Leading British-based online bookmaker Blue Square today took the initiative and announced they are to offer their own show prices in the final minutes before each race takes place.
Business for bookmakers is always at its most brisk in the final minutes before each race with over 70 per cent being placed in the final 15 minutes before each contest and more than 95 per cent of those punters taking a price rather than accepting starting price.
Blue Square hope there is a niche in the marketplace for an off-course firm to offer odds which reflect their own liabilities and views on each race, rather than laying bets at the prices SIS relay from the track.
The firm will continue to accept bets at starting price and at Totepool dividends, but are obviously hoping that by having different live shows to all of the other major firms, they can attract some fresh business.
Blue Square currently have about 100,000 active sportsbook customers.
Chief executive Martin Belsham said: “Betting exchanges have transformed the betting landscape over the last few years.
“Rather than sitting back and complaining we have decided to offer our own prices which will provide our customers with competitive pricing.
“Our prices will reflect our market position and not the combined risks of Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.”
Belsham gave the example of Denman, the beaten hot favourite in last year’s Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle.
“We laid a lot of even-money about Denman and then when it opened up at 11-8 on-course we could have afforded to offer bigger prices on the others,” he said.
“My background is from the City and if we worked in any other financial business, it would be regarded as lunacy to use prices set by other firms.”
Simon Clare, spokesman for rival bookmakers Coral, predictably played down the significance of the announcement, suggesting it could be confusing for punters if the final show price proves markedly different from the official starting price.
“We remain committed to a racecourse-based SP mechanism,” said Clare.
“Our rivals often use marketing ploys and concessions to try and attract business and this initiative is not that different.
“It is not a big deal and won’t impact on our business.”
Belsham denied the move would bring the collapse of the starting price system any nearer, saying the over-round margins would remain in line with the existing SIS shows.
But William Hill public relations director David Hood disagreed and said: “It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that somebody is going to do it themselves and I doubt if they will be alone for long.
“Somebody has got to wake up and smell the coffee and the margins forced on to us by the betting exchanges are not sustainable.
“At this stage we remain committed to the SP system as it is but introducing our own prices is something we could implement today if we wanted – we already offer our own early prices on every race, sometimes up to five minutes before the race if the live show is late through.
“To continue with our own prices until the off would be no problem and what would be the point of the starting price then? There simply wouldn’t be one.”