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Kevin Smith

Post-attheraces Days Pretty Good for Betdaq

16 April 2004

The shutting down of atttheraces' TV feed in late March has been hard on a lot of bookmakers, but not all are suffering. The termination may actually be working to the advantage of Irish P2P operator Betdaq, which has seen an increase in turnover in the last two weeks.

"Our overall turnover figure of £6.4 million on Easter Monday was five times that on the equivalent day last year, which belies the stories of gloom elsewhere."
- Rob Hartnett

Analysts say the sports betting business has seen an £8 million drop in betting turnover since attheraces went off the air following a dispute with The Racecourse Association. Bookmakers have seen a significant decrease in telephone and in-run betting. Even Betdaq's biggest competitor, Betfair, has seen a decline in the absence of live racing on TV.

Despite the trend, Betdaq's managing director, Rob Hartnett, says his company is thriving and he attributes their performance to punters' desire to find a new bargain during the transition period.

Betfair, he said, has distanced itself from its nearest competitors in the exchange market by offering in-run betting. But with the lack of live racing on TV diminishing the opportunity to bet in-running, he said, other exchange might have a chance to increase their market share.

"We have been chasing Betfair for a while," Hartnett explained. "We were never able to make ground on them on the in-run betting mainly because their technology was just better than ours. They are losing that now, so people are going out and taking a look at what else is out there."

Betdaq, which claims to be the second biggest betting exchange on horseracing behind only Betfair, saw its turnover increase over Easter Weekend, while other bookmakers experienced plummeting business.

"Our overall turnover figure of £6.4 million on Easter Monday was five times that on the equivalent day last year, which belies the stories of gloom elsewhere," he said.

Although Hartnett is pleased with the immediate spike in business, he acknowledged that the viability for racing as a whole would be helped once daily live racing returns to TV.

"Our registrations, deposits and overall racing turnover have all risen since the start of the month," he said. "TV racing is a definite plus in the long run, but we are not experiencing any falling off in the short term and remain very positive about the sport's long-term health as a betting medium."

The good news last week about the rise in business was tempered somewhat, however, by the release of British Parliament's recommendations for the Gambling Bill.

Chief among the Joint Scrutiny Committee's P2P-releate recommendations was one involving the registering of high-volume punters as "professional" bettors on exchanges.

The recommendations have been met with skepticism from the Department of Culture Media and Sport, the U.K. government body handling the Draft Gambling Bill, and Hartnett said the proposals are just not feasible.

"We strongly share the DCMS's original view that such a defined category was neither necessary nor workable in legislation," he said.

If nothing else, Hartnett said he is hopeful that the report can now increase the dialogue between regulators and those in the betting exchange industry.

"While feeling somewhat caught up in a commercial Groundhog Day scenario, we nevertheless accept the recommendation that we discuss this further, perhaps with more reason and less grandstanding on all sides than has previously been the case," he said. "If the Joint Committee, at the suggestion of the bookmakers believes there is a workable threshold to define non-recreational betting, then surely it will deem it to be correct to apply it across all sectors of the industry."

Hartnett also challenge land-based bookmakers to upgrade their betting-shop technology to enable them to tag each bet to an individual in the same way that Betdaq already does.

"By so doing, we may yet remove a genuine hole in the bill's well intentioned desire to aid integrity and to draw down revenue on a fair and equitable basis," he said.

Hartnett was pleased to see the committee commend the business model that exchanges use and pointing out that added regulatory measures would be a burden unnecessary for the exchange industry.

"Ours is a disruptive technology," he explained. "One, which poses, in the words of the Joint Committee, a serious challenge to the business model of the existing bookmaking industry. As a result of its genuine appeal to the betting public, it has been warmly welcomed by bettors in Britain and around the world."

Hartnett expects bookmakers' opposition to remain strong, and Ladbrokes has already come out publicly pushing for the immediate adoption of the committee's high-volume bettor recommendation.

"The report and its recommendations to join further debate will see us lock horns once more," he said. "But we believe that our argument in favor of the free market will win out again.

Post-attheraces Days Pretty Good for Betdaq is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith