Just 17 Paying Customers...

BIG CROWD AT LINGFIELD
There are ghost towns and it would seem there are also ghost tracks. Such is the lack of punters at some of Lingfield's all-weather meetings that bookmakers are being paid to turn up. Payments have been made to make sure there are enough boomakers to form a market for High Street offices to compile odds.  

It has been claimed that one meeting attracted just 17 paying customers. Robin Grossmith, a director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, said such a low turnout "made it totally unviable for bookmakers to stand at the track, especially with all their travelling expenses and other costs".


He said, ''The FRB had arranged to pay an "attendance allowance", which he described as "nominal", to the four bookmakers. In addition, the four are being given contributions towards their expenses and Lingfield has agreed not to charge the £80 it would normally ask from each bookmaker wanting to take bets there.''
The problem has arisen because Southwell has been closed due to flooding and their fixtures have been re-scheduled to keep racing on screen. 

"Everything possible is being done to keep the show on the road," Grossmith said. "Our bookmakers have a contract with SIS [which broadcasts coverage of race meetings into high street betting shops] to supply racecourse data and their odds create the betting shows. We are the engine room. There would be no odds without us.
"It's a major problem that has applied to all race meetings transferred to Lingfield from Southwell because of damage caused by flooding. Our bookmakers are taking pennies there. It's a desperate situation.
"In the end, four bookmakers agreed to attend all the transferred meetings. This had to be done to ensure we can create the odds, which off-course betting shops require. I'd prefer not to mention what they're being paid, but it's coming out of Federation funds."
Grossmith said the bookmakers involved were initially "sceptical" as to whether the payments would make it worth their while attending the fixtures but were persuaded when the FRB agreed to help with their expenses. He added that he hoped the arrangement would be "a one-off" and expressed continuing faith in the system whereby odds for the large off-course market are generated by an on-course market which can be relatively tiny.
"People understand that these things can happen," said Alan Delmonte, a spokesman for the Levy Board, which helped rearrange the fixtures in question and collects a portion of bookmakers' profits for the sport. "The important thing at the time was to ensure these fixtures were staged in order to provide some horse racing for the betting market."
Asked if it was a good idea to use such small on-course markets to produce the starting prices by which so many off-course bets are settled, he said: "It's always wrong to come to a view based on such extreme examples. If you were to be asking these questions in the middle of summer, there would be more concern."
David Williams, a spokesman for Ladbrokes, said the situation was "not ideal" but added: "Our data suggests that, across the entire racing calendar, the SP mechanism retains a generally high level of integrity and trust among customers.
"Ultimately, the Starting Price Regulatory Commission are responsible for the mechanism that's used and we're happy that their processes are suitably robust to allow us to fall in behind them in providing SPs to our customers."



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