Horseracing Bettors Forum Notes from meeting in July 2018

The twelfth meeting of HBF, and its third of 2018, was held in London on 9th July. Below are some notes from that meeting covering many of the topics discussed.

HBF Business – Part One

Betting Charter
The HBF Betting Charter has been out for consultation for a number of months, and is to be finalized this month (August). Betting operators have been invited to comment on its content.

Starting Price Regulatory Commission
HBF are hopeful of making contact with SPRC after the summer to discuss various matters relating to the starting price.

Betting Deductions

HBF is producing a table of betting deductions on various horseracing bets where starting price or Best Odds Guaranteed is not applied, to help UK bettors understand how much of each wagered pound contributes to the prize fund. There is a (yet to be completed) version of this table here.

Race Distances

HBF noted that the BHA were now publishing the updated, correct race distances in race results when rail movements and other factors had caused a change to the advertised race distance. HBF welcomed this but asked for BHA to ensure consistency across the racecourse spectrum and, further, to investigate the possibility of rail movements being added to data feeds, such that they appear on e.g. Racing Post

Minimum Betting Margin
Following comments made by the ROA President, HBF agreed it was too early to take a view on the matter of a ‘minimum betting margin’ until more is known about the proposal.

Minimum Bet Liability
Progress has been made with some operators with regards to provision of a minimum bet liability. Paddy Power/Betfair have made an initial provision online, and HBF has worked closely with two further operators who are expected to provide a form of MBL in the coming weeks.


BHA Executive Slot:

Nick Rust, Chief Executive, and Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer, discussed HBF matters, including the following:


RW said this had been challenging for a number of logistical reasons, but there remained an intent to publish data relating to mares in foal. The aim is to introduce this ahead of the next breeding cycle, i.e. Q1 2019

Sectional Times

HBF encouraged the BHA to provide leadership and to ensure minimum standards. NR agreed with the rationale but said there were challenges related to BHA having no ownership of the data.

BHA Handicapping Review

RW said the aim for implementation was January 2019. RW advised that several items are in progress, including the Handicapping Appeals Panel, and further information around the Review will be published later in Q3.

Race clashes

HBF said there should be more communication from the BHA around race clashes and why they take place. Leicester clashing with the Old Newton Cup at Haydock Park was cited as a recent example. BHA reviewed that specific example where the runners at Leicester had been at the post for some time and were getting very hot, with a couple becoming fractious. In that specific instance, the stipendiary stewards took the sensible decision that they couldn’t hold and they eventually jumped at 1.51.09.


HBF Business – Part Two


HBF will repeat its overrounds review in January.

2018 Punter Survey

HBF is planning a further bettors’ survey and agreed the survey needs to be shared more widely this year. The survey will be published in the next few weeks.


Picture delays and illegal streaming were discussed and considered as damaging to the sport. HBF is in discussions with Betfair and Racing UK on the subject.

HBF Membership

HBF will be seeking to refresh its membership ahead of its next meeting, with one, perhaps two, new member(s) joining. Invitations to apply will be published soon.

Black Dave / Rule 4 / UKGC
HBF has added a statement to the website in response to the Gambling Commission’s statement.

Going Stick
HBF has representation on the BHA-driven Going Stick Working Party, which is more widely looking into ways of improving the accuracy and accountability of going descriptions. This may involve using timing analysis during and after a meeting has taken place and less extensive but nonetheless indicative Going Stick readings shortly before the start of racing.

Next Meeting
HBF will next convene in the week of 15th October.


HBF Response to UKGC Rule 4 Statement

UKGC’s statement is a welcome recognition that there are issues surrounding the implementation of Rule 4 at present. HBF has lobbied since its inception for an application of R4 more in keeping with the actual Tattersalls rule, whereby bookmakers should apply the deduction either to board prices at the time the bet was struck, or at the time of the official BHA notification. This differs from the subsequent notification system used by Weatherby’s, whereby as much as ten minutes can elapse between official BHA notification and bookmaker implementation. 

With regards to the Evans/Ladbrokes case, HBF accepts that: 

– There is evidence of a single instance, not systematic abuse [though further investigation may have uncovered the latter]

– This is a historic case pre-dating UKGC’s first stated position on R4

– The LCCP does not act as a ‘catch all’, and in terms of the LCCP there has been nothing specifically breached [although the ‘fairness’ principle has certainly been brought into question].


HBF is satisfied that if evidence is brought to UKGC in the future, and subsequently upheld, they would act against both the operator and the industry to introduce one of the scenarios for which we have lobbied, as per their release.

