Racing: Savill demands inquiry into betting exchanges

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Peter Savill, the British Horseracing Board chairman, yesterday called on the Government to set up an independent commission of inquiry into betting exchanges.

Savill believes issues surrounding exchanges, which enable punters to bet between themselves ­ usually offering longer odds than the eventual official starting price, with the exchange taking a commission on winning bets ­ are of "critical importance" to the industry.

In a speech entitled, "The Impact of Betting Exchanges on Horseracing", made at a conference on UK gambling laws in Knightsbridge, London, Savill said that "nothing less than the future of one of Britain's most prestigious sports and industries and one of the greatest contributors to Government revenues is at stake".

Savill is also concerned that punters using betting exchanges can make a profit out of horses losing, rather than just by backing them to win, and sees this as a major threat to the integrity of the sport.

He pointed out that the Australian government had been prompted to set up a National Task Force. Savill added: "It is hard not to conclude that there are unresolved issues relating to betting exchanges. Their threat to integrity has not been properly reviewed. Betting exchanges have, for the first time ever, suddenly and immediately enfranchised 30 million-plus people in Britain to make money out of horses losing races."

However, his suggestion that the impact of betting exchanges had not been thoroughly investigated was rejected by a Betfair spokesman, Mark Davies, who was also speaking at the conference. Davies said: "I had to abandon my speech and correct some of the points Savill made. There have been three independent inquiries into betting exchanges, two of them by Customs & Excise and one by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which took 18 months. All of them came down in our favour. What Savill wants is an inquiry that agrees with his views."

Betfair, which was set up in June 2000, has 90 per cent of the exchange market and Davies added: "Greig Chalmers, who is on the DCMS team dealing with gambling legislation, reiterated that his department's inquiry into exchanges had been thorough and independent."

Connections of Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up Mubtaker have still to decide whether the six-year-old entire will run again this season. His trainer, Marcus Tregoning, said: "He may well do but we haven't decided what we are doing just yet. Both he and Nayef are entered in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket on 18 October." Tregoning added that Mubtaker will stay in training next year.

The Champion Stakes will see the return of last year's Italian Derby winner, Rakti, who has been out of action since sustaining a small hairline crack in his off-hind when second to Nayef in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot on 18 June. Luca Cumani's multiple Group One-winning colt Falbrav also holds a Champion Stakes entry but could have his next race in America, his trainer, Luca Cumani, said yesterday.

Cumani commented: "No plans have been made yet, but we are hoping to go to America. However, we won't make a decision until we see how the horse works nearer the time."

Falbrav is 2-1 favourite with Coral for the Breeders' Cup Turf over a mile and a half at Santa Anita on 25 October.

* Kieren Fallon will miss the first two days of next week's Newmarket Cesarewitch meeting after deciding not to appeal against a four-day ban he received at Longchamp on Sunday. His ban starts next Tuesday.