Sunday, 30 January 2011

Perth racing faces a critical decision

When a state capital of over 1m people has two racecourses close to the city, the inevitable pressure to sell one of them will occur as the popularity of horse racing continues to diminish relative to alternative entertainment options. Racing in Western Australia has been strong in recent years, with metropolitan prizemoney embarrassing South Australia and making it a viable option for owners and trainers. But that has come at a cost - Perth Racing has robbed Peter to pay Paul and now they are struggling to cope with interest payments of $1m per year.

Premier puts Perth Racing under the pump

WA Premier Colin Barnett is mounting pressure on cash-strapped Perth Racing to sell Belmont Park racecourse to make way for the development of a 100,000 seat football stadium.

With Perth Racing to announce major prizemoney cuts this week, the WA industry is supporting Barnett's call to dump the ageing Belmont as a winter racing venue.



Traditionally Ascot is the A-grade track in Perth, while Belmont is the venue during winter, which allows Ascot to recover for its feature events late in the year. In recent years, Adelaide have moved from three racecourses to one (sold off Cheltenham, gave Victoria Park back to the parklands, built an extra track at Morphettville and invested in a bigger provincial circuit at Murray Bridge) and Brisbane has merged its two metropolitan raceclubs in the hope of eventually selling one of the racecourses off and creating a supervenue with the cash.

The state government wants to build a huge stadium for AFL close to the city - whether they need to build it for attendances of 100k though is debatable in a state of this size. If the government gets its way, what will happen to the WACA (a great AFL stadium surely becomes a great cricket stadium) and Gloucester Park harness track? Prime land on the edge of the CBD, not much more they can do to develop it....

WA racing could handle one city track - they have strong provincial clubs including Bunbury and Pinjarra, wet tracks in the west are far less frequent than in the east so wear and tear on the racing surface isn't a big deal. Turning Ascot into a super-venue with better facilities, perhaps an extra turf track to race on and racing for better prizemoney is likely to be a winner.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Betfair shares battling to fight back

Early in the week Betfair shares cracked the £10 mark again for the first time in a while, things were starting to look up, particularly on the back of some hard work promoting the company to its float partners last week. But that price took a real pounding yesterday, dropping back to 917p overnight, with a 15p recovery so far this morning. What triggered it? Did the market panic over another cold spell which may cause racing cancellations? Did some 'expert' analyst put out a sell call or did the market not like Betfair's association with sacked Sky pundit Andy Gray?

Who knows - I've given up trying to predict what the stock market will do on a day-to-day basis...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The betting shops in city centres debate

Interesting discussion in today's Racing Post about 'plagues' of betting shops in city centres. Councils and residents are getting sick of them, the big bookies love them and can't get enough retail shops.

Why I hear you ask? Racing's share of the gambling pound is ever decreasing, more and more punters are betting online and you rarely see anyone in the betting shops that already exist... except standing around the FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) or glorified slot machines. And that's what brings in the profits for the bookies. Racing, football and any other sport they show in the shops are mere sideshow value to the evil machines.

Every licensed betting shop in the UK can have four FOBTs (little wonder Irish betting shops are struggling in comparison without them), which have much higher prize limits than pub fruit machines. Sources at the biggest High St firms have told me that they consistently make up to £1m per DAY across their network of outlets from these things. No wonder they want to own as many as they can. Local govt regulations were changed in 2005, previously there had to be cause shown for an additional betting shop to be opened. Now it's just open slather.

What city centre really wants to have its streets full of betting shops, pound shops and junk food outlets? Congratulations to Newmarket City Council for rejecting betting shop no.12 in their city centre, but it should never have been allowed to get that far.

An ideal system might be X per 1000 people within a council, with licences then sold off to the highest bidders and some retained for local independents. Do we really need to see three Ladbrokes/Will Hill/Paddy Power/BetFred shops within a one-mile radius? Not even the plague of Starbucks has gotten that bad...

