£40k bets laid: do newspapers owe their readers a duty of care?

The headline story on RacingPost.com, as I write, reports a £40,000 bet laid by Coral on So You Think for Saturday’s Coral-Eclipse. There are several readers’ comments below the story suggesting the announcement of the bet is a PR stunt.  One said:

I don’t buy this 40 grand bet nonsense either. They knocked me back for a 20 quid bet on the golf yesterday

Racing Post editor Bruce Millington, in a Twitter  exchange with James Knight, Coral odds-compiler,  said that reports of such bets ‘wind up’ many Racing Post readers who’ve had their accounts ‘restricted’. James Knight suggested to Mr Millington that, as editor, he had the option not to publish such stories. Perhaps that is what the Racing Post should consider doing. Or maybe they should ask bookmakers’ PR reps the question I just asked James Knight – ‘was that £40,000 bet from a ‘profitable (for you) punter?’

Mr Knight, said:

I can’t comment on individual accounts, but this is a Group 1 race and a strong market, so we would be willing to take decent sized bets.

The reality, as most Racing Post readers will know, is that bookmakers do not take £40,000 bets from punters who damage their profits – nor should they.  They have a responsibility to shareholders no different from any other business.  Punters who cry ‘there are no real bookmakers anymore’ are as delusional as many others in racing. By ‘real bookmakers’ they actually mean fellow gamblers who are willing to take a risk based on personal judgement rather than in the interests of objective balancing of a book.

I have no sympathy for punters bewailing their ‘can’t get on’ lot. Were they running a bookmaking business, they’d do exactly the same and ‘restrict’ punters with a ‘winning profile’.

What does stick in the craw is the unquenchable appetite of sports editors for big fat cash figures – they make great headlines.  At least Racing Post readers, in general, have a chance of seeing through the PR. Punters relying on The Sun, The Mirror, (far and away the most popular purchases of the betting shop punter, who, in turn, is far and away the biggest contributor to the Levy) are, arguably, more likely to be misled.

If you hear of a Rolls-driving, multiple-home-owning, cuban-cigar-smoking, Krug-drinker who makes his living from betting and wants to have £40,000 on a horse, it is highly valuable information.  If the tip you have is that a man with all of the above ‘attributes’ who does NOT make his living from betting but is frequently the guest of major bookmakers at high-value sporting events (they might as well stamp the invitations MUG PUNTER), the information is much less valuable.

Bookmakers are free to take and refuse bets as they like. Sports Editors are entitled to ask the PR men if such bets have been laid to punters who contribute regularly to that bookmaker’s profits and, depending on the (inevitable) answer, decide whether or not to publish.