Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Friday, 15 July 2005 13:51 UK

Is new gambling paper on to a winner?

By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter

(left to right:) Charlie Methven, Jeremy Deedes, Max Aitken
The Sportsman team will provide coverage of many gambling sectors

A new national daily newspaper is approaching the starting gate, dedicated to the growing number of people in the UK with a keen interest in sports gambling.

The paper, which will be the first UK daily paper launched in two decades, is the brainchild of the former chief executive of the Telegraph Group, Jeremy Deedes, entrepreneur Max Aitken, and former Daily Telegraph journalist Charlie Methven.

But The Sportsman, as it will be called, will also cater for the growing number of people who bet via the internet, on poker, financial markets, and other events such as political elections and reality TV shows.

At present there is only one UK paper devoted to gambling - Racing Post - which merged with its rival Sporting Life a decade ago. Then there is also Inside Edge sports gambling magazine, which also covers poker.

If they are looking at the ABC1s, the Rolex market, they might well succeed
John Fenner, of gambling information provider ATE

"There has been a massive growth in gambling in the past few years," says Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of betting research at Nottingham Business School.

"That has been precipitated by two major developments - the huge expansion of gambling sites on the internet, and the abolition of tax on gambling.

"There has also been a growth in the number of betting exchanges, which allow people-to-people betting without the need of a traditional bookmaker."

He said UK gambling revenues had grown from 7bn a year in 2001, to 40bn in the past year.

"It is amazing to think that in a gambling 'golden age' such as we have now, that there is only one daily newspaper devoted to dealing with it.

"There are plenty of people who would be willing to pay for a new paper."

Bigger bets

As well as providing a new national newspaper, those behind The Sportsmen are also reported as seeing online services as being "enormously important".

Gambling turnover is increasing rapidly, the amount of people gambling is increasing, and the amount they are spending is increasing
Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams

The paper, which will be edited by Mr Methven, will have a staff of around 100, many of whom will be employed as sub-editors to ensure the accuracy of facts and figures.

Horse racing still provides the core of UK gambling, but Mr Vaughan Williams says that has been joined by the growth in football betting and what would once have been considered "novelty betting".

"It is not just a few eccentrics betting on quirky things. The amount of money spent on things like Pop Idol, Big Brother, the Olympics bid, the Michael Jackson trial, has expanded enormously.

Racing Post page
Racing Post is the industry 'betting Bible'

"There has been a huge growth in things people can bet on and a new newspaper could cater for this market too."

Racing Post already has a section dealing with betting on things like cricket and American football but Mr Vaughan Williams believes a new paper could extend this coverage to include the new markets.

"Gambling turnover is increasing rapidly, the amount of people gambling is increasing, and the amount they are spending is increasing," he says.

"There is a huge new consumer base."

'Expanded offering'

An expanding consumer base could provide any fresh publication with lucrative advertising opportunities.

"They will be going head to head with the Racing Post, but will hope to provide an expanded offering," observes John Fenner, head of marketing at gambling and gaming information provider ATE.

"A lot of whether it is a success or not will depend on what advertising they are looking for.

"If they are looking for trade investors they may be struggling there as there is a massive new casino guide being launched."

He said that concentrating on consumer advertising might offer greater success.

"If they are looking at the ABC1s, the Rolex market, they might well succeed."

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