of 37.40 with five centuries. That's a lot of failures punctuated by the odd good innings. His part-time spinners can only get him so far, they'd be of more use if Hauritz was dropped. Severely under pressure, his ability to score runs when it doesn't really matter in Shield games shouldn't be saving his arse.

Brad Haddin - done little wrong apart from get injured occasionally and let him Tim Paine fill his place admirably. Would have to stuff up pretty badly for Paine to get in, no matter what he does.

Mitchell Johnson - possibly the most over-rated Test cricketer on the planet. Brilliant figures on home soil but terrible when he crosses the equator. Stop worrying about your bloody ugly tatts and whether your bimbo WAG and mother get along, and concentrate on your bloody bowling. Bowls way too many pies for a gun bowler, I fear the cricketing world have worked him out after a successful streak early in his career. Prove me wrong Mitch, prove me wrong....

Nathan Hauritz - scares no-one, Australia simply does not breed quality off-spinners. It doesn't say much for our bowling stocks if we can't usurp him either with a quality fourth quick or just a finger spinner who can worry batsmen, at least a tiny bit. The sort of bowler I would love a crack at playing for Worcester Park CC 3rd XI....

Ben Hilfenhaus - taking his time to get back to peak form after a knee injury but brings accuracy and variety into the attack, complementing the other bowlers. Has only played one of his 11 Test matches at home. Will love a bit of moisture in the air in Brisbane.

Doug Bollinger - I put him in the XI simply because Siddle has been injured a lot this year. I don't see the need for two left-arm pacemen in the side out of three speedsters. Handy, moves it around a bit, but not a world-beater.

AND THE OTHERS

Peter Siddle - should be in the XI ahead of Bollinger although his form in the recent ODIs against Sri Lanka wasn't sparkling. Handy workhorse but never going to be more than the third option.

Ryan Harris - looked good at the end of last season filling in for other inured bowlers. Now he's the one with the dodgy knees. More of a one-day player at this stage.

Steven Smith - young leg-spinner trying to do too much with his batting for my liking. Let's concentrate on frustrating batsmen into playing silly shots and getting out rather than throwing in a four-ball each over and releasing the pressure. Signs are good but he's never going to be another Warney.

Usman Khawaja - haven't seen him and to be honest, hadn't heard of him until he was called up for the England tour earlier this year. Huge wraps on him, although he does play for NSW and that goes with the territory. We need some fresh blood in the top half of the order, whether it be him or...

Callum Ferguson - no relation to me unfortunately but this guy can really play. Might have squeezed into the team already if he hadn't missed a year with a knee reconstruction. Brilliant fieldsman, solid with the bat, and needs to turn his limited-overs form into quality innings in the longer format of the game.

Xavier Doherty - given no hope until he got a run in a one-dayer against Sri Lanka recently and took some quality wickets. A left-arm orthodox bowler with modest averages (mind you, the competition isn't great either), his biggest asset is he is the type of bowler that KP has struggled against most. Best chance to play will be in Sydney where they'll probably take two spinners.


On form alone, England deserve to be favourites but their recent record in Australia is poor. However, you can argue there has been a paradigm change between the two sides. Australia does not have its match winners anymore, and even it's best batsmen are past their best. England's best asset is Swann, the rest of their attack is no better than what the locals have to offer, and home advantage will mean plenty.

STATS THAT MATTER

The last live Test England won in Australia was Adelaide, January 1995. Wins in Melbourne 1998, and Sydney 2003 were after the series was already decided.

The last drawn test was at the Gabba in November 1998. That's 14 Tests on Aussie soil since a draw. There has been a lot of rain all around Australia recently, which can be due to long-term seasonal systems which turn up once a decade. With plenty of daylight after the scheduled time for stumps (except Brisbane which is in a state without daylight savings), most rain delays will be able to be made up.

Since McGrath and Warne retired after the 2006/7 Ashes series, Australia's Test record against top opposition (England, India and South Africa) is 21 played, six matches won, 10 lost, five drawn.


2005 was the year that Australian cricket dominance began its decline. Players arriving at the end of their careers, poor depth behind them due to limited opportunities and an England side hellbent on regaining the Ashes. This might just be the southern summer where Aussie dominance on home soil disappears as well.

Prove me wrong boys, prove me wrong!

Sportingbet and Unibet to merge?

Reports in the Sunday Times suggest the two firms are set for discussions regarding a merger, no doubt to keep in touch with the giant Party Gaming/bwin merger. On the face of it, it makes sense - both are huge organisations with healthy diversity, but their peak regions don't overlap - Unibet are strongest in Scandinavia, Sportingbet are strong in southern Europe and Australia.


