Racing: New superbet aims to nourish turf funding

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The Independent Online

The latest "superbet" that aims to lure newcomers to the turf and has the funding of the racing industry at the heart of its development is to be launched before the end of the year. Details of the structure of the bet are imminent but the intention is that the bet should reach where the Scoop6 fails to reach - to those seeking to wager a little in order to win a two-fingers to the boss amount.

The bet will be based on finding the winners of eight races on a Saturday afternoon. Unlike the Scoop6 punters will not be out of the reckoning if they have a loser. There will be consolations for finding seven, six or maybe even five winners.

Backing for the project has come from a number of major figures in the hierarchy of the turf, including Julian Richmond-Watson, the Senior Steward of the Jockey Club. The chairman of RaceO is Sir David Sieff, a former British Horseracing Board and Tote director, and the chief executive is Rob Hartnett, who has virtually all the major bookmakers on his CV and during his time at the Tote was instrumental in the creation of the Scoop6.

"One of the frustrations of the Scoop6 is that if your horse falls in the first leg you're out," Hartnett says. "And the consolation for six placed horses is a flaw.

"The Scoop6 works well within racing circles but, six years after its launch, it has not made the leap to a wider audience. It's not difficult enough to generate really large pools that keep rolling.

"Our bet will be statistically difficult enough to make worthwhile pools. We have the target of seven-figure pools in the first year and we will guarantee pools if necessary.

"We want to use the bet to get people interested in racing. To bring them along by the hand and walk them into racing.

"Someone is going to do this so why not people who have racing's interests at heart."

That would certainly be a fitting description of Sieff, who has worked tirelessly in the service of racing and its welfare agencies and is currently masterminding the development of Newbury's all-weather course. As a director of Marks & Spencer he has huge experience in the business world. As a lifelong follower of the turf, the chief attraction of RaceO is that a significant percentage of the profits will go directly to racing.

Initially, access to the superbet will be through the internet and Sieff says: "The technology must work on day one and must be capable of handling enormous volumes of traffic.

"We have international ambitions but intend to start with a low cost base and build from the bottom up. It's a long-term project."

RaceO certainly has an international structure as , with the Tote holding an exclusive licence for pool betting in Britain the venture has to be based offshore. The technical-development team is in New Zealand, the customer services will be in Britain but the hardware is in Canada. It will be controlled by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the body that regulates online gambling operations in the Mohawk reservation (and thus outside Canadian jurisdiction) close to Montreal.

"There will be several different entries into the bet," Hartnett says, "mainly through Exotics. Outside Britain, that's all people want to play, the Triple Trios and Trifectas that bring a big payout.

"It's a misconception that there have been lots of attempts at a racing superbet. There's been the Tote Roll-up and the Scoop6 and that's it. There's been lots of talk but it's never happened.

"The other fallacy is that, unlike people everywhere else in the world the British public do not like pool betting. The truth is that the British public have never been given the opportunity to try the best aspects of pool betting.

"We have to convince a sceptical audience in racing but we have no silver bullet. Our strategy is based on common sense and the attraction of pool betting

"Unlike the Lottery we're never going to be in a position to have outlets where you can have the bet every 200yds down the high roadand television coverage is not vital. With eight races it would be unlikely that so many races would be televised on most Saturdays. In any case we are aiming at a broader market.

Richard Edmondson

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