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Page last updated at 21:10 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 22:10 UK

Q&A: Racing's Dirty Secrets

Panorama's Paul Kenyon explains lay betting and the issues it throws up

In Racing's Dirty Secrets, Panorama reveals practices which mean that ordinary punters laying a bet sometimes never have a chance of winning.

Here, reporter Paul Kenyon, explains why Panorama carried out this investigation and what the problems with lay betting are


Why is Panorama carrying out this investigation?

When people bet on the horses they expect a level playing field. Yes, of course part of the allure of the sport is tipping, having a prize piece of information you think no-one else has, and then landing a big gamble. But tipping has become a contentious area, because now there is a market for negative tips, or "tips to lose".That's because these days you can go on a betting exchange and lay a horse to lose, which means bet that it will lose.

What if you get a tip that a horse is not running well, and you bet against it on a betting exchange? Well, that would probably be ok, but it depends where the tip has come from.

What if a jockey tells you his horse isn¿t going to win? That's more difficult. Perhaps if they do it once in a casual way then no-one's going to mind too much. But what happens if a jockey repeatedly gives information about his rides to just one or two people, information that his horse is going to lose and which isn't in the public domain?

Well, that is what the regulator, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), would now deem to be "inside information" and which could lead to the jockey being suspended for up to five years.

It is a much talked about issue in racing, and something that Panorama felt there was a need to examine more closely.

You can see the difficulty the BHA has trying to identify whether inside information is being used. How can they prove that a jockey and a gambler have been talking about the chances of a horse losing? They can't.

But what but they can do now is access telephone records, the dates and times of phone calls, and see who the jockey is calling. They can then compare those phone records with patterns of lay betting on the internet, and if they see a link, the jockey might well find himself facing a suspension.

Miles Rodgers was cleared by an Old Bailey trial of race fixing. Why have Panorama investigated him and what have they discovered? Has he done anything illegal?

There were other issues that arose from the trial, such as the passing on of inside information, which although not criminal, is potentially a threat to the integrity of racing.

On Miles Rodgers, yes he was cleared of race fixing, but his associations with a number of jockeys are worth examining from some of the evidence that emerged in court.

We also have new evidence in the programme that raises the question of whether he did interfere with the outcome of a race, and whether he did that with the help of a particular jockey. That tape can be heard in the programme and we are considering putting it on the internet so that it is publicly available.

What is the focus of the programme?

There are a number of strands to it

  • The misuse of inside information for lay betting
  • Inappropriate relationships between gamblers and jockeys
  • We have access to evidence from the court case, including secret recordings and surveillance, some of which we have been able to add to
  • We explain that the regulator, the BHA, has clamped down hard on jockeys who it suspects have been trading in inside information, by suspending them from riding even if it only has the telephone records linked to a pattern of lay betting.

What are the problems in lay betting?

In the words of Ben Gunn, the independent regulatory director of the BHA "there is only one certainty in racing and that is a horse can be made to lose but it can't necessarily be made to win".

The worry is that, when you bet a horse will lose on a betting exchange, there's a potential that the dishonest might try to interfere with the outcome of a race to make sure it happens.

Lay betting can also be exploited by those who trade in inside information in the ways that we've already mentioned.

Having said that, Betfair, the largest betting exchange in the UK, would argue that it has brought a transparency to betting that has never been seen before. It can monitor all the bets placed on its site, and will pass on details of anything suspicious to the regulator, the BHA. It says rather than invite corruption, it acts as a deterrent.

Those determined to subvert the betting process found a way before betting exchanges and might well have remained undetected. Betfair says, now it can spot suspicious patterns of betting at the earliest opportunity, people are less likely to try to cheat.

Panorama: Racing's Dirty Secrets on BBC One at 9:30pm on 30 July



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