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Monday, 24 January 2011

nice work if you can get it

Sportsbet, the original sports bookmaker in Australia, was set up in the 1980s by a roguish chap called Bryan Clark. He eventually sold it around 2001 to a firm with suspicious overseas betting links, and pressrue from regulators and bank managers forced them to sell. Enter Matthew Tripp with a $250k cheque in 2005. Six years later and he's rolling in it.

Tripp's big punt on Sportsbet pays off

WHEN Matthew Tripp paid $250,000 for Darwin-based bookmaker Sportsbet in 2005, it was on the edge of bankruptcy and had just eight staff.

Just six years later, Tripp is close to finalising a sale to Irish bookmaker Paddy Power in a deal that values the company at $338 million and will net him about $50m.

"We had one IT guy and a couple of phone operators and that was Sportsbet," Tripp says of the business he took over.

Since then, the company has grown to employ more than 250 staff, some 40 of whom are based in the Northern Territory, where bets must be struck under the terms of the company's gaming licence.


A lot of effort invested in transforming the business, with a very lucrative reward at the end of the rainbow.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Indian cricket punters arrested

Small fry punters and bookmakers caught up in this one by the looks of it.

6 held for betting during India-SA ODI

Six persons were arrested in New Delhi for allegedly indulging in betting during the One Day International between India and South Africa on Friday. The gang was using website www.betfair.com for obtaining the latest fluctuating rates for the stake and betting on the cricket match, Chhaya Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Outer), said.

Stake money worth Rs 72,000 was recovered from the house in Rohini Sector 16 in Outer Delhi.



Gotta love how Indian journalism traditions forces them to list the entire website address rather than just referring to them as Betfair. Surely not publishing the URL would be a better idea if it was banned there?

Meanwhile, huge amounts were being traded on South Africa at 1.01 today before Yusuf Pathan scared the willies out of the money-buyers with 105 runs off 74 balls.


Luckily for them, Pathan got out and the queue to jump off the bridge disappeared....

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tennis match-fixing to be investigated

Settle down, it's nothing from Melbourne but the bent-as-a-three-bob-note ATP match from St Petersburg in October between Filippo Volandri and Teymuraz Gabashvili. The Evening Standard reports that the Tennis Integrity Unit is investigating the circumstances around this match.

I posted twice on this match originally, here and then a day later here.

Volandri will almost certainly retire this year anyway, so I suspect any penalty will be meaningless anyway.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Australian Open previews

I've been writing betting previews of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments for over a decade now, the latest instalment can be found at PuntingAce, men's and women's articles on the same page.

My fee from the articles has been donated to the Qld Floods Appeal.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

the horror of the Queensland floods

For 24/7 coverage, visit ABCNews24

Please donate to the Official Qld Govt Floods appeal, and/or support any fundraising events being arranged around the world.


I must admit I underestimated the earlier stage of the Queensland floods, with the misguided logic that few people lived in most of the places affected. Now the rain belts have moved south and it's disastrous. The sheer volume of water set to flow down the Brisbane River is impossible to grasp - twice the size of Sydney harbour, down a river which is quite narrow in places.

Photos can't do justice to the Qld floods, look at the speed of the water & where the cars finished



And this is what is looked like before the rain

The Drift restaurant lives up to its name. Later news footage showed the platform still floating, but virtually destroyed.



Toowoomba and Ipswich have seen the worst of it, but Brisbane has a few hours left before the river is expected to peak. Thankfully my friends and family there live on higher ground, but this is the low end of my brother's street...


The full extent of the damage won't be known for several days. So many people are missing, it won't be until the waters subside that bodies can be found. The chief steward of the Toowoomba Race Club is reported to be one of those missing.

Heartbreaking stuff.

Humour is not lost on Queenslanders at the time they need it most. This is the bronze statue of rugby league legend Wally Lewis, outside Suncorp Stadium, which is about 2m deep inside the stadium.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

today's No Shit Sherlock award goes to...

...Wikileaks for telling us something blatantly obvious...

Bulgarian football's 'mafia links' exposed in cables

Some of Bulgaria's most popular football clubs have ties with mafia bosses, who use them to launder money, according to a US diplomatic document revealed by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

"Bulgarian soccer clubs are widely believed to be directly or indirectly controlled by organised crime figures who use their teams as a way to legitimise themselves, launder money, or make a fast buck," a January 2010 cable from the US embassy in Sofia to Washington noted.


