Betfair Bid to Create New Starting Price for UK Horseracing

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At the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants yearly conference Ed Wray from Betfair caused controversy by proposing that bookmakers adopt a new starting price system based a betting exchange prices. At the same conference Lord Donoughue urged UK horse racing to adopt the governments plans to modernise the regulation of the sport.

Ed Wray one of the founders of Betfair startled the Global Betting & Gaming Consultants annual conference yesterday by announcing that Betfair would like to become a part of the starting price mechanism for British horseracing.

In a forceful speech Wray said, “The industry needed a starting price system that is representative of the whole market. Exchanges are a big part of that market so we (Betfair) need to be a part of it, as modern punters will not accept a new solution that does not represent the whole betting market.”

Wray proposed that the exchanges become the wholesalers of the starting price; bookmakers would take those prices and add their own margin to them.

The idea did not meet with much favour from traditional bookmakers.

David Brown from William Hill said, “ The market on course is much stronger than on the betting exchanges where some horses prices can moved for £50.”

Jim Donnelly from the Press Association who along with SIS formulates the starting price said that at Towcester Racecourse recently a bookmaker took £7,000 on one horse and the next betting show saw the horse drift.

Looking to the future Wray said that a young persons first bet today was unlikely to be a horse racing bet and more likely to be a poker or casino bet on the Internet which inevitably meant that horse racing was likely to lose market share going forward.

Clive Hawkswood from the Remote Gambling Association said that twenty five percent of racings income from the horse race levy now came from remote gambling but off shore bookmakers continued to pay nothing toward British racing. In some respects this income could be at risk for horse racing were those operators to migrate off shore.

The Horserace Betting Levy was cited by Lord Donoughue of the Future Funding Group and Tom Kelly from the Association of British Bookmakers as the only alternative for the future funding of the sport with both urging the BHB and Jockey Club to adopt the governments plan to modernise as quickly as possible.

Mark Elliott the new CEO of Arena Leisure plc said that following the introduction of Polytrack the all weather racing surface Arena’s all weather tracks were ready to provide continuous evening racing to betting shops throughout the year when the law allows in January 2007.

On the privatisation of the Tote Mark Elliott who comes from a greyhound racing background said he would prefer horse race tracks to run their own Pari Mutual betting. The current system provided insufficient reward for racecourses.

Simon Holliday from GBGC said that contrary to popular belief British horseracing was in good health. In terms of betting handle it was second only to Japan and second only to Ireland in growth this last eight years.

He said that UK racing had the third best growth in the past decade, it provided the punter with the best value, number of horses in training is at an all time high, it is the second best attended sport after soccer, and Ascots new grandstand is likely to create the worlds best racecourse.

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