– 4th July 2018

Horseracing Bettors Forum News from meeting in April 2018

The eleventh meeting of the Horseracing Bettors Forum took place in London on 16th April 2018. What follows is a note of that meeting and some of the topics discussed.

Guest Slot: BHA Racing Department

Paul Johnson and Stu Middleton introduced the work of the BHA Racing Department, which includes three areas: Fixture List, Race Programme and Race Times.

Areas of discussion included the 2018 Appearance Money Scheme (AMS), the Fixture List consultation process, and the racing product on Sundays.

Betting Charter

HBF members agreed to draw the consultation phase of the Betting Charter to a close, and are looking to formalize a final version before the next meeting (July).

Guest Slot: UK Gambling Commission

Graham Burgin, a regular attendee from UKGC, joined the Forum to discuss a range of subjects including:

– Information Commissioners’ Office, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and iesnare

– The application of Rule 4 by betting operators

– UKGC’s Licence Conditions & Code of Practice (LCCP) consultation, to which HBF has submitted a response

– Minimum bet liability

– Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC)

– In-running betting at UK racecourses

Guest Slot: BHA Executive

Nick Rust, Chief Executive, and Brant Dunshea, Chief Regulatory Officer, discussed HBF matters, including the following items:

– The Racing Authority, successor to Horseracing Betting and Levy Board from April 2019

– Stewarding Consultation

– Non-runners, on account of the ground, which are subsequently declared to race on the same going as that from which they were scratched

– Mares in foal data, and the publication thereof

– Race distances – actual vs advertised – and the publication thereof

– @BHAStewards twitter feed

Pool Betting

An update was provided on the Britbet racecourse pool betting project

Guest Slot: Racecourse Association (RCA)

Andy Clifton, Racing Director for the RCA, shared his views on a number of subjects, including:

– Accuracy of going descriptions

– Accuracy of race distances, and the dissemination of information relating to revised distances

– Data provision within the printed racecard available on course

– Provision of weather and wind speed information on course

– Racecourse marketing fees charged to rails bookmakers


The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, 9th July.

Where to bet and where not to bet: a study into 2017 Starting Prices in British horseracing

The Horseracing Bettors Forum has undertaken a study into Starting Prices in Britain in 2017, measuring the “over-rounds” compared to what might be expected given a race’s field size.

“Over-rounds” are the bookmakers’ theoretical mark-ups and are derived from the sum of the amount that would need to be staked to return a fixed figure at each of the prevailing prices.

For instance, you would need to stake £20 at 4/1 to return £100 (your £80 winnings plus your £20 stake) but just £10 at 9/1. If you add up all of these stakes it indicates the amount which would need to be invested in proportion to the odds of all of the runners in a race to return £100 regardless of the outcome.

In nearly all instances, this figure will be larger than the £100 returned. You might need to stake £110 to guarantee a return of £100 come what may, or you might need to stake £120 to do the same, depending on how much the prices are in the bookmakers’ favour.

The difference between the amount staked and the amount returned – 10% or 20% perhaps – is the theoretical “over-round” which works in the bookmakers’ favour (though at this stage it must be acknowledged that a bookmaker is unlikely to lay every horse in strict proportion to that horse’s odds).

Over-round is affected by field-size, but not in a simple, linear, fashion. That is why a measure other than over-round-per-runner needs to be used.

HBF used an equation derived from a study into Starting Prices in 2014 by HBF member Simon Rowlands (,_part_one) and then established the degree to which actual Starting Price over-rounds differed from that simple prediction.

The following are some of the findings.

  • Over-rounds were generally higher than those predicted by the 2014 model, suggesting that %s have crept up in real terms
  • The WORST courses for punters in terms of over-rounds compared to the model’s expectation are (in order): Ffos Las; Chelmsford City; and Towcester
  • The BEST courses for punters in terms of over-rounds are (in order): Nottingham; Catterick Bridge; and Thirsk
  • The smallest over-rounds (compared to the model) come in Chases, the biggest, perhaps unsurprisingly, in National Hunt Flat Races
  • Again, perhaps unsurprisingly (given that more is known of the horses and that odds can be set with greater confidence), handicaps have smaller over-rounds compared to non-handicaps

Summary tables can be found at the bottom of this piece, but it is worth just dwelling on the figures by individual course. In particular, the over-rounds at Ffos Las in 2017 were frequently out of kilter with what might be expected and merit investigation.

