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Talk, don’t write

Mark Maydon is the Group Commercial Director at Sporting Index, the world’s leading sports spread betting company. Having seen the Paul Kelso article that I posted about the other day, he sent me a note in response to my blog and asked if I wouldn’t mind putting it up. I publish what he sent me in full below.

If I may be so bold, perhaps I can put a few things straight by way of response.

Let’s start with the facts.

Leading sports spread betting companies such as Sporting Index are regulated by the FSA (in respect of spread bets) but also by the Gambling Commission (in respect of binary bets and other fixed-odds bets). A check of the Gambling Commission website, which lists all companies that are GC regulated, would quickly confirm this.

Spread betting is betting under law – as illustrated by the fact that UK spread betting firms pay betting duty to HMRC. But because spread bets (aka ‘contracts for difference’) are leveraged investment products (in that you can lose more than your initial deposit, as it says in the familiar risk warnings that accompany all promotion of the product), spread betting is therefore regulated by the FSA (under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, as the legal eagles will tell you).

Under FSA regulations, a spread betting firm is obliged to report any suspicions of “market abuse”. This extends to sports markets where, for example, the firm believes betting patterns give it reasonable grounds for suspicion.

I am told there is close co-operation between the FSA and Gambling Commission. In any event, where Sporting Index has suspicions, we also report them to the Gambling Commission, a stance which has the FSA’s full approval.

Moreover, Sporting Index always co-operates fully with the Gambling Commission in any request for information they might legitimately make of us, in line with their investigative powers, the data protection rules and crime prevention. Our privacy policy, which forms part of our account operating rules, spells this out to our customers.

So I fail to understand why this non-existent loophole that allegedly might allow “cheats to prosper” needs either bringing to the attention of the Treasury Minister, or, by definition, requires closing. In any event, if there are dodgy practices afoot (i.e. fixing a result and profiting via betting), a fraud is perpetrated. In such circumstances the victims of the crime, the losers, include any betting business which accepted the bets in the first place.

Sometimes it appears from the public statements from outfits such as the Sports Betting Group and their European equivalents (for example, the Sports Rights Owners Coalition) that it is regulated bookmakers (of whatever variety, fixed-odds, spreads, exchanges, etc) that are the villains. Note the emphasis on regulated. I think we can all agree, whatever side of this fence we sit on, that illegal bookmakers are a genuine scourge.

The Sports Betting Group’s purported letter to the Treasury, it seems to me, illustrates once again the unnecessarily adversarial approach that sport (by which I mean a number of governing bodies) have generally taken to the betting industry, when a more conciliatory stance might well have paid dividends. Indeed, in respect of the matter that triggered this particular exchange of views, I am not aware that the Sports Betting Group has even sought to engage with any spread betting companies.

That the underlying desire of sport is to extract a legally-enshrined betting right (or equivalent) is further illustrated by the long-running legal battle of whether UK football fixtures are protected by copyright. This claim (now-challenged) has formed the basis on which Football Dataco, UK football’s well funded, litigious Rottweiler, has pressed all and sundry – from bookmakers to media companies to the bloke who runs his fan blog from his bedroom – into paying fees for merely stating that Arsenal are playing Manchester Utd on whatever date/time.

I really do struggle with why the relationship between bookmakers and sport is painted as parasitic rather than symbiotic. Just tot up the money poured into sport by the betting industry. This is both directly (via for example shirt sponsorship or the purchase of live picture streaming) and indirectly (take the advertising revenues TV generates from bookmakers which supports the business case that justifies the phenomenal investment in purchasing broadcast rights).

Of course it is laudable that sport wants to do more on the integrity front. But the misguided and misinformed actions from the likes of the Sports Betting Group, in respect of betting, do little than further entrench the respective sides, rather than get the parties around the table.

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One Response

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  1. geoffbanks says

    What concerns me most in UK Horse Racing, is eternal call by Large betting concerns-RCA for more and more fixtures. Backed by BHA, without proper consideration for the integrity of the sport.
    BHA employs 2, yes 2 betting intelligence officers, to cover 363 days(and night’s)racing. And sometimes 6 fixtures daily. An impossible task to police suspicious betting patterns.

    It seems to me, from recent high profile cases, that the BHA have become totally dependent on Betfair to ‘blow the whistle’ on suspicious betting activity. Betfair, of course in reaction to integrity issues raised by exchanges, sensibly agreed to share their info with authorities.

    I cannot recall last time BHA successflly suspended a horse or sanctioned connections for improvement in form. The likes of which was clearly witnessed with examples like Am I Blue at Hereford. Long investigation, nil result. They’re totally failing the sport. It is, in my view, for Bittar to insist on this many fixtures, without provision for the proper level of investigations teams.

    In my view, BHA should insist on proper funding for integrity and security of the sport from those vested interests in Betting and Racetracks and their calls for nearly 1500 fixtures a year.

    As a final point. Honk Kong races six times a month – and employs 240 staff to protect it’s integrity. A huge imbalance.

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