Sportingbet set for merger talks


Sportingbet, the online gambling operator, is examining a merger with Swedish rival Unibet that would create a £600 million group, a newspaper claims.

The companies are understood to have held preliminary discussions about combining the businesses, with further talks expected in coming weeks, according to The Sunday Times.


There'd be one benefit of this for punters - most people can actually get a decent bet on at Sportingbet, few punters have that 'privilege' at Unibet.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Poland threatens to prosecute online gamblers

As the world moves forward with global trading, technology which can put you in touch with people on the other side of the world in real time and open borders across Europe, Poland wants to step back into the dark ages and prosecute online gamblers for betting offshore. Not even America tries that ridiculous tactic....

Poland threatens to prosecute online gamblers

An act passed in October 2009 banned online gambling and related advertising, but the ban has clearly not been effective. In early 2010 the government even proposed an internet filter system to take control of internet gambling by blocking foreign-hosted gambling sites, but after petitions were sent to President Lech KaczyƄski criticizing the plan, the idea was eventually abandoned.

....

The new laws, according to the Warsaw Business Journal, would allow individual gamblers to be prosecuted for using foreign-hosted gambling sites. It would also severely restrict the rules surrounding advertising, bringing foreign gambling adverts under the control of Polish law. Whether or not such radical gambling laws would be approved by the European Court of Justice remains to be seen.


Madness.

Pakistani cricket - still in denial like deluded alcoholics?

The state of cricket in Pakistan is still a complete mess. On one side you have Mohammed Asif cancelling his appeal against his spot-fixing suspension, virtually an admission of guilt. On the other, Salman Butt and Mohammed Aamer (Amir) are still protesting their innocence in the matter, although Aamer has been reported as saying he was influenced by peer pressure.

Add to that the debacle of cricket administration in the country - trying to cover their own arses by throwing out random and baseless accusations about other countries fixing matches whilst remaining in complete denial about the state of the cancer in their own system. Yesterday's flee to safety of Zulqarnain Haider from the touring party in Dubai after allegedly receiving death threats because he defied orders to throw matches simply shows it is just more of the same. Access to players obviously isn't being blocked, and there must be others still in the squad who continue to insult their country and the world of cricket by chasing a quick buck rather than play to the best of their collective ability for the glory of their nation.

The first stage of overcoming an addiction such as alcoholism or problem gambling is first admitting there is problem. Very few people in the Pakistan cricket system are prepared to admit that, and those who do seem to be kicked out. Denial will just ensure it continues until the rest of the cricketing world want no part in playing against the once-proud cricketing nation of Pakistan.

Ban them, ban them now and for a long, long time. No other message will get through.

UPDATE ---

And it gets worse. Read this story about a Pakistan domestic match, featuring Haider again and Salman Butt. Blind Freddy could spot a fix with that scoreline, yet the PCB couldn't???

TestMatchSofa's Legside Lizzy has written an excellent piece on the fate of Zulqarnain Haider. He has major issues to deal with now....

Thursday, 4 November 2010

industry news round-up Nov 4

Change this week at Ladbrokes with a major internal reshuffle (a cynic might say of the deckchairs on the Titanic). Relatively new chief exec Richard Glynn has brought in several fresh faces and moved a few old names on. Definitely out with the old, in with the new.

Asian bookie 12Bet who have major sponsorships with Sevilla in La Liga and snooker tournaments, will be acquired by Asian online casino and poker firm, AsianLogic, in a move thought to complement their existing range of products.

Betfair's share price has taken a predictable tumble, dropping from the peak of around £15.50 during conditional trading to the current £13.95 as smaller shareholders wish to cash in their chips. No reason to think the price will fall much further, it was always going to surge briefly as the public got excited about it.

Tabcorp held a record $107m on Tuesday's Melbourne Cup, buoyed by the form of superstar stallion So You Think, who started as the shortest favourite in decades. He will now be half-sold to Coolmore Stud and race in Europe next season. Look out!

Controversial jockey Danny Nikolic seems to be on the end of a witch hunt from RVL chief steward Terry Bailey. While Nikolic has had his problems in the past, most recently the subject of a long inquiry into some of his mounts being heavily laid on Betfair and running unplaced, Bailey is doing his reputation no good by this campaign of harassment which shows he cannot act without bias.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

money-buyers getting nervous as Australia's cricket supremacy is long gone


Aussies were cruising after having Sri Lanka at 8/107 chasing 240 to win.Taylor and Malinga have been tonking the average Aussie attack all around the MCG, now they only need 25 runs off nine overs. All comes down to wickets now and captain Michael Clarke doesn't have anything up his sleeve....

