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William Hill selling on-course pitches, prompting SP concerns

WilliamHill UK racing

WilliamHill UK racing
UK gambling giant William Hill could end an involvement with UK racecourse betting that has spanned more than 80 years.

The bookmaker is reportedly-close to finding a buyer for its on-course venues in a deal believed to be around £2.5 million. Questions have been raised about the integrity of starting prices derived from the on-course market as a result.

The founder of the firm, William Hill, one of the world’s most-famous racecourse bookmakers, became involved in the business in the mid-1930s. It was not until the mid-1960s that he opened his first betting shop after the legalisation of off-course cash betting.

Since his death in 1971, the firm still bears his name, despite the change of ownership several times. The longevity of the company has also made it one of the giants in the gambling industry both in retail and online.

Since the inception of online betting and the strong competition it brings, the on-course market has heavily declined in recent years.

If the deal goes through, William Hill’s sale of the on-course pitches will prove the racecourse ring is increasingly becoming irrelevant in the global market.

The deal, if successful will also raise questions about the future of the starting price (SP) system, which is calculated using data collected from racecourse betting rings.

Defined as market price available to “good money,” the SP has been used since the 19th century and remains relevance in settling bets on British racing, both in the retail and online sector.

While cash bets at SP are commonplace in high-street shops, most online bookies offer “Best Odds Guaranteed”. This allows punters who take a price to be paid at SP if the odds are better.

About 200 bookmakers meet at the course to take cash bets from racegoers during major meetings including the Cheltenham festival. This has made the market very strong, and therefore punters appreciate the SPs offering as a fair reflection of each horse’s chance.

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