These include a card at Ffos Las on 25th August, 2017, when the following betting percentages were returned: 122% for a 6-runner handicap; 128% for an 8-runner handicap; 142% for a 10-runner non-handicap; 130% for a 7-runner handicap; 128% for a 7-runner handicap; 136% for a 7-runner handicap; and 131% for a 5-runner handicap, all of which figures greatly exceed what might usually be expected.

The returns for the card on 17th July, 2017, were not quite so eye-watering, but they included: 135% for a 13-runner handicap; 133% for a 12-runner handicap; and 132% for an 11-runner handicap.

Something odd is going on at the South-Wales course, with nearly all races disadvantageous to punters betting at Starting Prices compared to expectation, and sometimes by large amounts.

Ffos Las may be a course to steer clear of until an explanation – not to mention a solution – has been provided. 


Summary of methodology: races in which the same number of declared horses as runners were used to avoid skewing by late withdrawals; the average difference from “par” was taken for all qualifying races at a course; “par” was taken to be [100+(field size*((-0.0245*field size)+1.9286)]

Steve Tilley

Simon Rowlands

February 2018

In the below table, the figure given is the over round compared to par, with a positive value an excess (i.e. poorer value betting track than par) and a negative value a better value betting track than par.

Course Diff
BATH 2.4
YORK 1.5
AYR 0.2
KELSO -0.1
PERTH -0.4


Transcript of HBF Speech to APBGG, 23rd January 2018

Parliamentary All-Party Betting and Gaming Group

23 January 2018, Committee Room 4, House of Lords, 15:00 – 16:30

“Are bookmakers unfairly closing customer accounts?”

Simon Rowlands, Chair, Horseracing Bettors Forum


Firstly, may I thank the Group for inviting me, as Chair of the Horseracing Bettors Forum, to address them on the question of “are bookmakers unfairly closing customer accounts?”

In the correspondence leading up to this event, one of my fellow speakers was described as “neutral”, but HBF would like to emphasise that it does not wish to be seen as merely speaking for one side in this debate: it seeks co-operation and to work towards a fair resolution of any problems that there may be.

I will briefly explain what HBF is and what its aims are.

HBF was created in 2015 with the assistance of the British Horseracing Authority to understand and represent the hopes and concerns of those who bet upon, or who might bet upon, horseracing in Britain.

It has between 7 and 9 members, including me as Chair, and meets quarterly as well as corresponding extensively between those meetings. Its membership has been derived from public calls for interest, the most recent of which was last summer.

HBF is unfunded other than having minor expenses defrayed by the BHA. The Forum sees holding the BHA to account as one of its primary objectives, and the BHA has been supportive, including in this regard.

Previously, the betting public was – at least occasionally – seen as a key customer group in British racing but had no voice or means for raising concerns.

HBF has established a website, e-mail address and Twitter account, all with a view to engaging with the public it seeks to represent. Its members have also met with the public at racecourses and at racing clubs.

In the two and a half years since HBF’s inception, the subject most frequently raised with HBF has been that of the closure and restriction of betting accounts.

Contrary to some opinion, that has not just been from high-rolling gamblers but from small-staking ones as well, and not just from winners but sometimes from losers, too.

Account “closure” is self-explanatory, but it has become apparent that some “restrictions” are so draconian that they serve much the same end, while – the cynic might suggest – leaving the door ajar to a spin or two on the virtual roulette table.

There are countless anecdotes about bets being restricted to derisory sums, and bookmakers have confirmed that some customers have been “factored” to a minute fraction of the bets they request.

HBF understands the desire for sensible risk management, but it believes that restrictions and closures are being implemented too readily, and that the consequences of this for horseracing and for betting on the sport are harmful and are not being taken seriously enough.

HBF ran a survey of the betting public in 2016, to which there were nearly 1000 respondents, with 59% of those who stated that they had had accounts closed or restricted claiming to have suffered a reduction in interest in the wider sport as a consequence.

By extrapolating from the figures reported, in conjunction with information provided separately but confidentially to HBF by a leading bookmaker, HBF estimated that as many as 20,000 accounts had been closed in the previous six months.

The immediate harm to an individual bookmaker of wrongly restricting or closing the account of a given punter may be small, but the potential harm to the sport is much greater, as it could lose a lifelong fan.

Ultimately, if that happens often enough – and the evidence is that it is happening more than occasionally – then it threatens to poison the well for all concerned.

Risk management should not be taken to equal risk elimination. Betting on horseracing by its nature involves risk – whichever side of the counter you are on – and that is a significant part of its appeal compared to some alternatives.

It is crucial to betting on the sport, and to the sport itself, that it remains aspirational. That it should be possible, in theory, to turn a profit, or at least to lose less, by applying enough skill and discipline.

