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The bookies always win

Having gone to bed exceptionally early last night – embarrassment prevents me revealing exactly when – I was inevitably up again at a near-record time.

It was either in the twenty to thirty minutes in bed before falling into slumber, or in the similar period as I gradually ‘came to’, that I heard an evening report upon Radio Five Live upon the story broken by The Times that the Competition and Market Authority has announced an inquiry into the terms and conditions applying online betting because the industry has allegedly been cancelling winning bets and refusing to pay out money to punters.

Two contributors interviewed by Radio Five Live gave me food for thought and reflection. From time to time I have placed bets in my time but I’m happy to admit that horses and betting in particular have never really ‘floated my boat’.

The first interviewee told of how, being a relatively-successful punter, he was constantly harassed by the betting companies, who now had sophisticated computer software that enabled them to ‘track’ all punters and their bets. In effect (this gentleman suggested), far more interesting to the betting companies than the average punter were people like himself who occasionally won big money when betting. Every time they ‘caught up with him’ they banned him from betting with them. They also regularly refused to pay out what should have been his winnings. Basically they just didn’t want his business. And so on …

The second interviewee was either a member of the CMA, or else an academic who was proficient in this area of life. His telling line, midway through his contribution, was that, of course, betting was a mug’s game. It was a statistical fact that 95% of all punters lost money betting. The implication of of his thrust was that, since the betting industry was already skewed quite so far in favour of the bookmakers anyway, it was a bit rich of them [and I use the word ‘rich’ both literally and ironically here] to spend inordinate amounts of time seeking ways not to have to pay out to those few punters (i.e. just 5%) who, irrespective of whether this by complete chance or design, ever at some point manage to win one of their bets.

Sometimes even when you’re not trying or thinking you can make a good decision in life. I know I have.