Bookies' formula for failure

COMMENTARY

When you are in a hole, so they say, it is best to stop digging. Britain's off-course bookmakers should be reminded of this when they surface somewhere in Tasmania.

The bookmaking profession has never been in such turmoil, pinned by the twin stakes of the National Lottery and cancelled meetings, so careful measures have to be taken to revive the industry. You would have thought.

For stupidity in public relations, the Oscar this week went to BOLA (the Betting Office Licensees Association) for their splendid work in tinkering with the Tricast formula. From today and Southwell's MacKenzie Handicap, a Tricast return featuring horses drawn close together will be significantly smaller.

The building in of a draw element to a formula that would already have Pythagoras snapping his pencil penalises punters twice. The current return is based on starting-price anyway, which is influenced by the draw.

The layers have had a bee in their bonnet about Tricasts ever since Paul Cooper, a professional punter, pulled off a coup on horses drawn high at Thirsk. Now the alert such as he have been squeezed out again, which is self-destructive for bookmaking.

BOLA argue that the new system will mean higher returns generally, but this misses the point. The industry seems to have forgotten that without big winners you do not get lots of little losers. People will not speculate when they do not have a dream at which to shoot. Camelot recognises this, as do the pools firms, who call up Joanna Lumley with a cheque the size of a tent whenever the jackpot is won.

The well-packaged Lottery is proof that people will give you money if the conditions are right. The vogue is to re-iterate what little chance there is of winning the big one, but still they do it. The stranglehold of Camelot's magic cannot be loosened.

While they moan about the weather and Camelot (and then come up with yet another way of alienating punters) the traditional bookies are being nipped in their own back yard by the flourishing spread-betting firms.

City Index recently asked a leading racing journalist to head their marketing department, and are just one spread company bursting with ideas. The well- scrubbed Wally Pyrah (he always wins the press room's best- turned-out award) attended the England rugby union squad's training session this week to spread the word for Sporting Index and continues to be amazed by the growth in his sector.

Pyrah used to be the spokesman for Coral, a job now occupied by Rob Hartnett, who for affability is untouchable. Hartnett is so pleasant in what many see as a dirty job that you could imagine him as a repossessions man receiving tips from his charmed victims. It was Hartnett who, this week, produced an amazing quote. "The advent of spread betting has prompted us [Coral] to be more imaginative," he said. Only now, it seems, as the former city dealers and the Lottery men compete for the leisure pound, are the off-course giants actually off and trying.

It begs the thought that the expertise of those running the Big Three (Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill), who for so long have had as competition bingo halls and pools companies, may have been overrated.

While they were running rings around the Colonel Bufton-Tuftons of the Jockey Club everyone seemed to accept the bookmakers were very clever chaps indeed. That contest may have taught us more about the losers than the victors, however.

Now that a different breed of challenger has arrived, the bookmakers are in a tizzy, blaming anything but their previous complacency. After the clear blue waters of the last 35 years they are now swimming against a rip tide. When the shareholders start asking questions there will have to be answers and initiatives. And that does not mean tinkering with the Tricast formula.

Richard Edmondson's nap: Maple Bay (Southwell 3.30); NB: Tempering (Southwell 3.00).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?