Saturday, 27 June 2015

By The Balls

While it has long been known that despite having inside information on winning techniques and reducing charges, former senior Betfair employees have been allowed to operate heavy hitting accounts after leaving the company, I hadn't previously seen this from the pie and bovril forum:

I was also told that "90% of the people who are affected by the new charge are in-running horse racing people", which basically means those using raw SIS feeds so that they are about five seconds ahead of your average punter trying to bet in-running via TV. He also mentioned:
  • court-siders at tennis, which are basically people in the press box with a fast internet connection able to beat the five second time delay on Betfair when betting in running
  • a guy who had been travelling from match to match in Spain, and winning "millions of Euros" by beating the time delay on Betfair. The delay is now eight seconds, but it used to be five. Sky Sports' TV pictures on Spanish football are typically 12-15 seconds behind live. It doesn't take a genius to work out what is possible if you're actually in the ground, on the phone to someone who is sitting by a computer logged into Betfair.
Apparently only a handful of people who don't use one of the above methods to basically beat the time delay to gain an unfair advantage are affected. I never do this and it's still affected me, and I have my fair share of very large losses, so I find it hard to believe that only a handful are affected. Having spoken to my account manager again tonight, he told me that Betfair's business hasn't suffered at all since these charges were introduced this week. They would've expected the liquidity to suffer on in-running horse racing in particular but he said it was exactly the same. The phrase he used was "we've got them by the balls as they know they can't go anywhere else to do what they do so they've decided to stay and pay the charge".
I think we know a lot more about how court-siding works now than we did then (2011) but 'a (one) guy' in Spain? One wonders why a publicly traded company would allow one account to essentially steal "millions of Euros" from other members of the exchange before increasing the delay.

As James Bond or Ian Fleming said, "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action".

Actually, I'm not sure he used the word thrice, but it's a good word, so I'll use it.

More seriously, shouldn't Betfair have acted sooner to prevent this? Corporate decision making can be slow, but clearly the market suspension mechanism to protect customers wasn't working, and the fix appears to have taken far too long time to implement. This account would have been red-flagged early on as a clock-beater, so why the practice was allowed to continue is concerning.

I mentioned in this post from 18 months ago that the Gambling Commission were less than wholly enthusiastic in endorsing in-play betting, and one can see why. If the above "by the balls" quote is accurate, then Betfair are admitting that they would rather see a few big winners, (many former employees), and take 40% to 60% off them, than address the issue in other ways. Why not simply increase the delay to at least reduce the advantage, or while not banning winners may sound great, I'm not sure too many Betfair members would complain at an exception being made on accounts that are consistently winning (at the expense of at least some of them) by beating an inadequate delay, about which Betfair themselves say:
The purpose of a bet delay is to allow a level of protection for customers when betting In-Play from a variety of data and TV feeds. Firstly, it gives customer’s time to cancel their bets In-Play as events unfold should they wish to, rather than the bet being taken immediately. Secondly, (more importantly for Football) it allows our Market Operations team to suspend markets when goals, red cards, and penalties are awarded to protect customers from having their bets taken by customers with quicker feeds prior to a market suspension. We do issue a warning regarding TV delays in our market rules so customers are aware that the TV feed they are viewing could be delayed and in many cases are by 5-10 seconds.
It used to be that in-play betting offered an edge to the sharper-minded but, in most markets at least, those days are gone. The markets have evolved, while the market operators have not.

Interestingly I noticed that the delay on bet placement for the Women's World Cup is (I think) as high as 12 seconds - not sure if that is on all games or just some, but tweaking the delay on other markets shouldn't be too difficult. The next look by the Gambling Commission at in-play betting will be interesting. There's a lot of evidence that at best, Betfair are turning a blind eye to some dubious practices.

1 comment:

Robbo the trader said...

The problem for Betfair is that every increase in the delay puts off the average punter who believe they're not at any real disadvantage. For Betfair to survive it's all about keeping the mug money on board not trying to level the playing field, so I doubt we'll have any extensions to the bet delays if Betfair can help it.

The simple fact is if the markets were managed correctly with people at source they'd be no need for long delays as markets would be suspended when goals etc occurred. Other options could simply be remove all delays and roll back markets to the local timestamp minus say 5 seconds, then cancel bets after that time when a material event occurs, that would also put paid to the random suspends that continually occur just because the suspend operator has woken up. But given the costs and Betfairs aversion to maintaining the exchange that won't happen. For now Betfair's contribution to fairness is the fact they take 40-60% off the 'advantaged' players.