Our columnist feels punters are getting a rough deal over ante-post bets with BetBright and has his thoughts on the prize-money dispute.
BETBRIGHT MOVE NOT SO BRIGHT
When the news emerged on social media that Dublin-based BetBright had been taken over by 888sport and that all ante-post bets struck with the company had been voided with stakes returned, there was a justifiable uproar.
It is not as if the company had gone into bankruptcy. It has been bought as a going concern – for a reported £15m - by a multinational on-line betting company based in Gibraltar which covers sport, poker and bingo and whose half-year profit to June, 2018 was US$60.1 million.
To be honest, I have no idea what the ante-post liabilities might have been, how many people have an account with BetBright and how many will be affected.
But that doesn’t really matter - there is a huge principle at stake here. How can a legalised bookmaker, lay a bet and then decide on a whim that it is not being honoured? You just can’t do that.
In short, this is utterly outrageous and disgraceful behaviour, which rightly should be investigated by the Gambling Commission.
Unless something is done, anybody could start up a business, lay a few bets and then do a runner without consequences when the book was looking dodgy.
I have been stung before – many years ago – by a company called Thomas Ashley who went under and failed to honour thousands of pounds worth of bets, including my 16-1 on Lochsong in the Stewards’ Cup. Yes, it still hurts!
But BetBright must have been doing at least reasonably ok out there or it would not have been sold.
BetBright’s executive chairman was racehorse owner Rich Ricci, a personable man who I have met a few times but don’t know well. I don’t doubt this takeover was good business for him but surely he would know that this is completely the wrong way to treat punters and do business.
All bets should be honoured by the new parent company, of course they should.
Having been fined £7.8m already by the GC for falling their vulnerable customers, 888sport would do well to change its tack on this – fast. Perhaps they might. If they don’t, it’s up to you whether you give them any business.
*(Editor's note - On Wednesday it was announced that 888Sport would stand all Cheltenham Festival ante-post bets from BetBright customers. We await information on all other ante-post bets struck with the firm)
ARC PRIZE MONEY ROW
I am commentating at Southwell on Thursday where there will be 20 runners lining up for the six races. That will be some spectacle!
I can understand the frustration at what is considered unreasonable prize money at ARC’s racecourses from owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff (whose percentage of pool money drops) but also the decision by ARC to make pre-emptive moves to protect its business due to the anticipated shortfall in betting turnover.
I am not sure that boycotting these races was the right thing to do, either, but at least it has led to talks taking place and, indeed, there seems to be some progress being made on that score.
In retrospect, explanatory talks could have taken place much earlier with both sides, ARC and the NTF, putting their cards on the table in front of the BHA.
It is good to hear of the intention of more openness on the detail of media rights income, which remain a mystery to most during these changing times.
The bottom line at the moment, though, is that there are too many moderate horses being foaled and far too much racing to get a decent share of a diminishing pot.
DERBY COUNTY – ONWARDS AND UPWARDS?
The Rams gained their first win in six matches at home to Wigan on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win highlighted by Mason Bennett’s world-class goal. If you haven’t seen it, take the time to do so. It is stunning and a worthy contender for the Puskas Award, given to the most “beautiful” goal of the calendar year.
So, after yet another poor February, Derby still remain in the hunt for the play-offs. But it is an amazing thing that, season on season, as the daffodils will always blossom at this time of the year, Derby will always wilt.
Even though they have changed their manager countless times over the last few years and most of the players are different, something happens at Pride Park which causes this late season malaise.
Does anybody out there have a clue why this is so?
ARSENAL STILL IN THERE FIGHTING
I was lucky enough to attend the match as a guest at Wembley on Saturday lunchtime and the atmosphere was electric.
When Aaron Ramsey scored the opening goal, one or two of us celebrated, rather mutedly of course. But that was still too much for a few Spurs supporters sitting close by who swiftly rounded on us.
It’s a shame that this still happens in soccer as, in my experience, it never has in either code of rugby.
And what a fuss about the Harry Kane equalising penalty. He was off-side when the free kick was taken. End of.
Also, Arsenal’s penalty at the death was a very soft one. Even so, I knew Aubameyang would miss it.
Honours even was probably the right result on balance, but it still seemed like two points lost for the Gunners.