Betting Business Bulletin 4 June 2017

BHA reveals cost of disciplinary controversy

The controversy surrounding the BHA’s disciplinary system which blew up last year reached its final chapter last week when it emerged the case had cost the governing body £425,000.

The figure came to light as the BHA published its annual report and accounts for 2016.

In 2016 it emerged that solicitor and former disciplinary panel chairman Matthew Lohn undertook additional and undivulged work for the BHA while also serving on its independent panel, creating a perception of bias that led to two convictions – those of Jim Best and Paul Gilligan – being sent for rehearings and seven others being identified as potentially unsound.

It also resulted in Christopher Quinlan QC being commissioned to produce a report into racing’s disciplinary and licensing systems.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said the progress made on the sport’s objectives, especially levy reform, meant there was “good reason to feel optimistic about the future of our sport”.

Asked how he thought the sport would react to the cost of the work done on disciplinary matters, Rust said: “I would like to think the sport would say, ‘We understand, it’s regrettable, you’ve learned your lesson but the sport needs to move on’.”

Although there was a six-figure blow to its finances, the BHA reduced its forecast deficit by almost 50 per cent, from an expected £349,000 to £175,000 by offsetting the costs of the Lohn case with savings in other areas.

Some of those savings included Rust’s own remuneration, which fell to £328,000 from £406,000 after he declined a bonus.

“I’m paid very nicely and I appreciate the pay in my role and I didn’t think it was appropriate to take any form of bonus in the year,” Rust said.

Commission issues social responsibility warning

The gambling industry received another warning from the Gambling Commission last week over social responsibility.

The regulator has hardened its attitude towards the industry on the subject, as illustrated recently by the news that online operator 888’s licence was under review over social responsibility measures.

When 888 revealed the news it sent their share price crashing and led analysts to say “an increasing degree of conflict” with the commission was a growing risk for the sector.

The commission’s executive director Tim Miller, in a speech to the International Association of Gaming Advisors in New York, cited figures revealed this year by the commission that there had been a considerable fall in the proportion of the population who felt that gambling was fair and could be trusted.

Miller argued there was still public support for gambling as a leisure activity but growing concern about the way it is offered.

“What clearer evidence could anyone need to argue that the contract between the gambling industry and society is under pressure and rapidly needs some attention?” he asked.

While failure to meet regulations and the law might lead to penalties, “when you don’t meet the expectations that society places upon you then your entire industry risks its very future,” Miller added.

Miller said there were many positives in the industry’s efforts to bring in self-exclusion schemes. But he added: “Is there too much expectation on the gambler to be responsible and not enough on the industry?

“Is there too much focus on providing tools for consumers to manage their use of gambling products and not enough on ensuring that gambling products are sufficiently safe in the first place?”

Derby result ‘stuff of dreams’ for bookies

Only the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup are bigger betting races than the Derby, so bookmakers were celebrating after Wings Of Eagles pulled off the biggest shock in the Epsom Classic since Snow Knight in 1974.

The 40-1 chance swooped late to foil market leaders Cliffs Of Moher, Cracksman and Eminent.

Betfair’s Barry Orr said: “It was grim viewing a furlong out with all our significant losers looking set to fight out the finish, so, as you can imagine, there was a huge sigh of relief when Wings Of Eagles swooped high and wide to give us one of the best Derby results in living memory.”

The result was described as “the stuff of dreams” by Coral’s David Stevens, who said: “Victory for Cracksman or Permian were the results we really didn’t want, but to see the 40-1 shot come home in front in the biggest race of the Flat season was the stuff of dreams for the layers.”

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said the result provided bookmakers with a “multi-million-pound swing”.

Election countdown on

Retail bookmakers are facing a nervous few days in the run-up to Thursday’s general election.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Ukip have all pledged to cut gaming machine stakes to £2 in their manifestos while the SNP has called for the government to devolve powers over machines to Scotland.

A few weeks ago it seemed the Conservatives, who did not mention gambling in their manifesto, were certain to be re-elected but the opinion polls have narrowed dramatically since then.

In Tuesday’s edition, the Racing Post is examining what the election means for both the betting and racing industries.

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