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Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

If you cannot afford to pay an odds compiler you shouldn't be laying bets on Irish racing

It is obvious the majority of bookmakers are copying the work of a rival’s odds-compiler, writes Johnny Ward.

A view of bookmakers.
A view of bookmakers.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONSOLIDATION AND MERGERS are the name of the betting game nowadays and the adage that you never see a poor bookmaker has long been rendered a lie.

The betting exchanges transformed bookmaking in Britain and Ireland (the land of the free, where you can carry around an AK-47 but not have a bet, will eventually follow). This is in a similar way to how the internet has changed how we consume news.

There are negatives and positives to the betting exchanges, negatives and positives to social media, negatives and positives to the online world generally, negatives and positives to AK-47s.

On-course bookmakers cling on like those scenes in The Titanic or Dunkirk where the water level keeps rising and eventually everyone will either escape or drown. Most just plug in to the grid of the exchanges and see little point in putting their money where their opinion is, as fighting the exchanges is seen as a waste of time long-term.

For too long they had a monopoly and creamed off the punters, enjoying ludicrously high over-rounds and benefitting from bettors being in the dark; these were the days before video replays and so on. A bookmaker should take pride in pricing Irish races and the same should apply to the high-street and online firms.

Pricing overnight has become trendy in recent years and this remains something of a mystery to me. Bookmakers will point out that they get their card marked quite cheaply, so cheaply indeed that most high-street firms will not lay the prices in their shops.

However, what percentage of turnover on racing is done the night before? It must be tiny. Why do bookmakers need to price so early?

It has become infuriatingly obvious over the past year or so that the vast majority of bookmakers are brazenly copying the work of a rival’s odds-compiler. As a journalist, this is the equivalent of another writer simply copying and pasting an article, something which would enrage any self-respecting journalist.

a-view-of-the-race Bookmakers have never seemed so bad in terms of laying a bet. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The guy who robs another journalist’s copy has his reputation rightly ruined. This is called plagiarism. And plagiarism has become rampant in odds-compiling.

The first firm to price up Dundalk’s 7.15 yesterday evening priced up Eleuthera at 100/1. Any odds compiler who genuinely made this a 100/1 chance should be sacked on the spot. It was almost certainly, quite simply, a mistake.

Mistakes happen; nobody died. Odds compiling, however, is all but dead, as all of a sudden a scatter of other firms were 100/1 too. To put this mistake into context, it would be like being offered 8/1 on Denmark beating Ireland when they meet at the Aviva Stadium.

The mistake is irrelevant. What is embarrassing is that a load of other bookmakers went 100/1 too, not even having the time, resources or interest to pay somebody to at least check the prices his firm was engaged in flagrantly robbing.

Bookmakers, quite reasonably in my opinion, are entitled to void a bet that involved a manifestly mistaken price. This is known as a “palpable error”, or “palp”. The case of Eleuthera will be intriguing tonight if the horse happens to win, and it would be a good thing for the legitimate fight for punters’ rights if he did. Remember, the vast majority of us lose. Many lose heavy.

This is a race to the bottom. Earlier this week another firm, once of considerable repute, made the ludicrous decision on the back of one punter pulling off a fluke win that it would stop laying Lucky 15, Lucky 31 and Lucky 63 bets.

After being roundly mocked on social media and criticised by its own clients, presumably losing clients as they can still get bets on with the firm, it exacted an about-turn that was possibly even more embarrassing than the cowardly decision that preceded it.

In 2014, New South Wales imposed regulations on bookmakers which obliged them to lay bets to lose at least AUS$1,000 at country tracks in Australia. Many punters want something similar in Ireland, including Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh, or at least he said he was in favour back in late 2017.

brian-kavanagh Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Asked would he favour such an imposition, he said: “Yes, but only as part of an overhaul of the entire regulation of gambling. It would be unfair to single out on-course bookmakers.”

Bookmakers should have nothing to fear from laying a minimum liability of €1,000, win-only with no guaranteed odds, on any Irish race. Measures to ensure syndicate manipulation (for example 200 people attempting the same bet for the same person/syndicate at the same time) are necessary but should be straightforward.

It is true in many respects that punters have never had it so good. It is also true that bookmakers have never seemed so bad in terms of laying a bet. If a minimum-lay commitment were a necessary part of gaining a license to lay bets on Irish racing, you would soon see the laughable scenario that saw several firms make a 10/1 chance a 100/1 chance all at once become a thing of the past.

If you cannot afford to pay an odds compiler, or even one who is unable to ape prices without spotting what is a glaring mistake, you should not be laying bets on Irish racing.

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Galway stages its October meet this weekend, with Braize interesting at a price in a weak Glenman Corporation Handicap Chase (2.50) Sunday.

Before that, tonight at Dundalk, the extended ten-furlong maiden (7.45) looks a good betting heat as the market principles are beatable. Irradiate is 8-1 with Betway, which was not among those going 100-1 Eleuthera.

Speaking of apes, before The Simpsons regressed into an abomination, it was truly incredible TV, redefining the concept of the cartoon. Late in season four, Homer is shown around by his boss Mr Burns, who believes he has solved the problem of having to pay humans to work.

Homer is shown a smelly, smoke-filled room. “This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters,” Burns boasts. “Soon, they’ll have finished the greatest novel known to man.

All right,” he adds, lifting up one of the monkey’s scripts. “Let’s see… ‘It was the best of times, it was the BLURST of times?’ You stupid monkey!”

The best of times, the blurst of times. He might have been talking about trying to get a bet on over 25 years later.

On the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Andy Dunne tells Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey about where it all went wrong for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland

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About the author:

Johnny Ward

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