Bookies Without Balls

I have just come home from a days racing at Nottingham. A pleasant day at the races and some good size fields, none more so the last race – a nice competitive 17 runner apprentice handicap. OK there was a non-runner but there were still 16 left and the prices for the first three in the betting were 6/4 fav, 13/2 and 15/2 with 10/1 bar. Added to the equation was the fact the favourite was carrying a 12lb penalty, so was very vulnerable,  and a false price it what was a very open race.  

By the time of this last race there were 12 bookmakers standing, not a particularly large number, however six of them were betting “win only”.

How can any bookmaker worth their salt justify betting win only in a 16 runner handicap …. what are they scared of?  There was a time bookmakers would be fearless and would be prepared to stand each-way bets in 16 runner handicaps.

Bookmaking is a business and they are, of course, at liberty to offer whatever terms they want. However by not standing full terms on a race they are doing themselves long term harm in that they are distorting the market and bringing ever nearer the day the bookmakers ignore the on course market and set their own “industry SP’s”.

How are they distorting the market? The bookmakers offering the win only terms are offering higher prices on the horses outside the favourites. In the race in question the bookmakers offering each-way terms were generally offering 16/1 for Butterfly Bud, whereas those offering win-only were generally offering 25/1. The SP was returned at 22/1, presumably influenced by the differing price range. The horse finished third meaning the off course layers were having to pay an extra 1.5 points a place. The big bookmakers will not put up with this going forward.

In a way it is unfair to single out bookmakers at Nottingham, I have seen the same thing happen time and time again large field, competitive, races with bookmakers only offering win only. Indeed I have even seen cases where all bookmakers in the ring have gone win only in competitive 12-13 runner fields.

Why can’t racecourses lay down rules that if bookmakers want to stand at a course then they must offer all offer agreed terms.

On the subject of terms, why is it that some bookmakers are prepared to offer to pay five places on races like the Grand National, whilst others still stick to four? With the field betting at 152% any argument about it not being economical is easily dispelled.

Finally, at the Punchestown festival all bookmakers and the Tote were paying places at 1,2,3,4 on all races with 16 runners or more – handicap or not. I don’t see any horror stories of hoards of Irish bookmakers going bust.

So come on bookmakers …. get some balls and take reasonable bets. If not get out of the ring.    

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