Anyone who follows football betting outside of the major leagues could have told you that, no need to lock a bloke up on trumped-up rape charges over it!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Courtsiders not welcome in Chennai

Courtesy of Tennisform

A betting racket has rocked the ongoing Chennai Open tennis tournament in the city reports the Deccan Chronicle. The event organisers unearthed the scam after an interrogation of four foreign nationals — two Germans, an Italian and a Russian, who were caught betting live from the stadium through their gadgets. All of them belong to the international betting syndicate and have come all the way to Chennai only for online gambling. Fernando Soler, the tournament director, confirmed the betting incident. “They were caught but let off with a warning,” he said. However, a Tamil Nadu Tennis Association official added that the city police officials visited their hotels and interrogated them. “The ATP has taken photos of the accused and noted down their passport details, which will be circulated to tournaments across the world to curb the betting,” informed the senior official. With a time difference of 15 seconds between the live match and online scoring system, tennis provides a big opportunity for betting from the venue. The TNTA official blamed the ushers for the betting incident. “Two of the four accused were sitting in a restricted area reserved for VIPs. Since not much crowd was there, the ushers allowed them entry,” the source added. On Friday the security was beefed up at the stadium and the spectators had to go through frisking before they were let in.


Once again the ATP look tough by making a big deal about gambling.... but all it actually does is highlight how utterly powerless they are to stop the match- and spot-fixing issues which were becoming an epidemic by the end of last season.

The ATP are happy to dish out huge fines for players having a €5 euro bet, or to kick out punters want to bet from courtside, but what about improving the integrity of the sport instead??

Sunday, 9 January 2011

betting/life maxims

Haven't found much to rant about today, so I thought I'd reprint some very useful betting philosophies I've found on different sites. This batch were originally found on the Slipperytoad blog.

Mistakes are the portals of discovery. James Joyce - Irish author (1882 - 1941)

When everybody thinks alike, everyone is likely to be wrong.

Losers think of selecting the winner and beating a race. Professionals think of betting for value and beating the races.

Never succumb to anyone who just wants to let you know what you are doing will never work.

Don't fall foul of the favourite/longshot bias i.e. Horses with short odds (i.e., favourites) tend to win even more frequently than indicated by the final market odds, while horses with long odds (i.e., longshots) win less So, during tissue compilation, don't underestimate the chances of preferred contenders and overestimate the changes of marginal contenders.

The best handicapping literature in the world are your own records.

The crowd is smart ... so let them do the handicapping and analyse them.

The difference between success and failure is small. Therefore you need to continually work to maintain your edge and continually work to improve your performance.

Successful punters think in terms of chances., not fancies and certainties. They try to assess the true chance of a horse in a race and bet on the basis of their evaluations.

Value is all-important - not winners. The secret is not getting more heads than tails, its winning more when a coin comes up heads than you lose when it's tails.

Common sense dictates that you cannot outsmart the public if you are handicapping with the same information and methods as the public.

The successful punter never allows items of news, "whispers" or thoughts of others override his train of thought when assessing a race's runners for betting purposes.

Following the herd is fine until they all run off the side of a cliff together.

If you want to make money ... big money ... do what nobody else is doing.

To be a winner, one must know or perceive things which the public must not grasp. If there is no special insight then there will be no special odds, no bargains, no overlays; the more that information is used by the public, the less it pays off at the bookies.

To be successful you've got to have had some failures in your career - and learnt from them - otherwise you have probably been too conservative.

Picking winners is easy. Beating the odds is not.

In order to make money betting on sports, you must either have information that is not being used by the betting public, or you must have a superior ability to process the information that is public

"The aim of any entrepreneur is to make more money than you lose" - Theo Paphitis

Knowing the moment to sell is what separates the successful entrepreneur from the also-ran. According to George Soros's son, the hedge fund billionaire sells out when his back starts playing up.