By acquiring that skill and knowledge, an individual may well become an advocate for, and contributor to, the sport of horseracing itself.

The modern betting landscape seems to have lent itself to a safety-first attitude to risk management. Where once it might have taken many bets to establish that a punter was “hot”, individuals are having accounts closed or restricted sometimes as a result of just a few bets.

Those bets do not have to have been successful, just to resemble the fingerprint of someone who may, possibly, be successful in the future. As an example, those who bet on horses who subsequently shorten in price seem to be prime targets for restriction.

The Chair will be familiar with the details provided by one of his constituents, who is present here, of that constituent’s severely restricted accounts. Those accounts have been for average bets of just £15 and have effectively done no more than break even over a number of years.

The individual’s apparent “crime”? It was that, in amongst those bets, he backed enough horses at odds longer than Starting Price to have aroused suspicion.

Incidentally, I would like at this point to acknowledge, and pay tribute to, the fine work done by the group Justice For Punters, in this specific instance and in the area of account restrictions and closures more widely.

In our survey, 20% of respondents claimed to have been closed (not just restricted) after less than 10 bets, 37% after 20 or fewer.

As a result, it seems likely that there are thousands of “false positives”: of people closed or restricted by accident.

This haste in applying closures and restrictions has led to some punters becoming more “inventive” at trying to get a bet on. HBF wishes to make it clear that it does not condone the adoption of aliases, of impersonation, and the like.

But this ensures a vicious circle, whereby bookmakers become increasingly suspicious of betting behaviour, and a small section of punters become more resourceful in trying to get round the restrictions imposed. The whole situation escalates.

The Horseracing Bettors Forum would like to be a part of breaking this vicious circle and of creating a better environment for the majority of the betting public. At present, too many “innocents” are being caught up in restrictions and closures aimed at discouraging the very few.

One part of the solution might be a minimum-bet commitment from bookmakers.

It is what HBF has called for in its Betting Charter – along with advanced protection of punters’ funds, greater clarity on Terms & Conditions and other items – and we have discussed the matter with a small number of co-operative bookmakers in Britain.

On a recent visit to Australia, I met with a leading corporate bookmaker and discussed minimum-bet commitments with them.

A number of States in Australia have now adopted this as a condition of licence, and those I spoke to in Victoria were notably enthusiastic about the initiative.

They believe it has led to them being able to set more informed markets and to serve a wider section of the betting public at little increase in initial cost.

They claim that subterfuge and cloak-and-dagger activity has virtually disappeared as all but the largest-staking punters have been able to get a reasonable bet on.

There are some differences between the betting landscape in Britain and Australia, but far more similarities. Several of the biggest corporate bookmakers in Australia are in fact owned by British betting companies.

Another, related, option is to offer punters “no frills” accounts, without promotions and/or best-odds guaranteed, but with this commitment to a minimum bet. This should be an option, rather than an obligation: different punters will want different things.

HBF would also like to see better communication between bookmakers and customers prior to closure or restriction.

At present, the first time a punter is likely to know that his or her business is no longer wanted is when he or she gets a generic e-mail advising that closure or restriction is a “trading decision” and not open to discussion.

We believe a customer should be told which behaviours may lead to this outcome – such as a suspicion of arbing, or line-tracking, or of holding multiple accounts under different identities – before closure becomes final and irreversible, so that those behaviours may be explained or changed.

This seminar’s title is “are bookmakers unfairly closing customer accounts?” In summary, HBF would argue that closures and restrictions are indeed unfair in some instances.

As much to the point, however, is that they are proving to be counter-productive, for the sport of horseracing, for those who would bet on it, and – we would argue – even for the bookmakers themselves in the longer run.

All concerned need to enter into dialogue about this matter – such as through the soon-to-be-formed Racing and Betting Liaison Group at the BHA – and HBF very much appreciates this Parliamentary Group’s willingness to set the ball rolling with this seminar.

Thank you.

HBF 2nd Annual Statement

HBF Chair’s Annual Statement, 2017

The Horseracing Bettors Forum recently had its second anniversary, marked by a regular meeting at Nottingham Racecourse at which new members were welcomed and departing members were thanked.

One item on the Agenda was to explain to those newcomers the evolution of HBF in those first two years, a summary of which constitutes some of what follows.

HBF is recognised officially by the BHA, which helped to establish it and continues to assist in its development, but it does not possess statutory powers. It cannot enforce change, however much it might wish for it, but it can seek to influence those who may.

To that end, much of the effort to this point has been in trying to establish HBF’s credibility and in establishing then nurturing relationships with bodies that have influence in the relevant areas.

