Racing: Con man warned off for 10 years

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THERE WAS a hint of Damon Runyan about a verdict handed down by the Jockey Club yesterday, when a con-man who made a living by picking up other punters' winning bets was warned off for 10 years.

The speciality of Raymond Hill, who was convicted almost two years ago of obtaining money by criminal deception on racecourses, was a fraud known as "blue betting". Almost all on-course bookmakers issue pre-printed, numbered tickets as confirmation of a bet, but their numbering sequence does not stretch beyond three figures. Thus, when ticket 999 is handed out, the next will be 001.

Hill would collect discarded, losing tickets from the betting ring, and then listen in as bookmakers struck bets with other punters, hoping that a winning bet would coincide with the number on an old ticket. He would then be first in line when the bookie paid out, leaving the honest punter disappointed when he presented his slip.

Hill was convicted at Derby Crown Court in 1996 of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception at Market Rasen. The case against him was heard in his absence by the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee last Thursday, when account was also taken of previous convictions for similar offences, but details of its verdict were announced only yesterday.

Hill was banned from all courses and any Jockey Club property for 10 years, and if he ever returns to a track, he will find his scam has been overtaken by time. Within a few months, course bookmakers will be required to issue computerised betting slips which include precise details of all bets placed. Some may mourn the passing of the colourful bookies' tickets, but progress will at least make life difficult for tricksters like Raymond Hill.