The market is incredibly efficient; don't buck the analysis done by others who determine the market.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

at least have some dignity in defeat

Australia have been completely outplayed in this Ashes series. With the exception of the WACA where one cricket expert on Twitter said 'Aliens invaded Mitchell Johnson's body for a week and then left', it hasn't even been close. England have been everything Australia used to be - relentless, impossible to budge and mentally superior, not forgetting better at little things like batting, bowling and fielding.

Most of the Australian side are now playing for their futures. Several should be marked 'Never to play Test cricket again', however mitigating factors such as lack of depth, spineless selectors and most of them play for NSW will give some of them more chances than they deserve.

Carrying on like spoilt children though when decisions go against you, the ball CLEARLY bounces in front of the catcher or not clapping the batsman when they reach 50 or 100 is just pathetic. It's one thing to hate losing - all top sportspeople hate losing, but sooking, whingeing or cheating when you are clearly getting pasted just isn't the way to earn any respect.

With the lack of ethics on display, you'd think most of them worked for London/New York investment banks....

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

do Irish punters have any rights at all?

Irish racing stewards post a strong case for most useless in the world, allowing races to start while jockeys aren't yet on board, suspending a jockey for overuse of the whip despite the fact he dropped it at the start or an on-course bookmaker doing a runner after a history of struggling to pay up. Now we have another dagger in the back of Irish punters, but this isn't one under their direct control - this is a government issue, a government who set a very high standard for financial mismanagement and cluelessness.

Irish bookmaking chain Celtic Bookmakers have gone into receivership with debts of over €6m, yet are still allowed to trade, taking money off punters as if everything was OK. If a bookmaker shows the slightest sign of insolvency, they should have their licence suspended immediately to protect the industry and the faith of punters.

Yates bookmaking firm in receivership

AIB has appointed a receiver to Celtic Bookmakers Ltd.

A statement from the directors, former minister Ivan Yates and his wife Deirdre, said significant job losses at the betting shops were inevitable.

The receiver, Neil Hughes of Hughes Blake Accountants, will try to sell as many of the shops as possible as a going concern.

Mr Hughes said the company would continue to trade as normal during the receivership and all existing bets would be honoured.

.
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The directors said that due to significant bank debts of around €6m and money owed to landlords for 'top of the market' rents at shops throughout the country, the company was now insolvent.



This may be perfectly normal for a regular business but bookmakers are not regular businesses. They take money from punters in the form of bets which they (may have to) pay out later once the result is confirmed. A struggling hardware chain exchanges cash for goods. A bookmaker gives you a piece of paper and in this case, you have to hope that they will still be in business the next day!

I've said it before, I'll say it again. A bookmaker should not be able to accept bets from the public without A) lodging a sizeable security bond relative to the size of their business, and B) having their financial affairs monitored by a licensing authority to ensure they are still financially liquid.

The bigger firms should be demanding such policies are introduced to serve as a difficult barrier to entry. The tougher it becomes to swing a satchel, the more rigid the industry becomes and the less rogues we have to deal with.

Monday, 3 January 2011

punters shafted again by lame rules and poor stewarding

The UK racing industry insists on running these low standard all-weather meetings to generate turnover to pay the Levy. The Levy fund isn't enough to provide decent prizemoney for these rubbish events. Ireland, slated recently for not having their all-weather track open during the depths of winter, at least maintain a standard - they have minimum prizemoney levels they refuse to break, meaning they won't just run rubbish races for the sake of it with prizemoney of a case of Guinness.

At Lingfield on Thursday, two low-grade handicaps - Class 6 - the lowest of the low in Britain, and described as "..shit, low-grade handicaps" by the trainer in question, were won by horses which were entitled by 20/1 shots at least, with zero recent form on the board. Both horses were backed into favouritism (which to be honest, wouldn't require millions on such poor races) and won comfortably. The humble punter who wasn't in on the information is entitled to throw his hands in the air and give up when formlines like that can be overcome.

The trainer here, Noel Quinlan, has done nothing wrong - he has simply exploited weak points in the current system, like numerous other trainers have done in the past. But he shouldn't be allowed to do so. Punters fund the industry. It is their losses which go to the bookmakers. It is the bookies' profits which pays the levy which funds racing prizemoney. Keep treating punters like idiots and they will find something else to bet on - football, darts, X-Factor, politics... it's a very long list these days.

Punters deserve to be informed. If trainers are running their horses for prizemoney paid for by PUNTERS MONEY, then they should be forced to declare ALL vet treatment. Australian racing has just brought in a nationwide requirement to report any treatment on a horse appearing for a race:

Trainers will soon have to report all relevant procedures administered to a horse. At present, wind operations, bone-chip removals, etc, do not have to be reported, although there is a rule where a trainer has to report to stipes anything that may affect a horse's performance in the week before a race. ''The rule currently is in relation to what's happened in the lead-up to a race,'' Murrihy said. ''Stewards believe it should be mandatory to report things like wind operations and this will be made public.''


Bookmakers concerned Lingfield betting coup will alienate punters

The stewards at Lingfield on Thursday asked no direct questions of the trainers who landed a betting coup in each of the last two races, it emerged yesterday. Noel Quinlan said he spoke only to the stipendiary steward after the easy victories of Bishopbriggs and Tell Halaf, from the Newmarket stable which he shares with his brother, Michael.

Both horses had started at double-figure odds and been well beaten in their six most recent outings but were sent off as favourites at Lingfield after strong late support. Representatives of the major bookmaking firms said that such events could alienate punters from the sport.

"I didn't go into the stewards' at all," Quinlan said, "The stipe took notes off me, took them to the stewards and they've accepted my explanations. I couldn't see why they wouldn't. We're talking about shit, low-grade handicaps."


Bookies aren't particularly whinging about this case, other plunges have cost them far more financially, it's just the industry will slowly die unless something is done about it.

Keep screwing punters sideways and they'll find something else to do. The addicts will switch to the soulless FOBTs and virtual racing, the more sensible might just keep their money in their pockets.....

Betfair in the USA - still a long way off

Over the past few months, there has been some excitement about the prospects of exchange wagering being permitted in the USA, particularly California and New Jersey. The governments of these two states have passed legislation to allow exchange betting on local horse racing, with Betfair heavily involved in the lobbying. All that has happened is the current gambling legislation has been expanded to include a racing-only betting exchange as an option, it's not a given, and it's certainly not a given that Betfair have the rights to it.

There are still some huge obstacles a betting exchange has to overcome before a Betfair-branded exchange is up and running in the USA.

1 - the debate over the ethics of laying horses. That hasn't occurred yet, and there's no reason to believe American racing people will be any less antiquated than the rest of the world when it comes to explaining that you can effectively lay a horse via current wagering systems, it's just more complicated with a fat margin on top. US racing has at least as much dross racing as Australia and the UK, with questionable standards of integrity and stewarding. Trainers found guilty of drug infringements in one state are free to move shop to another state and start all over again. Tracks have been known to have issues with owners/trainers running unfit horses in claiming races so they can ship them off to other owners. Without high standards of integrity particularly re vets and stewards, exchange betting becomes a risk for the industry - a PR disaster waiting to happen.

In Australia, Betfair had to cop such rubbish as senile Senator Bronwyn Bishop accusing them of laundering money for al-Qaeda, the NSW TAB mounting a billboard campaign accusing the company of being parasites on Australian racing, and all sorts of other ridiculous slander. They've got a long way to go to win the PR battle in the States, the negative campaigns haven't even started yet and if there's one nation that loves their baseless smearing political campaigns....

2 - the cut for horsemen and the government. In the UK, it's as simple as set up shop, pay the appropriate rate of tax, and then work something out with the racing industry. In Australia, it took a rogue state (Tasmania) and a big wad of cash up front from Betfair to get it over the line. The vote of racing authorities didn't particularly matter, although the Tasmanian industry was swayed by the big injection of cash. In the US, lobbying for legality is very different. It's state-by-state for starters, only the two states in question (at this stage) will allow it, no cross-border business at all (although a link between the two states may be possible). Currently the horsemen get a big chunk of wagering turnover to pay prizemoney. That's easy enough to do when the totes take 20% out of the pools on each and every race. Are the horsemen really going to agree to a deal which will equate to around 1/10th of what the tote (pari-mutuel) gives them?

