Courtesy of Megarain, I see the long awaited Gambling Commission report into in-play betting has been published. Officially titled In-play (in-running) betting: position paper, this is the follow up to their 2009 paper which has been discussed previously on this blog.
"Courtsiding" does get a mention, with the conclusion being that so long as operators have a disclaimer explaining that "'live' TV or other broadcasts are delayed, and that others may have more up-to-date information" there's no problem.
Betfair's standard disclaimer notably fails to specifically mention that "others may have more up-to-date information". It's implied in the second part:
Customers should be aware that:
Transmissions described as “live” by some broadcasters may actually be delayed and that all in-play matches are not necessarily televised.
The extent of any such delay may vary, depending on the set-up through which they are receiving pictures or data.I'm not sure that the requirement for operators to include this information on their main in-play betting pages 'where practicable' is being adhered to either by Betfair, since it is somewhat hidden away under the Rules button. Here are the GC's comments:
3.3 The term ‘courtsiding’ (coined due to its initial prominence in tennis) is often used to describe the practice of using or transmitting information from a live sporting event for the purpose of gambling. The practice involves a spectator at a sporting event taking advantage of the delay between the live action and TV or data feeds. The spectator can use (or pass on to a third party) the real-time information to place bets on in-play markets before a betting operator, or other betting exchange user, receives the information and adjusts their odds accordingly to reflect the state of play. This results in the bettor being able to obtain more favourable odds.
3.4 We do not consider that courtsiding amounts to an offence of Cheating under section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005. The practice may however breach the entry terms and conditions of a tournament/event.
3.5 Information Provision Annex 3 of our Remote gambling and software technical standards (RTS) refers to in-play betting. It requires operators to provide information that explains that ‘live’ TV or other broadcasts are delayed, and that others may have more up-to-date information. Additionally operators must design main in-play betting pages to include this information where practicable.While the cheating accusation was always a non-starter, the bigger concern for Betfair has always been how to address the situation whereby courtsiders, and their associates, were consistently winning, as you might expect they would with such an edge. Premium Charges was Betfair's answer, and let their former employees carry on for a fee, but it was a solution that did nothing to address the inevitable decline in in-play liquidity which will follow when the information is so lop-sided.
One footnote that might help to explain why markets with courtsiders still attract players at a disadvantage is this:
27.4% of online gamblers who bet in-play were classified as problem gamblers, compared to 10.9% of all online gamblersWhen you are watching an event and can tell what has happened by the price movement, before you see the action on TV, you know courtsiders are present. Why would any rational person continue armed with this knowledge?
You may get lucky in the short-term, but long-term, you have no chance, so the only liquidity should be from courtsiders, problem gamblers, and maybe a few newbies who haven't yet worked out that they are at a disadvantage.