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change for racing to co-operate

andrew mccarron viewpoint


he Racing for Change initiative has come in for some flack since it was created last year, including within this publi- cation. Much of the mockery derived from what appeared to be brain- storming sessions being made public and reported as gospel. Mix in a good dose of marketing twaddle about Brians and Bens, plus a world weariness that this sort of expensive consulta- tion has been seen several times before with little progress, and it is perhaps understandable that RfC wasn’t taken too seriously at first.

But now the organisation appears to have achieved some kind of hitherto unseen alchemy and got the many, many factions in racing pulling in the same direction for the greater good. Maybe they should be drafted in to help the Middle East peace process. Against all expectations, the racing industry has actually made a promising fist of revamping the fixture list. Moving many of their showpiece events to culmi- nate on Saturdays is bound to increase attendances if nothing else and the whole fixture list feels like it flows better with a clear end game. British Champions’ Day, with its £3m of prize money can provide the full stop to the flat season in the same way that the FA Cup/Champions League Final now does for the Premier League. Plus it should provide a clear nar- rative that arguably was absent beforehand, which should help garner public- ity. The media love a narra- tive, especially one they can plan for effectively. Above all, the British Champions Series makes sense; it has just taken a time of crisis to force some parties into a compromise that would allow the initia- tive to see the light of day. However, it would also help the new structure if it could find the unreserved

support of the bookmak- ers. In-shop advertising could help bump start inter- est in the competition if at first it is failing to win the hearts and minds of Joe Public or the press. But bookmakers could be for- given by asking ‘what’s in it for me?’

The recent meeting of independents in Wolver- hampton demonstrated that racing is overpriced for what it brings to book- makers. The admission from Howard Chisholm of Chisholm Bookmakers that his business would be better off without horserac- ing should have sent shivers down the spines of those arguing for an increase in Levy payments. A sensible Levy agree- ment next month, either by both parties or a determi- nation from the culture sec- retary, could see bookmakers more willing to promote horseracing as a betting product to their customers who come in for a punt on football or to play roulette on the gaming machines. However, the way racing has been trying to squeeze the pips from betting shops through media rights and the Levy has seen the goodwill from bookmakers to cross sell their most expensive product to customers using their most profitable ones run dry.

Of course, should the Champions Series win over the hearts and minds of the UK public, then the betting revenues and therefore Levy will get an appropri- ate boost and bookmakers will be happy to pay the piper - as long as it is good for business. Racing has been struggling to provide value for money from a B2B perspective for some time now, but at least it’s start- ing to address some of the issues underlying the fact. Ironically it is doing that at the same time as asking for more money than ever before and trying to use the government as muscle.

38 BettingBusinessInteractive ˛"SEPTEMBER 2010

Contract law still not clear wh

Are bookmakers too blasé about the errors made in their betting shops? John Samuels discusses the issue of contract law in gambling.

It is now over three years since the introduction of the UK’s Gambling Act which brought into gam- bling the provision of con- tract law. Yet IBAS still awaits, with much keen interest, a court case and legal precedent involving contract law in relation to a bet dispute, particularly one relating to ‘obvious error’.

Looking through IBAS records, it is seen that the main areas of betting dis- putes come from late (winning) bets, bets laid in error, wrong prices laid and wrong handicaps adver- tised. The handling of these cases by bookmakers suggest that they still take the view (and have done for over forty years) that it is not much of a problem if a mistake is displayed on the shop screen. Or if a price is given, or a bet taken, in error by their staff.

Or if a bet is laid on an incor- rectly displayed handicap market.

This is because the oper- ators would say that their published trading rules state that a wrong price that is advertised and given can be changed to the correct price. Also, a late bet that is taken can be made void and an incorrect handicap proposition that is adver- tised can be amended to the proper handicap proposi- tion. Etcetera, etcetera. A similar stance tends to be taken by those operators with internet sites and phone operations. The bookmaker’s stand- point is that a betting slip or bet record transaction is, at best, purely a record of payment and is not a con- tract. Their view is that a contract arises only when a bet is placed on a market which is offered on an event within the bookmaker’s

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