I like an odd flutter here and there, I would regard myself as a responsible gambler if one exists. Chasing losses is a no no, I only bet with what I can afford, I am a lover of too many sports to mention so there is rarely a weekend that goes by when my eyes don’t feast upon a sporting bounty. There is also no shortage of bookmakers, markets and specials to keep all gambling types entertained. Let’s be clear, reputable bookmakers do not exist, in short the odds are always laid in their favour, if they cannot split a two horse race both will go off around 10/11 (1.91).
They for the most part fail to live up to their responsibilities as an institution which can in part be dealing with an addiction, at the risk of litigation Back-Post is aware of more than one instance where a certain Irish bookmaker gladly allowed vast sums of debt be staked across some rather vague lower division Scandinavian football.
The addiction side apart I am comfortable with how the odds are in their favour, it’s a business, and their sole purpose is to generate profit. Where else can you routinely change your balance to profit based on your selections, ultimately you believe you know the outcome of an event and are willing to stake your earnings on that belief.
Bookmakers don’t know the outcome, they too have priced up the event. They find the true odds, translate that to actual odds and without turning this into a chapter from A Beautiful Mind, use relative probability and ensure profit, we gamble and the cycle continues.
All is OK so far but when there is a conflict of interest is the market fair? The odds are already in the bookies favour, if they can manipulate the market is there a legal obligation on the regulators (http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk). Last night Skybet closed the market on Luis Suarez joining Arsenal. Now for a responsible gambler (myself) I simply found this highly amusing on several levels. Firstly although I suspect Suarez will leave over the next 12 months if not this window, there is no chance of him joining another English side, his relationship with the media is well documented, he feels he is harshly treated, moving closer to Fleet Street will not change that. Secondly Arsenal do not spend £40m+ on players, certainly Wenger doesn’t select characters like Suarez and above all as much as Arsenal fans want to pretend otherwise they are as far from a title push as Liverpool.
The market in general did not move until Skybet closed the book, and what is concerning is the news was widely report through out Sky outlets. It is not the first instance of this and it certainly won’t be the last. BSkyB currently own the rights to broadcast premiership football in Britain, they also have a monopoly on a multitude of other sports. They have the only dedicated rolling sports news channel which regularly reports transfer stories and rumors. Their sports ticker on the right will also regularly contain selected odds in line with the current news report.
As an owner of the broadcast rights there is a clear conflict of interest which allows that same broadcaster to manipulate betting markets via their own news service and ‘sources’. Unfortunately not all fans approach such moves with common sense and clarity. For the addicted, naive and gullible it is a robbery in broad daylight. It would be interesting to know how the regulatory body audit such market moves, how the licence decision is reviewed. I suspect it is a loop hole which needs addressing. In the UK the gambling commission issue licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) which was last updated in 2011.
To describe it as light would be an understatement, from a brief review the closest code of practice to relate to such instances can be found in section 7:
7. General ‘fair and open’ provisions
All operating licences, except gaming machine technical and gambling software
Licensees must satisfy themselves that the terms on which gambling is offered are not unfair
under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and, where applicable, meet the
reasonableness test under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. An accurate summary of the 8
contractual terms on which gambling is offered must be made available to customers and set out
in plain and intelligible language.
As stated previously reputable bookmakers are a rarity but the rules and expectations are known for the most part. Where a conflict of interest exists, where the rights owner determines the outcome while also running a book on said outcome, that needs addressing. It must be the responsibility of the regulatory body to ensure punters are not being led astray.
Transfer windows are the worst example, we love a flutter on Back-Post, our dislike for the red tops and ITK’s is well known. Take every story until 31st August with a pinch of salt, debate the outcome but keep your shiny coppers, bookmakers will match each other to maximize profit, if one has a conflict of interest, don’t they all?
by Kevin Frewen (written 04/07/13)