HBF Positional Statements

HBF Positional Statements

Positional Statements (last edited, March 2018) 

BETTORS’ CHARTER HBF has formulated a draft Charter document which is currently in an open consultation phase. The Charter covers a broad range of aspects dealing with fairness, transparency and responsible gambling. Work to refine the Charter is ongoing, with a number of bookmakers receptive to its outline principles.

Discussions with those bookmakers, as well as Gambling Commission and the BHA are ongoing. HBF welcomes comment from the general public on its draft Charter.


STARTING PRICES HBF recently published a study of 2017 starting prices by course, which highlights some outlying tracks where particularly good – and poor – value is often offered. That study can be found here.

HBF remains concerned that the mechanisms which lead to starting prices are insufficiently robust for the modern betting environment. In particular, it is concerned about the size, representativeness and anonymity of the sample used on-course to establish SPs. HBF made a submission to the Starting Price Regulatory Commission’s consultation process in September 2015, and wrote an open letter in March 2016 expressing its concerns about the conclusions of the report into that consultation, both of which may be found elsewhere on this site.

It further published a press release in July 2017 restating HBF’s position. Further to that initial consultation, HBF’s position is that the move towards greater visibility and public understanding of over-rounds might commence with their display on racing broadcasts.

As of February 2018, SPRC has repeatedly failed to answer HBF’s questions or to provide details of the SPRC’s “Nominations Committee”, through which its members are appointed. It has been reported that SPRC are considering dropping the R(egulatory) from their title as some members now feel this is misleading.


ACCOUNT CLOSURES AND RESTRICTIONS HBF continues to receive considerable correspondence from the betting public regarding the issue of account closures and restrictions. While it acknowledges that bookmakers have a right to manage risk in a manner appropriate to their business, and that there is currently no obligation for them to lay a bet in any given circumstance, it is deeply concerned that some of the strategies employed are having a detrimental effect on betting and on horseracing itself.

Many customers of bookmakers are more obviously customers of British racing, or could become so, and they deserve good service levels. Betting on horseracing involves skill and discipline, quite distinct from games of pure chance, and it is important that honest endeavour from those who have, or might develop, a passion for the sport is not met automatically with punitive action.

HBF conducted a public survey in April 2016 into account closures and restrictions – a summary of which can be found elsewhere on this site – and wrote around that time to a dozen major bookmakers to express their concerns and to seek constructive debate. There was a variety of responses, and in some cases no response at all. Since then, representatives of a number of bookmaking firms have attended HBF meetings, at which discussions have offered some hope. There has been increased media coverage of the issue since, including in The Guardian.

HBF continues to work towards heightening awareness and finding solutions that are acceptable to the interested parties, most recently by presenting the case for bettors at an All Party Parliamentary Betting & Gaming Group seminar in January 2018. The speech can be read in full here.


ADDITIONAL PUNTER-FRIENDLY DATA HBF believes that an increase in the reliability and scope of data provided for those who follow and bet on the sport of horseracing would be beneficial, especially as the sport competes against other recreational pursuits and against the sport in jurisdictions where data is much more extensive. HBF recognises that some data improvements are likely to be neither easy nor inexpensive, and it looks forward to working with the BHA and Racecourse Association to come up with sensible and affordable initiatives in this area.

As well as all UK flat tracks getting re-measured in 2017, and race distances updated or start positions revised as a result, HBF also requested that the placement of furlong markers be surveyed. That work was completed in late 2017. The full revised list of flat distance measurements can be found here.

HBF played a significant advisory role in the introduction of wind surgery publication in the racing press. This was available for the first time on 19th January 2018.

HBF continues to explore the possibility of publishing further punter-friendly data, including mares in foal, changes to advertised race distances, and more widespread recording and dissemination of sectional timing data.


NON RUNNERS HBF was pleased to be a factor in the publication of trainers’ non-runner ‘league tables’ last October. HBF feels this was an important step in enforcing accountability for late withdrawals, with the commensurate benefits to betting markets and on the attractiveness of betting on the sport as a whole. Rules regarding self-certification and the ability to withdraw on account of the going seemed too permissive, and this was also the message HBF received from members of the British betting public. HBF has asked BHA to give it an update on the efficacy of these measures by the end of summer 2018 at the latest.


STEWARDING HBF was represented at two of the recent stewarding consultation sessions, and is currently considering the second phase of that consultation to which a response will be issued. Further, HBF is pleased by the introduction of the new @BHAStewards twitter account providing followers with up-to-date raceday information on such as non-runners, going changes, and enquiries.


POOL BETTING HBF notes that the current tote monopoly expires in July 2018. Updates on a new racecourse tote project, to be known as BritBet, have been provided at recent HBF meetings. HBF hopes the project will be a success but retains reservations about it attracting the necessary liquidity to fulfil its potential as an exciting proposition for UK bettors, and also about the as yet unseen takeout rates. Despite these reservations, such functionality as partial cash-out and syndicate play are applauded as innovative and progressive.


TERMS & CONDITIONS HBF welcomed the demands of the CMA in February 2018 that online gambling operators must clarify terms and conditions around bonus offers, and that they also must remove clauses where operators have an unfair advantage over customers in the terms. Nevertheless, HBF, in its Charter, calls for further clarity around T’s & C’s and will continue to make its case with Gambling Commission within the framework of the current LCCP consultation and beyond.


IESNARE / TRACKING CODES HBF believes that the downloading and storing of tracking codes, such as iovation’s iesnare, without customer consent is unacceptable. Online bookmakers should not be allowed to store any data on a customer that is not logged on to their site. HBF is further concerned by allegations that such information, which may be deemed to be personal data, is being shared by companies using the iovation service for commercial gain rather than for reasons of integrity. HBF is heartened that these – wider than horse racing – issues are being pursued by both UKGC and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).


REPRESENTATION HBF was formed to represent the interests of all elements of the UK horseracing betting public. It continues to look for ways of communicating with, and seeking feedback from, that public. This is primarily conducted currently through electronic means (email, website and twitter) but also via racecourse and racing club attendance. HBF welcomes suggestions regarding how to further represent the British betting public.


MISCELLANEOUS After representations by HBF, rules regarding the compulsory parading of horses before racing have been tightened. HBF also continues to work with RCA and BHA to improve protocols for reporting of race measurements, timings and accurate ground descriptions, all of which it sees as being fundamental to ensuring the confidence of the British horseracing betting public.