Monday, 1 November 2010

the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation

It doesn't get any better than a horse race that has a public holiday for it. The Melbourne Cup will be run tomorrow (3pm local time, 4am GMT). This may be the strongest Cup ever, it's certainly the best in my era with Group 1 winners galore, but it also has a few that should have been excluded on recent form.

So You Think is an absolute superstar. It showed on Saturday it can settle, go to sleep and then switch back on when necessary. That's what Saintly did to win in 1996, and only a rough trip in running is likely to beat him. From gate three, he might just squeezed and shuffled back a bit. Even still, very hard to beat him, no major concern about the distance despite not having run further than 2040m, High Chaparral's are flying in Aus at the moment and it would be fitting for the 150th Melbourne Cup to go to the master, Bart Cummings.

As for the others:

Shocking - won last year, goes up in weight, but loves Flemington. Was drawn v.wide last year so not bothered by that.

Campanologist - Godolphin horse which will keep on running, but doubt he can win. German and Italian form is not up to this.

Zipping - jolly old fellow, a 9yo running as well as ever, but can't see him better his previous record of two fourths.

Illustrious Blue - don't rate him, this isn't Goodwood. Does have G.Boss aboard though.

Mr Medici - Hong Kong horse who ran well in the Caulfield Cup despite the swamplike conditions. Not a million to one.

Shoot Out - early spring form in the sprints, now looking more like a stayer. AJC Derby winner in the autumn, ran home nicely on Saturday in the Mackinnon. I'm on him at 33/1 but struggle to see him beating the fav.

Americain - impressive in the Geelong Cup when didn't have much room until late but ran on well to win. Mosse to ride, will like the give in the ground. Best of the foreigners.

Tokai Trick - 9yo Japanese horse, super-tough stayer, but surely a 9yo can't win the strongest Cup in memory? Will keep on going though, chance for the exotics.

Buccellati - travesty that this horse is in the field ahead of others with better form this year. No hope.

Descarado - won the Caulfield Cup in extreme conditions. Drawn 1, must push forward or will get locked away. Top run on Saturday as well.


Harris Tweed - 2nd in the Caulfield Cup, fifth in this race last year, chances improved on very wet track, but dour enough to get into the placings on firmer ground too.

Manighar - Cumani import, ran fifth at Caulfield, will appreciate firmer ground. Drawn wide but decent chance.

Master O'Reilly - fourth in 08 and09 but has done nothing this year. Lucky to be in the field.

Monaco Consul - third at Caulfield, another High Chaparral, will keep on running. Last year's VRC Derby winner.

Profound Beauty - the hyped Dermot Weld horse. She ran fifth in 2008 but the field that year was decimated by equine influenza and the travel restrictions in Australia. She's now 7, has been beating small fields in Ireland, and now she's drawn gate 22 of 24. Can't see her in the money.

Zavite - 19th of 22 last year, unlikely to do much better.

Bauer - 2nd in 2008 (see Profound Beauty), hardly raced since. Cumani runner, could surprise but will be leaving him out of my exotcs.

Holberg - the more highly-rated Godolphin runner. Will go forward, Frankie is desperate to win this race after so many placings over the years, on horses from this stable which weren't given much hope. 3200m no problem for him having won over that distance at Royal Ascot as a 3yo.

Precedence - flying this spring but ran dead last in the Sydney Cup in the autumn. Received a controversial penalty to get into the field at the expense of a few others, don't think he deserved it - you can't justify him being within 2.5kg of SYT.

Red Ruler - how on earth is this horse in the field? A million to one.

Linton - up and coming stayer who gives the impression he'll be better next year. Owned by Lloyd Williams who has won this race on more than one occasion.

Once Were Wild - AJC Oaks winner, better run on Saturday but more to find to trouble these.

Maluckyday - got into the field by winning very impressively on Saturday. That's the same formline and weight as Shocking won with last year. Must be a chance, Saturday's jockey (who can't make the weight) described him as the best stayer he'd ridden since Kiwi, the Cup winner of 1983.....

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Two schools of thought here - either the favourite wins easily so concentrate on finding value in the placings to land the trifecta and First 4, or the fav is a risk and anything could win.

Will be going wide in the SYT banker trifectas, including runners at juicy odds such as Campanologist, Linton, Mr Medici, Monaco Consul.

Set your clocks, I'll be staying up all night.... Can't wait!