The HBF meeting took place remotely via Zoom on the 29th March 2021
Colin Hord was in the chair.
Charter Update – Ongoing and to be revisited after discussions with there BGC
Competitiveness of National Hunt Racing – ongoing and to be raised with Paul Johnson, BHA
Gambling Act Review – Response in draft and and key themes agreed
Totepools – CH has written to Jamie Hart (Tote) with a request for further details
Wider Reach Of HBF – SR was thanked for his blog on ATR and others are planned to follow
The Chairman’s update included:
Positive media coverage via the Racing Post as well as meetings with Arc (Martin Cruddace), Flutter, and Tom Byrne and an appearance on the Nick Luck show all saw the HBF in a good light and it was agreed this approach would be continued but all.
Gambling Commission Consultation on Affordability
Ours was one of approximately 13,000 responses to the consultation which garnered plenty of attention in the racing press and other media. The rest of the open discussion included a lack of clarity among the bookmakers over what they needed to do next, and that the massive response to the consultation may well move the timelines. Using data provided via both the committee and elsewhere affordability checks appear to already be in pace despite a lack of legal requirement with serious concerns about how punters’ data would be stored safely with no evidence that the checks needed by banks and other financial organisations were in place. The meeting agreed The tote appeared the most cautious to date and CH confirmed he has been in contact with Jamie Hart, while Chris Cook had spoken to Susannah Gill who told him this was a corporate approach. JL noted the extra chuckles would be onerous for the smaller bookmakers who do not have the appropriate departments in place. It was agreed that the HBF concerns regarding affordability checks would be reiterated in our submission to the Gambling Act Review.
Gambling Act Review -the submission from the HBF is a work in progress and will be kept to points and issues that relate soles to the HBF’s focus. It was agreed to expand the point regarding protection of funds which remains an unanswered issue at present, and to highlight the number of bookmakers who do not offer guarantees. it was los agreed to motion the need for an Ombudsman or overarching body (Gambling Adjudicator was the HBF preferred title) for betting disputes and integrity, and that the current reference to the SPRC was not clear with regard to how its interacted with other organisations. Said adjudicator would need to have the powers to do their job without relying on legislation, and that although there GC already had such powers, it needs a far more far-reaching mandate to protect customers, and a willingness to investigate and prosecute personal management licence holders.
Paddy Desmond, Director Of Racing, Paddy Power/Betfair/Flutter
After introductions Paddy kindly gave us a brief background on his roles as Racing Director.
Affordability – responsible gambling is needed in the industry and it was mentioned that more educational videos were needed for bettors, as well as hep via improved tools and visibility. MH noted the 40% premium charge did not encourage bettors to promote the Betfair exchange, though it was acknowledged that the use of the Betfair in-running simulator would help people to understand in-running betting.
HBF raised concerns about account restriction, but PD announced that only 3% of Betfair customers were restricted, while 22% were winning accounts.
CH noted that the HBF response to the Gambling Act Review would recommend greater transparency regarding restrictions with earlier notification of the risk of restrictions before they actually take place, snd to include the limitation or removal of Best Odds Guaranteed. Concessions were also discussed, and whether they were sustainable in the long-term for the operators.
Competitive racing was the next subject discussed with the concept of more Sunday racing and earlier start times if needed – PD agreed that more competitive racing and more handicaps would improve the betting yield, and thus the returns to racing. PD suggested more bookmaker involvement with fixture planning as the industry looks to increase National Hunt field sizes. Appearance money had been considered as an option to garner larger fields and remained on the table as an option.
HBF Business continued
SPRC/SP Modernisation – action on CH top post the SPRC response to the modernisation of the ASP on slack as soon as possible. It was agreed that their HBF preferred a hybrid model that included on-course prices in the returns. CH thanked Steve Tilly (ex HBF) for his work on off-course returns v industry SP’s that showed a shortening of not only the front two in the market but key each way prices as well. PJ noted this would have an impact on betting shops when they reopen and would also affect best odds guaranteed returns.
Drones – The detrimental affect to racing of drones was discussed in detail, with the legality of copywriter and intellectual property rights included. Health and safety concerns appear the only way forward for racing at present with potential concerns for the crowd and participants, along with noise, nuisance, and the number of drones in use. Discussions continue on the licensing of drone operators. MH explained that although operators can be two miles away from the track, they are broadcasting pictures 2 seconds ahead of the TV pictures, and that RMG could utilise this technology as part of their product. MH added that approximately £500,000 is bet in play per race, and is thus a lucrative business for the bookmakers. CH said he understood the RCA were liaising with police for a common approach to safety and the piracy of data, and that the HBF should continue to monitor the issue.
BHA Update – Paul Johnson
Race Distance Information – This issue has even raised with the BHA and despite expecting a simple solution, there were issues with a CSV file on the BHA website. Action – PJhn to arrange for SR and CM to speak to the BHA development team on requirements. SR outlined other useful data but buy PJhn noted the complexities of data sharing within the industry and a lack of resources. A project is underway to improve the Racing Admin site.
Drones – CH updated PJhn and recommended racecourses should film drones in action and and supply footage to the CAA in case they are being cooperated in an unsafe manner. Racing should also lobby government on the licensing of operators. PJhn noted that RMG speeds had increased, but accepted that drones can show footage forms all angles which was not always possible from TV coverage.
Competitiveness of National Hunt Racing/Fixture List – PJhn discussed the dominance of Irish trainees rulers at Cheltenham, and noted that the competitiveness of NH racing was already under review by the Pattern Committee prior to the festival. Extensive work will be required to understand this issue and to set future strategy, but it was noted that the Irish have a strong pipeline of horses coming through their point-to-point system. The meeting also discussed prize money in racing and the current trend for English owners to send their horses to Irish trainers, and the divergence between British and Irish handicap ratings. PJhn said it was important to maintain the quality of races and the ratings of those races. BF debated whether the qualification criteria for Cheltenham races shooed be changed. The meeting also discussed government funding in Ireland and enhancements to prize money. PJhn explained the financial modelling of changes to the fixture list, and how there BHA is empowered to operate under the tripartite agreement with its members.
Sea of Cool Weight Cloth – PJhn had discussed this with the Clerk Of The Sales concerned but there was on apparent solution imminent. The meeting agreed to draw a line under this issue.
Proliferation of Listed and Class Races – PJhnb noted the HBF concern that too many races at the top end were diluting field sizes. There was a suggestion that that a better balance was needed throughout the season not expose their true abilities.
HBF business (continued)
Going Group Update – CM shared material from the recent Going Group meeting. There were positive developments in the design of a “Going App” which would input data from the going stick, the Clerk of the Course, and information based on an assessment of standard times. SR noted the importance of any data generated by the app for the benefit of a more accurate going description but had concerns on publishing the information until until after analysis of the initial results. CM agreed the mechanism should be transparent and agreed to keep the HBF updated.
HBF Annual Survey – BF and GR had compiled some initial thoughts which would now be shared with the HBF via Slack for feedback. Int was agreed to focus the question on “behind closed doors racing” and the different this had made to betting opportunities.
Idea for Future Speakers – Pat Cooney or other being operator reps, Lydia Hislop, Julie Harrington or Will Lambe (BHA), Martin Cruddace (ARC)
Date of next meeting 15th July 2021.
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