Bookies defend Tricast change

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The Independent Online
In many countries, the annual general meeting of the leading bookies' trade organisation would be in a backstreet venue with lookouts posted to warn of any interest from the law. Not so in Britain, where the Betting Office Licensees Association meets in the National Liberal Club, a short walk from Downing Street, writes Greg Wood.

The venue is a reminder of long-forgotten institutions - the Empire, and even Liberal governments - and while the irony is unintentional, many of the bookmakers at yesterday's lunch were worried that they may be going the same way.

From a high-point of 16,000 betting shops in the mid-1960s, there are now fewer than 9,000 for the first time since off-course bookmakers were legalised 35 years ago.

Tom Kelly, BOLA's director- general, yesterday re-iterated some of the strategies which the bookmakers hope will revive their business. A further reduction in betting duty, and a change in the law to allow betting on National Lottery numbers are two ambitions, along with deregulation to allow bookmakers to compete on a more equal footing with Camelot.

Don Bruce, the outgoing chairman, responded to criticism of BOLA's recent decision to change the operation of the Tricast formula to reflect bias in the draw at some courses.

Bruce's remarks leaned heavily on a race in which the first three home were drawn 15, 14 and 13, and priced at 20-1, 20-1 and 14-1. This was alleged to prove that SPs do not reflect draw advantage. Who is to say, however, that the horses concerned would not have started at 33-1, 33- 1 and 20-1 without a favourable draw?