Racehorse Ownership: Gambling within the rules

A look at how owners of racehorses must fulfil the sport’s rules when it comes to gambling.


  For many owning a racehorse can simply be fulfilling a dream.  Racehorses can provide their owners with the fun and excitement a day at the races brings.  However, there are rules set by the sport’s governing body, the British Horseracing Authority, on how owners should conduct themselves when it comes to gambling.

  Whilst, there is nothing illegal about betting on a horse you own, betting against it is another matter.

  Rule E 92.2 of the BHA’s horse racing rules states an owner must not lay any horse in their ownership to lose a race, instruct another person to do so on their behalf, or receive the whole or any part of any proceeds of such a lay.

  There have been cases in recent years of owners laying to lose.  In a speech given to Racing Commissioners International in March 2011 at their annual conference in New Orleans, Paul Scotney, former Director of Integrity Services, Compliance and Licensing at the British Horseracing Authority said  “Since 2003, the Integrity Department at the British Horseracing Authority has investigated 131 cases involving corrupt betting activity (21% of the total number of investigations – 628) by those using the exchanges. Around 10% of those cases have resulted in serious disciplinary action being taken against either the jockey, trainer or owner”.

  “Perhaps perversely, as many have commented, whilst exchanges have created this new avenue for the corruptor, none of the cases against corruptors operating through their platform would have been successful without the full co-operation of Betfair”.  I decided to ask a racehorse owner-trainer how she felt regarding laying to lose and whether it threatens the integrity of the sport of kings.

  Nikki Evans runs a small yard in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.  As well as being a racehorse trainer for many sole owners she also trains for a couple of syndicates as well as having two horses of her own and two of which she holds a share in.  I asked Nikki’s thoughts on whether the ability to lay a horse threatens the integrity of racing.

  “Laying to lose isn’t what racing is about, it’s about winning.  It makes racing look crooked, people not wanting to win”.

  When I asked her if she thought low levels of prize money contribute to individuals laying horses to lose, the owner-trainer had this to say.

  “The prize money isn’t the problem.  Where you have betting you will always have people who want to cheat.  When you go into racing, everyone knows what the prize money levels are so you know it’s not a get rich quick. 
I think betting to lose should be stopped as it’s never right.”

  I asked her if she thought there was any way to stop horses being laid on the betting exchanges by owners and associates of them.

  “The only way to stop it is by banning it because one person speaks to another and so on and then you have twenty people knowing it is supposedly ‘stopped’.  These people are friends of friends of friends so there is no real way of tracking them.  Exchanges are bad news and I don’t think the money goes back into racing.” 

  “The way I look at betting is like this.  We should be like France so all betting revenue goes back into racing.  This would sort out the prize money problem, and then the courses would get a percentage of the revenues, thus the entry fees to the courses may become cheaper.  For example, going to the Arc meeting in Paris can cost as little as ten euros whereas going to Cheltenham would cost a fair bit more, so by making it cheaper you could open racing up to more people which would have a ripple effect right though racing, from new owners to casual race-goers putting money back into the racecourses”. 

  I decided to speak to the BHA’s Media and Communications Assistant Rhys Williams for his views on the subject.  “Regardless of low prize money and a betting exchange environment, where there is betting on horseracing, or any sport for that matter, there is always likely to be those that will see an opportunity to cheat. However the BHA is a world leader in identifying corruption and dealing with it. Regarding exchanges, we work closely with betting exchange operators, who share their information with us to identify suspect layers. This has allowed us to bring several successful cases in front of the Disciplinary Panel, with individuals being warned off from the sport.  Former licensed jockey Andrew Heffernan, and eight other individuals were excluded from horseracing for a combined total of over seventy years. Information shared by the exchange companies was important in allowing the BHA to pursue this case”. 

  Many may not be aware of the RaceStraight service, a telephone line available for anyone to report any suspected wrong doing in the sport of horse racing.  People can also fill in a contact form via the BHA’s website to report any misgivings they may have about the sport.

  The BHA in November of 2012 announced the forthcoming introduction of race values.  Agreed by both racecourses and horsemen, compared to the 2012 Horsemen’s Group tariffs, prize money could increase by around twelve percent in some races across the calendar this year.  Although minimum values had been applied to racing previously, beyond Class 3 events it was all but ignored due to the fall in levy.  This new race value process will form part of the rules of racing and hopefully see a more generous return for races in the past that may have offered less prize money to owners and trainers.  Whether this will help in the sphere of laying to lose, time will tell but for the moment it is certainly an altogether positive move for racing in 2013.

 *Betfair declined to comment when I asked for their views.

 Read and comment on my weekly racing pieces via http://coylealan.moonfruit.com, http://www.valuehorsetips.co.uk/category/alan-coyle/ or follow me on Twitter @coylealan

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