According to the California bill, "All exchange wagering licensees must distribute a “specified amount of exchange wagering revenue to the existing jockey health and benefit welfare fund,” according to the Legislation."

So there's another hit. Betfair have already said that paying 1.5% of turnover on racing in NSW will severely damage the business. If commission rates have to go up significantly from a top rate of 5%, then the attraction of exchange betting diminishes rapidly. There's no way they will be able to cut a deal similar to the levy and tax rates they pay elsewhere. The horsemen groups have a history of incredible stubbornness and agreeing to nothing which will benefit the racing bettor. Why would they change their tune here if it means cannibalising the local tote pools to sign up to a betting platform which is unable to tap into the betting public outside of the state borders? California and New Jersey are big states - to splash the cash to gain the approval of influential authorities like they did in Tasmania will cost a lot more.



3 - Who will provide the liquidity? American racing bettors will have trouble embracing the exchange model. There is no fixed-odds culture in the US - it's all about pari-mutuel betting for racing, and handicap & H2H betting on sports. 'Laying' a bet in North America means betting on something to win, so the terminology is all wrong for starters. If Betfair can't tap into liqudity from other states or the rest of their active client base, then there'll be no odds to kick start betting. People who only know how to bet on something to win (at no set odds) aren't going to turn into layers in a hurry. Without significant laying money on the screen, the backers aren't going to get involved and will write it off as a stupid, complicated idea that's too hard to get their heads around. Not impossible to overcome, but infinitely harder if it's restricted to local players only.


New Jersey aim to be ready for exchange wagering in 2011, California in 2012. The Betfair share price is currently languishing at 964p. A green light in the US would create a surge, but I think it's a long way off yet.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Bravo Sportingbet

Sportingbet have been announced as the naming rights sponsor of the Queen Mother Champion Chase during the Cheltenham Festival. They replace Seasons Holidays, who like most travel companies, will be feeling the pinch from the recession.

Why bravo? Unlike several other bookmakers sponsoring at the Festival - Stan James, William Hill and Ladbrokes - the Alderney-based firm pay the full amount of their UK horseracing levy voluntarily. The others pay very little on their online business. A bookmaker with a conscience rather than bloody-minded greed. Makes a pleasant change doesn't it with UK racing prizemoney levels ridiculously low?

Other major race sponsors at Cheltenham - Coral and the Tote are fully based in the UK and pay their respective taxes and levy.

a city built on sin and excess can only go tits up when the economy crashes...

No great surprise here - most over-rated city in the world I reckon, even more fake than the oases built in the desert like Dubai and Doha. Casinos and clubs charging $20 for a drink do nothing for me....

Las Vegas in crisis

Party Over


AS MAYOR of Las Vegas for almost 12 years, Oscar Goodman has made it his mission to personify what he calls this “adult playland” in the desert. He prances through the casinos with scantily clad showgirls draped on each arm (although he is happily married). He claims to drink a bottle of gin every night (but “never before 5pm”). In his office he sits on a carved throne and gives visitors a symbolic gambling chip that depicts him, with his trademark Martini glass, as “the happiest mayor of the greatest city in the world”.

Alas, much of this, like most things in Las Vegas, is purely show. This is not merely because the famous Strip of hotels and casinos that accounts for more than half of all gaming in the state is deliberately (for tax reasons) just outside the city limits, and thus beyond Mr Goodman’s remit. More important, few residents of Las Vegas would any longer agree that their city is either great or happy.

Nevada has America’s highest unemployment rate. In Las Vegas, unemployment has risen more this year even as it has flattened in the rest of the country; it peaked at 15.5% in September. Nevada also has America’s highest foreclosure rate. In Las Vegas more than 70% of homeowners with mortgages owe more to the bank than their houses are worth. This desert valley, which once represented the most extreme pleasures in American consumerism, now has the most severe hangover.



Good example for a town mayor...

(with thanks to @garynaylor999 for linking to the article)