Latest Cases - January 2013

10th January 2013

Good morning, friends,

In this issue of Punters’ Verdict….

  • Hypocrisy is alive and kicking….
  • Inside information at work on Celebrity Big Brother?
  • The back of Jim McGrath’s head….
  • Refusing to go or grow old gracefully….

Hypocrisy is alive and kicking….

Another year has passed – but corporate hypocrisy is still alive and kicking in the British betting industry. Let me take you back down Memory Lane – all the way back to June 2004.

Can you remember who it was who made the following comments about betting exchanges and their apparent effect on the probity of horse racing and betting markets associated with the sport?

"I am convinced that at least a race a day, if not more, is now being corrupted by the availability of laying horses to lose on betting exchanges...."

The totally unproven, unsubstantiated (and some would say, including me, unfounded) claim was made by Chris Bell who was, at the time, Chief Executive of Ladbrokes and Vice-Chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers.

His comments were made in a BBC documentary ‘investigating’ and alleging corruption within horse racing. It should be noted that prior to the advent of betting exchanges Ladbrokes had little or nothing to say about race-fixing or corruption within the sport. And it should also be noted that Chris Bell didn’t pass any evidence that would support his lurid claims to the Jockey Club – the body charged with protecting the sport’s integrity at the time.

Here at Verdict Towers we are certain that Bell was speaking entirely in good faith – and that his comments had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that betting exchanges were busily and successfully carving a considerable slice of Britain’s £12 billion per year betting industry (no small percentage of that from Bell’s own firm).

Jump forward to today and racing punters can still lay horses to lose on the betting exchanges whilst Bell’s picture of a sport riddled with cheating, corruption and crooked dealings has gained very little credence in the meantime. Sure, there have been limited instances of race-throwing – but nothing like on the scale Bell was suggesting.

But one thing certainly has altered since the summer of 2004 – the Ladbrokes corporate stance on betting exchanges.

Given the certainty with which Bell presented his opinions, and given the very negative influence betting exchanges were accorded by their Chief Executive at the time, you might think Ladbrokes would maintain their position and continue to view betting exchanges as some kind of evil that needs to be eradicated from the industry.

Not a bit of it. Personnel at the top of the corporate tree are prone to change. And so are opinions – especially when large amounts of money are involved.

As we move into 2013 we find Ladbrokes seem no longer to be concerned about betting exchanges and their corrosive effect on betting markets. So dramatically has their opinion changed that they now want in on a slice of the action and are engaged in talks with Betdaq over a possible takeover deal.

Having been so fretful in days gone by about punters having the capacity to lay horses it seems Ladbrokes might soon be in the business of facilitating the very same activity. I wonder what Chris Bell makes of it all?

Inside information at work on Celebrity Big Brother?

Never mind the horse racing. Maybe Chris Bell and the BBC should be looking at the integrity of Celebrity Big Brother (CBB) markets on the exchanges.

Call me a fool but I’ve taken an interest in CBB – currently being aired on C5. And – call me a nincompoop – I’ve involved myself in one or two of the CBB markets on Betfair. We’re only a few days into the event and I’m already wondering if the playing field is level….

Last night saw the first eviction from the Big Brother house – with 3 participants up for the phone vote: Frankie Dettori, an American couple I’ve never heard of and Paula Hamilton.

I don’t know who knows what when it comes to these phone votes. I’m not sure how the information food-chain is configured, who stands where in its hierarchy or exactly when they get to know the outcome of what the rest of us are betting on.

One thing I do know is that a list of the exchange punters who were backing Paula Hamilton down to odds of 1.01 (1/100) in the minutes leading up to the announcement of the vote result would make for very interesting reading indeed.

In my book it’s 1.01 that at least some of the exchange punters who profited most in the ‘1st Eviction’ market knew the outcome of the phone vote – or at least which way the wind was blowing – sufficiently well in advance of the rest of the market to take advantage on the exchanges.

Making a mockery of fair play….

Looking at the market in the final moments before voting closed was a bit like looking at the death throes of a typical ‘Next Manager’ market – with the prices telling you which guy’s got the job before the official announcement is made.

Sure, there were only 3 up for last night’s vote and Frankie Dettori was nailed on to survive. But to these eyes the American married-couple are/were just as grotesque and depressing as Paula Hamilton and the public had just as many reasons to give them the bullet.

The bottom line is that Hamilton was never a genuine 1.01 shot. It was a much more open contest than that. She was only that price because people who already knew the outcome of the vote were piling on at ever-decreasing odds in the knowledge that they couldn’t lose. That’s my contention.

Betfair should be looking into this issue – and identifying punters with an uncanny knack of calling CBB markets correctly in the minutes before a market closes and who demonstrate a willingness to back their view whatever the price. And then Betfair should act accordingly.

If Betfair are not prepared to acknowledge this issue or deal with it appropriately then they should close the markets and refuse to bet on Big Brother events because the situation, as it stands, makes an absolute mockery of fair-play and straight-dealing.

The back of Jim McGrath’s head….

We got our first look at the ‘new’ C4 racing coverage at the weekend – and I was seriously underwhelmed. It looked, sounded and felt very much like the ‘old’ C4 racing coverage – just some new faces and different colored ties – and I was left wondering what all the fuss and fanfare had been about.

I guess its early days and the production team must be given a chance to move it up a gear but one thing I would consider reviewing is the glass studio.

On Saturday it was situated in a position that overlooked Sandown’s winning enclosure. That’s okay. But Jim McGrath and Graham Cunningham were sat with their back to the view and spent way too much of their time on-camera twisting in their chairs, craning their necks and looking over their shoulders at what was going on behind them.

Personally, I can think of better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than look at the back of Jim McGrath’s bonce.

Its early days for the ‘new’ show but already time for a rethink.

Refusing to go or grow old gracefully….

Mike Cattermole, Derek Thompson, Alistair Down and John McCririck were all deemed surplus to requirements by the new producers of the C4 racing coverage.

But whilst the other 3 have accepted their fate with good grace, McCririck has reverted to type and is kicking up a stink. He might be off the terrestrial TV screens – but you can’t keep him out of the back page headlines.

The cigar-chomping, self-publicizing dinosaur – no stranger to sensation and controversy – is set to sue C4 and IMG Sports for £3 million. His argument is that they sacked him purely because of his age (72). He will be represented on a no-win-no-fee basis by a sports law specialist – a situation that will surely only encourage McCririck to play his hand all the way to the river.

McCririck has offered to drop his legal action only if he gets an apology, is fully reinstated and his costs are met. There’s fat chance of that happening so this circus looks set for a long run.

McCririck will no doubt pursue his case as he pursues everything else – vigorously and with all the grace and finesse of a blunt instrument.
He’s already indicated that his legal team will call and cross-examine past and present C4 Racing presenters, production staff, media executives, journalists and others.

He’s certainly not bitter. And he’s taking no prisoners. This soap-opera could be entertaining. Something to look forward to during 2013. Happy New Year, dear reader!

I’ll be back with the Verdict next week. 

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