Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Insider Trading

The Secret Betting Club, run by Peter Ling, sent me an email today reporting on the BBC Radio 5 debate on the subject of bookmaker account restrictions and closures.

I’ve written before on this topic, and my attitude is essentially that no business is going to let you take advantage of them indefinitely, and unless or until ‘traditional’ sportsbooks adapt to the 21st century and move to a Pinnacle based model more suited to the technological age, account closures and restrictions are inevitable.

The traditional books want mug punters only. However much shouting and screaming there is, bookmakers are in the business of making money and if a customer is perceived as likely to cost them money, they will decline to do business with them.

Some of the reasons given for closing / limiting accounts were interesting though. Boylesports gave ‘fraudulent activity’ as the primary reason, while Paddy Power and Skybet gave ‘insider trading’ as the reason.

I find SBC’s comments on insider trading a little na├»ve. They write:

The problem with insider information is that, by its very nature, it’s used by only a very small number of people. Indeed, perhaps only a dozen or so people might, at any point in time, have genuinely bonafide insider info that can help them make money betting.
I certainly don’t know anyone who uses ‘insider info’ to make money betting and I regularly deal with a lot of very shrewd punters.
I think the problem with this statement is that all markets are different, but all have insiders, with the value of their information varying enormously. Knowing that Steve Bruce has accepted a managerial position is one thing, knowing that Benteke twisted a toe in training is another.

I think we all need to differentiate between someone wanting to bet £10,000 on an English Premier League game, and someone wanting the same amount on a horse in the 2:30 at Cartmel or on a Next Manager market or on The Voice UK 2017 : Winning Coach market. 

If your bet history shows that you have inside information on, for example, a TV show market, surely it's reasonable for a bookmaker to decline any more bets from you on those markets? Restricting anyone from betting on a Premier league game is just petty though.

No one should blame bookmakers for protecting their interests and declining a sizeable bet on ‘high-risk’ markets, but if a bookmaker can’t manage a book on an EPL game and take a decent sized bet, one might wonder why they are in business at all. Surely it’s not so that their high-street shops can be filled with FOBTs, attracting the uber mug punter?

Horse racing is for sure rife with inside knowledge. I had personal experience of this very early on in my betting life, and like the name of the horse – Two Swallows - it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten, and the main reason I seldom bet on horse racing. I don’t have ‘connections’.

Insider information in this sport would certainly not be limited to a small (around a dozen) number! If I got inside information because the girl I was dating’s best friend’s husband was working at one of the stables at Epsom, then it’s probably not unreasonable to assume that more than a dozen people were in. There are already four individuals in that true story alone, and that’s before I went to work the next and shared the tip with the entire office.

Much has been written about individual sports, with stories popping up every few weeks or months about unusual betting patterns or players retiring in suspicious circumstances. These individuals all have their inner circles, and they are the ones who will be the first to know if the athlete / player is ill or injured or was out until 3am partying. It’s one of the reasons why individual sports do not feature in my betting.

Team sports also have their own insiders. The number will depend on the sport, league and level of competition but if the option to bet exists, then the bookmakers are exposed to some extent, but the higher the level, the more protected they are by market liquidity.

‘Specials’ such as TV show / awards betting will also have insiders. It takes more than a dozen people to put together a TV show, and contestants and relatives talk!

Of course at what point insider information becomes public information in this age of technology is debatable, but it seems to me that the traditional books really need to adapt and start accepting bets up to a certain (and posted) limit for most sports at least, and use the information garnered to update their prices for the next bettor.

The limits would vary based on the likelihood of an insider having information, (Big Brother, Next Manager markets for example would be low, while a World Cup Final would be high).

I do have more sympathy for an account holder who is unable to put four figures on an EPL game than on a novelty market or a horse-race, but demanding action from your MP on this issue, as suggested by the SBC, is to my mind just futile and rather silly. There are other options out there - use Pinnacle or the Exchanges!

Your MP should be hard at work on real issues, like keeping us in the EU, and until gambling is a human right, they have more important things to do.

On the topic of Brexit, my suggested lay less than a week ago at 1.2 on the UK - Article 50 triggered date market is now trading at 1.38 as the January 2017 to June 2017 price reacts to the realisation that the decision to leave, or (probably) not leave, (and under what terms) will ultimately need to be made by Parliament, and not by the PM alone.

Thanks to James for being even pickier than myself regarding Sharpe Ratios, clarifying:
I forgot to mention that the Sharpe Ratio I use is the ex-post version, which, unlike the ex-ante ratio, is based on realised returns and doesn’t involve a risk-free rate.
Sorry to be pickier. ;)
A couple of losses for UMPO yesterday taking the 2016 System into the red, but both were 5-6 losses which at least meant a couple of wins for the Overs.  

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