The system that returns SPs in greyhound racing may be ‘inherently fragile and vulnerable to the risk of manipulation’ according to the Gambling Commission, and the regulator believes it’s up to the betting industry to do something about it.
The concerns have been aired after the Gambling Commission investigated a series of suspicious betting patterns at Sittingbourne Greyhounds at the end of last year, when it appears that the prices of greyhounds in certain races had been manipulated in order to provide unrepresentative forecast and tricast dividends.
The Commission said: “There is a significant public interest in the long term sustainability of greyhound racing both as a sport and entertainment enjoyed by many people and as a betting product. Such sustainability is likely to depend on maintaining public confidence.
“In that light, the Commission welcomes the commitment made by the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Services (BAGS), with the support of the Greyhound Board for Great Britain, to reinforce, as a matter of urgency, the contractual obligations and controls that underpin the integrity of the current system. Whether or not more fundamental reform is required in the longer term will be a matter for the betting industry.”
The starting price system for greyhound racing is a long established method of providing prices for the off-course market and is largely self-regulating. The off-course SP is derived from the on-course betting markets.
The Commission said that it recognises the present arrangements provide many thousands of unquestioned returned prices each year across a number of stadia, the circumstances and speculation surrounding the recent Sittingbourne races indicate an inherent fragility associated with the current system. The strength of the on-course market measured by monies wagered has continued to fall in recent years with the Commission’s industry statistics showing a circa 41 per cent decline in on-course greyhound betting turnover from 2009-2013.
How far this trend is tolerated by the industry before steps are taken to explore improvements to the pricing system remains primarily a question for those involved in providing greyhound racing and the accompanying betting markets, according to the Commission, but it added that anything which legitimately serves to undermine public confidence in the conduct of commercial gambling is a cause for concern.
The Commission has therefore spoken to a number of individuals and industry parties involved directly or indirectly with the sport to explore what controls are in place to mitigate the risk of any adverse manipulation of starting prices.