From a standing start, HBF has persuaded the BHA to make a formal commitment to consider, where relevant, the interests of the betting public in any potential changes to procedures, and to have senior BHA representatives at all HBF meetings to explain BHA policy in matters which affect the British horseracing betting public.

The BHA has been both helpful and receptive, for which HBF is grateful, and HBF has found itself involved in positive developments in a number of areas.

These include: the initiative to reduce non-runners in British racing and their effect on betting markets; the move to 48-hour declarations for the Cheltenham Festival; transparency on balloting on the BHA website; the compulsory declaration of wind operations; and other data initiatives that should follow.

HBF recently contributed to the BHA’s consultation on the future of stewarding. In summary, HBF is in favour of raising standards but remains to be convinced that this will be achieved by an increase in paid stewarding. It recommends that new technologies are embraced and that existing expertise elsewhere within the BHA is harnessed more effectively.

A principal aim of any recommendations from the stewarding review should be to increase the confidence of the British horseracing and betting public in the running of the sport.

HBF is in discussion with BHA about how it can play its part in formal arrangements the latter intends making to bring the betting and racing industries together, under the auspices of the BHA, to the mutual benefit of all.

At the same time, HBF has had regular dealings with the Gambling Commission, including as a representative of the consumer on a GC working party to discuss betting-related matters, and it contributed to the Competition and Markets Authority’s important public consultation. HBF wishes to acknowledge the excellent work being undertaken at the same time by Justice for Punters in these and other areas.

HBF is encouraged to have been contacted recently by the All-Party Parliamentary Betting And Gaming Group to see if it would be interested in contributing to a discussion in Parliament about bookmakers restricting winning betting accounts.

Restrictions and closures of betting accounts (not necessarily just winning ones, either) has been the one topic above all others about which the public has contacted HBF over the last two and a bit years. As Chair, I recently discussed this matter with corporate bookmakers on a trip to Australia, where Minimum Bet Liabilities have not only been implemented but have been met with widespread enthusiasm.

HBF’s position is that betting on racing is a test of skill – which most of us fail! – and not just pure chance, and that it needs to remain aspirational. It needs to be possible that you can win at the game, or at least lose less, by applying skill and discipline. By acquiring skill and interest, the individual in question may well become a long-term supporter of, and advocate for, the sport itself.

To that end, and others, HBF has drawn up a Betting Charter which includes guidelines on minimum-bet guarantees, along with others on protection of funds, problem gambling, terms and conditions, the requirement for bettors to abide by fair and transparent rules in return, and others.

This Charter, which is intended to be for the benefit of all parties, was developed with the assistance of a small number of co-operative bookmakers, and with input from the BHA and the GC. The BHA recently indicated that it would support the Charter, which HBF will share with the public before the end of the year, seeking feedback.

HBF recently shared the Charter with the Association of British Bookmakers and the Remote Gambling Association, inviting those betting-industry trade bodies to help in framing the Charter and in bringing it to the attention of their members.

Achieving wider acceptance of the Betting Charter will be a particular focus for HBF in the year ahead, as will be understanding, explaining and perhaps influencing new pool-betting initiatives, playing a part in the delivery of improvements in horseracing which will also benefit those who bet on the sport, and fostering constructive relationships with others in horseracing and betting.

The message HBF puts out needs always to be informed by the concerns and aspirations of the British horseracing betting public it seeks to represent.

HBF hopes to put in greater effort to connect with that constituency and to understand and represent its views, be that through social media, its website and e-mail facility, or through public appearances and written material. It must, however, be understood that HBF members are giving up their own time for no monetary reward and there is a limit in what they can do.

Those HBF members now number eight, with five having left and four having joined since HBF’s inception, following a public call for new blood earlier this year. There will be public calls for new members in the future.

As Racing Post’s Lee Mottershead wrote recently “…through the creation of the Horseracing Bettors Forum, punters have gained a strong voice…”.

Whether as a future HBF member, or as someone sharing your views on pertinent issues with HBF, you can ensure that voice remains not only strong but effective.

Simon Rowlands

Chair, HBF, November 2017

HBF Response to BHA Non-Runner Measures

The Horseracing Bettors Forum welcomes the initiatives announced by the BHA regarding non-runners, and particularly commends the fact that the consequences to the betting public have been properly considered.

There are areas in which the BHA could have gone further – such as with the length of exclusion following self-certification and vets’ certificates – but the proposals seek to strike a sensible balance between competing interests, and crucially take into account the effect of non-runners on betting markets and the attractiveness of the sport more widely.

HBF raised the issue with the BHA shortly after HBF was created nearly two years ago, since when it has received a steady stream of correspondence on the matter. It is pleased that action will now be taken.

HBF will not hesitate to press for tougher measures if these initiatives fall short of having the desired effect of making British horseracing more appealing to the betting public at the same time as being fair to the sport’s participants.

HBF, 16th August 2017

Horseracing Bettors’ Forum press release concerning the SPRC

21st July 2017

The Horseracing Bettors’ Forum would like to publicly state that it has no confidence in the current Starting Price Regulatory Commission, the SPRC.  In today’s world regulatory bodies have to be open and accountable to their stakeholders and to clearly demonstrate the integrity of their decisions. The SPRC fails to do either of these.

There are no minutes published of meetings or discussions this organisation has and in their most recent report they dealt with a potential conflict of interest scenario by one, unnamed, committee member talking to another unnamed “distinguished lawyer”.  No reports of those discussions have been made available.

To ensure the integrity of the SP or starting price, one of the lynch pins of horse racing, not only must things be done but they must be seen to be done. The days of regulatory bodies handing out rulings without explanation or discussion are long past.

As representatives of people who bet we were shocked by the patronising attitude to bettors shown by the chairman Lord Donoughue’s  recent statement.,

“However, our SP caters mostly for the majority of average smaller punters, who do not wish or have time to engage in the bear garden of competitive pricing and are content to accept a fair price on their winners and losers. It is true that they might gain a few more shillings if they hunted down the very best prices”

He apparently has no idea of the modern betting world or of its participants.

He further has stated that “No one can ‘fix’ the SP”. This shows a degree of complacency totally incompatible with the imagination and preparedness needed in a modern regulatory body.

The SPRC has a long history of trying to deflect criticism by saying its critics are seeking to abolish the starting price system. We would like to reiterate that this is not HBF’s aim.

However HBF would like to see starting prices regulated by an open communicative organisation, responsive to the views of those it affects and with its members selected in a clear and open manner.

Horse racing, bettors and the betting industry deserve no less.

HBF Membership Refresh

The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF), created with the assistance of the British Horseracing Authority to represent the interests of those who bet on British horseracing, has announced four new Forum Members as part of a planned refresh of its membership ahead of its second anniversary.

Paul Johnson, Colin Hord, Colin Magee and Martin Hughes have been selected by HBF to represent the betting public and replace four of the original nine Forum Members.

Colin Hord has already replaced Jason Brautigam – who left the Forum late in 2016 – and was in attendance at the Monday 3 July HBF meeting.

Colin Magee, Martin Hughes and Paul Johnson will replace original HBF Forum Members Quen Emmenes, Glenn Alcoe and Scott Ferguson.

All four new Forum Members are passionate horseracing fans and the last three will be joining HBF in advance of the Forum’s second anniversary meeting, which is planned for Nottingham Racecourse in October.

Members will serve three-year terms and there will be another planned refresh of the HBF membership in 2018.

Simon Rowlands, who will remain as Chair of HBF for one further year, said:

“We were all very impressed with the standard of applications, which made the decisions regarding appointments difficult, and are confident that the new intake will ensure that the interests of the British horseracing betting public continue to be represented in an independent and insightful manner.

“I would like to thank Quen, Glenn and Scott for their sterling efforts over the last couple of years, without which the creation and early stages of the HBF would have been considerably more difficult.”

HBF has meetings roughly each quarter and has lobbied on behalf of the British horseracing betting public with bookmakers and with bodies such as The Gambling Commission, The Information Commissioner’s Office, The Starting Price Regulatory Commission, The BHA and The Racecourse Association.

HBF will continue to ensure a key customer group of British Racing is represented in the new Levy environment and is currently especially active in the areas of improved data provision for bettors, Non-Runners, the future of pool betting and the creation of a Betting Charter.

It may be contacted through its website at and its Twitter account at @HbfBritain.

The Forum Members

MATT BISOGNO, London, is a former software development project manager and consultant who is now managing director of the popular online racing community A passionate racehorse owner and syndicate manager, his betting is data-driven and he has contributed to previous BHA focus groups about betting.

COLIN HORD, London, works at the Civil Aviation Authority and has a degree in meteorology. He is the policy lead in the Safety and Airspace Regulation Division. He is a member of Kempton Park Racecourse and writes a blog with his betting selections.

MARTIN HUGHES, near Newcastle, worked at Barclays Bank plc for 19 years in various roles. For the past 8 years he has been a full-time bettor, adopting several approaches and becoming a specialist in in-running (without fast pictures).

