No question about it. The old man wouldn’t understand the metamorphosis in betting in this country. And the victim is very much the long suffering horseracing bettor. Of course by this country I include Gibraltar – the puppet state the Government bizarrely supports to the fiscal benefit of our highest grossing companies. The word is ‘avoid’ not ‘evade’ of course. It’s legal folks. At least until we find politicians who buy their own lunches and look beyond their own term. Not many times in life I find myself in agreement with Bruce Millington of the Racing Post. An Editor obsessed with overrounds in the 9.00 at Kempton whilst running betting apps often running to 2% a runner. But he’s right in one area; punters in many respects are treated in a shabby fashion these days. I was in Cheltenham this week, filming a piece for JPFestival.com on the upcoming season (you can watch it here – Current State of Betting Markets). Two of the locals told me the Coral shop locally was restricting all bets to £20. Now, I want to say up front I don’t believe this to be true for one second. It’s far more likely that for certain customers, markets or times there may be restrictions in place. Stories like this though pervade the industry like a cancer. However, most LBO managers these days do spend more time ringing through anything exceeding liabilities of £100 than they do actually accepting the bets. But the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) roll on without limits. I’m going to be as kind as possible here to the modern day ‘Giants’ of Betting. For firms comfortable with a £100 spin on a machine, it’s truly pathetic if you’re holding those same customers to a £20 bet on the horses – or less. Don’t you see their point of view? A trader gave me some stick this week, he is or had associations with Bet365 recently, so you’d think he’d have known better. Anyway, he placed a wager his own firm was unlikely to even consider to serious money to a horse race trader from a rival firm, given the likelihood the selection was ‘live’. He then whined publicly about how he had been ‘restricted’ by my firm. Now, let’s not let the facts ruin a good story and note these are already in the public domain because he tweeted them. The bet would have returned £3600, if laid at the very best odds available. I don’t lay a bet you see. I don’t mind anyone tweeting their disapproval, but a trader for Bet365? Well that takes the biscuit! Winning and losing isn’t important to me, but I do demand a fair ‘spread’ of business from a customer. In other words I wouldn’t entertain a client who’d wait like a spider for us to be substantially out of line before proffering a bet. Evidently this trader had ‘marks’ in his office as to his pick and couldn’t get on elsewhere, or we would have been left in peace. Obviously we will lay bets we don’t always fancy accommodating, but that’s the nature of the betting business. It’s not my policy to discuss my client’s business- ever. But you’ll understand I will respond to criticism unfairly levelled in open forums. Expect it if your house is made of glass. Having placed his wager he tweeted my website as ‘unfit for purpose’ and that I wasn’t ‘the bookie I claimed to be.’ Of course the Bet365 website was so much better than mine. Fine, I can accept that, except to say my own website lays a very fair bet at all times. The same isn’t necessarily true of Bet365’s. For example on the same event and selection, we could manage to get on more than £3.75 to win. Hmmm. Apparently my website works for placing wagers, it’s the roulette that doesn’t work properly. Anyway I’ve dealt with his barb. Bottom line is choice. That’s precisely why people bet with me and I don’t go to bed wishing I were Denise, and she won’t be worried about me. I lay a fair bet, or rid myself of someone who doesn’t offer me that – win or lose. That was the ethos of my father John Banks and that will remain my policy till I push up daisies. You see, all I hear and read about are restrictions from customers these days. Fine if we’re talking about professional traders or those working a business through exchanges; I’ve no issue with closures. Step on my toes and I’ll put on the jack boots. But I do have a serious beef with restrictions. I have been as forthright in that opinion as I have about modern day traders themselves. Do Bet365 lay decent wagers? Of course they do. But the complaints from those who feel unhappy at ridiculous counter offers simply undermine the good. What’s the point if you’ve determined someone is no good in allowing them to make a meal out of you online? Even if you’re a fair layer, the odd derisory offer paints a false picture of you’re worth. Now lads, let’s all get on the same page here. If you work for a company comfortable with offering derisory bets, or anything remotely similar, then you have to work to change that policy or the odds you’re offering that force it. Instead of attempting to compete with the tenners on an Exchange for such weak markets as the 3.55 at Clonmel, price every book up to say a minimum of 2% per runner and offer the customers a better service; a bet commensurate with their average stakes. But bets to £10 or less? Oh, come on, you’re making a spectacle of yourself. And as for moaning at me for accommodating you to a more than reasonable bet? Well put up or bet elsewhere. No? Of course the industry is governed by marketeers. The more names and email addresses they gather the better it sits on their CVs. Add 10,000 new clients to your books and executives should be happy. Although the big five operators are all registering profits in the hundred million range; their net margin as a proportion of their turnover appears dangerously low. And both Ladbrokes and Hills have announced recent significant profit dips. To be fair, there’s less complaints about what Ladbrokes and Hills lay, as to their rivals. I’m a little surprised to read occasional complaints about BetVictor. Spending too much on quality telly ads over there? To those executives staring with rose tinted specs at their marketing departments I offer you caution. In the world of the internet you can order a competitively priced pizza and have it delivered to your door. If they invented a cyber doll on the internet, sex would go out the window in a week. Betting is flooded with offers from hundreds of firms; not least my own. For our part we discount our clients payments. Does it therefore follow that if you found custom through money back offers and being that type of customer you would simply migrate to other companies when the bookmaker’s bottom line is constantly taking hits and the offers cease? Experience proves market share wars end up with victims on both sides of the coin. Middle pin companies and smaller go to the wall and become part of larger organisations. Customers suffer a worse standard of service as a consequence because smaller firms tailor their service. I make no bones about the expression ‘The Ryanair School Of Bookmaking’ because that’s the modern day thinking – ‘punters get the top of the market – don’t complain if we only lay you a tenner’. That’s not good enough for me. It’s not customer focussed. That’s the volume edict. You know what happens with short-sighted policies? Your clients become disaffected, even hateful of your policies. Why should a man who bets in fifties accept or begin to understand why you offer him £5? Yet he can have a spin for £100. When a Betfair comes along, and you’re part of that Wxchange by playing at bookie; you almost feel a sense of achievement. Fine; you’ll do your bollocks laying anything on the machine as you have to exceed Bookie prices, but that’s not my problem. If you’re comfortable operating a high tech, high volume website and offering £3 bets from time to time all well and good. But bear in mind that alienates traditional bettors. Many of whom have simply struck a winning run, as is common in gambling, and inexplicably find some Herbert whose spotted two winning wagers in a row and dropped them to a silly restriction without due cause. Ensure you only lay the ‘mugs’. Disrespectful and narrow. Now I give as good as I get. I expect to be ribbed from time to time. I’m not short on opinions on or off course. When you work for a casino operator, you’re bound to defend policy, even if privately you think some of the companies’ offers are a joke. I don’t doubt the individual I’ve engaged head on agrees their own firm’s restrictions are occasionally difficult to defend. They’re certainly not based at me laying them bets to lose 3 or 4 grand at a pop. To my mind, if you allow a customer on the one hand to sit on your fruit machine or play roulette, maxing out his cards, and do his brains on either, you leave an open goal when you offer a bet of £3. You can read more on Geoff’s views on horserace betting in Trouble getting a bet on the horses?