Racing: Exchange hits back at bookies

The war of words between old-style bookmakers and their modern rivals for punters' pennies, betting exchanges, became more vitriolic yesterday.

The war of words between old-style bookmakers and their modern rivals for punters' pennies, betting exchanges, became more vitriolic yesterday. Betdaq, the second largest exchange, hit back sharply at suggestions that their advent has compromised racing's integrity, calling the previous day's statement from the Association of British Bookmakers "as self-serving a piece of commercial propaganda as you are ever likely to see in print."

The ABB had claimed that "the ability to lay horses to lose offers a far easier opportunity to the criminal than attempting to arrange for a horse to win".

Rob Hartnett, managing director of Betdaq and a former employee of three of the largest high-street bookmakers, Coral, Ladbrokes and the Tote, sees the situation rather differently.

"While I am uneasy about publishing a bluffers' guide to race-fixing," Hartnett said, "the ABB has ignored the fact that cash betting in a betting shop allows those who set out to benefit from a fixed race to do so with no evidence left behind and without alerting the bookmaker to the fact they have been used.

"Wednesday's big race at York provides an example of how such fixing could be engineered. Let's say that the favourite, and actual winner, Red Bloom, had been 'got at', and was known not to be going to win. The horse was even money with bookmakers, and 5-4 on the exchanges. You could, as the ABB points out, lay the favourite on Betdaq, risking £5,000 to win £4,000 in the event of his defeat. To do so, however, you would have to open an account, deposit money through the banking system, and leave an indelible record of your bet.

"Alternatively you could walk anonymously into one or more betting shops and bet £3,000 on Salselon at 2-1, £1,333 at 9-2 on Imperial Dancer at 9-2 and £600 on Babodana at 12-1. This would guarantee a return of between £4,170 in the most likely outcome of the 2-1 chance winning, and £2,900 if the outsider goes in, and all for a 'risk' of £4,933.

"The benefit you get out of some simple maths is that you can bet with any bookie, from the mightiest down, in complete anonymity, in cash, no questions asked and no proof of identity offered. You can get a potentially better return for less risk.

"Bookmakers know this and have done for years. That they should now paint exchanges as being responsible for allegations of corruption would be laughable were it not so serious."

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