PAUL JOHNSON, Leeds, worked for William Hill for over 30 years and is now a professional horseracing bettor. A keen racegoer who has visited 55 racecourses in the UK, he also advises on horseracing at Regulus Partners.

COLIN MAGEE, London, is an enterprise software executive and entrepreneur, and is a regular racegoer. He authored the first published book on how to program the Betfair API and is also owner of, a site which provides data analysis tools for bettors who wish to build their own systems.

SIMON ROWLANDS, (Chair), near Sheffield, is a self-employed horseracing analyst and writer who formerly worked as a betting-shop manager, racing editor for a national newspaper and for many years for Timeform. He was recently appointed to British racing’s Disciplinary Panel.

TANYA STEVENSON, Surrey, is from a bookmaking family and has many years of experience in the betting industry, including as betting expert on Channel 4 Racing. She has worked on BHA groups, Tattersalls Committee and is a judge of the Betting Shop Manager of The Year.

STEVEN TILLEY, Gloucestershire, has been a racing fan since he was a teenager and a member at Cheltenham racecourse for 30 years. He has written about betting for magazines and spoken at betting workshops, and mixes with punters across the spectrum from those in it purely for fun to those who take it very seriously. He has been a local councillor for the last 25 years.

Twitter Q & A

Via its twitter account and the hashtag #HBFQA, HBF recently hosted a Q&A for the general public. Here are those questions, and answers, in full.


HBF writes:

Such a directive would require legislation, and neither BHA nor HBF is empowered in that way. The Gambling Commission, which might be, is not minded to do so, though HBF continues in dialogue with GC about this and other matters. Nonetheless, HBF is seeking to define what it sees as good practice in this area and hopes to get backing to encourage bookmakers that adopting reasonable guidelines will be to their benefit and not just punters’.


HBF writes:

Racecourses are commercial entities that will pay the consequences if they misjudge such matters. With racecourse attendances still high, and remarkably few tracks having closed in recent decades, they might well disagree with your analysis. HBF cannot dictate to them. Nonetheless, the race-day experience is a valuable shop window for the sport and HBF would like to see easier access to information (WiFi, replays, results, announcements, seeing the horses before the race, interviews with racing professionals) and continued vigilance to ensure betting markets do not exploit the novice and the seasoned racegoer alike. One way this may be best achieved is through greater co-operation between racecourses. Last year’s industry updates suggests this is happening.


HBF writes:

HBF has suggested a pilot project in this area – believing that wholesale implementation at one go would encounter logistical problems and no small amount of opposition – such as in Group races or selected AW races. More widely, it is necessary to distinguish between dead weight and live weight, as the latter can occur in tandem with increased strength or other athletic enhancements. HBF sees this issue as meaningful, but it is down its list of priorities, including having taken soundings from a section of the betting public.


HBF writes:

HBF takes on issues it sees as clearly important without necessarily waiting for public feedback. Otherwise, though, it responds to concerns raised with it directly, by the public and from within the industry. HBF seeks to represent all punters. There are many, many more recreational than “professional” punters but it is important that betting on the sport remains aspirational and that those who seek to bet profitably (nearly all of us?!) are not short-changed. HBF made a positional statement with relevance to this on its website recently.


HBF writes:

Racing also measures in yards/furlongs for overall race distances but calculates rail movements in metres then converts them back into yards (!). HBF continues to apply pressure to increase accuracy, relevance and timeliness of data, including in terminology used.


HBF writes:

Some. HBF has discussed the first two with a small number of “friendly” bookies and drawn an example of the last-named to the attention of the Information Commissioner’s Office via the Gambling Commission. Some bookies seem to understand that blunt restrictions with inadequate explanation may seem expedient in short-term but could well have harmful consequences for all longer-term. We continue to lobby in this area.


HBF writes:

HBF has had no dealings with the Horserace Betting Levy Board, which is soon to discontinue. Prior to the creation of the HBF, the future Chair asked the HBLB that funding be made available into horseracing betting behaviour (what drives good and bad participation) but was told that was outside the HBLB’s remit. When it becomes clear who holds the purse strings, HBF may well be minded to push for research in a number of areas, of which best practice in watering could be one. HBF’s Chair raised issues with watering at a recent Going-Stick Working Party meeting but has heard no more of the matter since other than that the Working party’s scope will expand.


HBF writes:

A hypothetical question, as Exchanges are legal, here to stay and in Betfair’s case have, unlike some of their more conventional bookmaking rivals, regularly paid back into the sport. In addition to what some see as problems with them, Exchanges have appealed to a new type of punter and increased the interest of many existing ones.


HBF writes:

Sadly, HBF has made little progress in this area. The Forum has no statutory powers and can only seek to influence through dialogue and providing evidence. That is very difficult to do when some bookmakers refuse to engage with us. Nonetheless, HBF has put this suggestion to those bookmakers who HAVE engaged and have been encouraged by the response. If this is to happen more widely then it will be a long road, but HBF is committed to trying to bring improvements in this and other areas all the same.


HBF writes:

Little at present. Pretty much every group within horseracing believes it has a short-term interest in more racing or at least in preserving the status quo. HBF has made its views – similar to yours – clear in a positional statement on its website ( and in person to the BHA.


HBF writes:

HBF is not involved as a body in handicapping matters. But individuals on HBF have formally submitted views about official handicapping practices, some of which seem outdated. These include that greater transparency of ratings and the ratings process would improve understanding and promotion of the sport. We await developments.


HBF writes:

Others are better placed to answer this than HBF. However, HBF believes there is a very clear distinction between FOBTs (games of chance) and betting on horseracing (can be a game of skill, the acquiring of which may turn the individual in question into an advocate for the sport itself). HBF believes this distinction should have been emphasised much more in the past and must be in the future. Racing should be very conscious of how it is perceived and ask whether such a hand-in-glove association with FOBTs sends out the right message.


HBF writes:

HBF has pushed hard for improved data and made some progress, but there needs to be a change in culture within the sport about the need for accurate and meaningful data, delivered in a timely manner, and it is clear that will take time. Nonetheless, expect significant progress in coming months in some of those areas you have mentioned.
On SP, see remarks made elsewhere about the need for a culture change, though some of what is asked for (e.g. racecourse demographics) have commercial sensitivity. The 2016 industry updates revealed that there will be greater co-operation between racecourses, but not necessarily greater public openness. HBF asked for greater transparency in betting markets, but those – and other legitimate – concerns raised with the Starting Price Regulatory Commission have been ignored.


HBF writes:

The Forum has not discussed the Kempton Park situation, in part because it has received no representations about it. HBF understands that a pressure group has been created. While HBF would be opposed to anything which seriously threatened to erode the appeal of betting on horseracing in Britain, it can be asked whether that will be the consequence of the sport losing one – admittedly significant – racecourse out of 60 and having it replaced by another. It is also a reality – however unfortunate or not – that racecourses are assets owned by companies and not the sport itself.


HBF writes:

There is a Twitter account (@BallotedOut) which provides a welcome service, but this should not be left to private individuals. On the back of your query, HBF has specifically asked that BHA host the same for all races with clear betting consequences, and BHA has indicated that this matter will be formally discussed as early as this week. Thanks.


HBF writes:

HBF’s Chair raised this at a recent Going-Stick Working Party meeting and did not receive an explanation. Sedgefield is not alone in this, though some of the other omissions are down to courses having frost covers that could not be removed in time to take readings. Chair proposed “quickie” readings from which a wider going reading could be extrapolated an hour or so before racing (most readings are several hours, or sometimes a number of days, in advance). Awaiting a response from the GSWP.


HBF writes:

HBF does not have an official position on this issue, which the BHA has a race-planning department dedicated to trying to improve. But individual Forum members have submitted suggestions. We would urge you to make your own suggestions known, either through HBF or directly to such as


HBF writes:

The intention is to attract more runners, just not “dross” ones. That does not always happen, obviously! More widely, small fields in British racing do not go down well on the international stage. A minimum of 8 runners is the aim. This is really a concern for the likes of the race-planning department at the BHA.


HBF writes:

No consensus has been established at HBF, which is made up of a mix of glass-half-full and glass-half-empty individuals! HBF has been outside the loop on this but will be briefed about the situation at its July meeting and intends to make it clear that lowering deductions should at least be considered and that it will oppose attempts to squeeze the betting public for purely short-term gain.


HBF writes:

Don’t know! Not an HBF matter, but it underlines how there are intriguing angles in this sport. The sport will benefit from such questions being asked, and more easily explored and answered. HBF is very keen on there being an environment in which the beautiful complexity of horseracing analysis can flourish.


HBF writes:

HBF has raised the unsatisfactory nature of “privileged data” with BHA. Its existence runs counter to much that racing is trying to achieve and fuels the impression that racing is an “insider’s game”. HBF will raise this again at its next meeting – at which BHA will be present during a dedicated slot – and seek clearer official policy. This is part of the wider attempt to change culture around data, and that will take time.