The SPRC has completed another year doing the job it has carriedout since our foundation in 2004.
That task is to act as a guarantor that the Starting Prices – derived by computer algorithms from a careful sample of the prices on offer on the racecourse – are produced with integrity, fairness and transparency. These prices can in turn be used by bookmakers off course to settle the bets placed by their punters, with both parties assured that they are getting a fair deal. The Starting Price will periodically have its critics; and so therefore will our Starting Price Regulatory Commission. In particular, some bigger and more sophisticated punters will point out that the SP does not always yield the best possible odds available anywhere for customers.
This is true; but it is largely besides the point. Big and aggressive (including full time professional) punters are free to shop around for better prices. We on the SPRC welcome that wide availability and choice. Nobody is compelled to use the SP. But even the biggest punters may sometimes benefit from the “best odds guaranteed” offers by leading bookmakers, where the SP acts to underpin the odds that punters are paid.
However, our SP caters mostly for the majority of average smaller punters, who do not wish or have time to engage in the bear garden of competitive pricing and are content to accept a fair price on their winners and losers. It is true that they might gain a few more shillings if they hunted down the very best prices. But that time-consuming game is not material to many punters: they want to enter a familiar betting shop or place their bets by telephone or on-line, getting the wager they want at as price they understand and trust.
Hypermarkets have their role in the commercial world. But so do reliable High Street shops. The latter is our market.
Nobody can fix the SP. Punters who bet at the SP are not being misled or ripped off. Moreover, the traditional SP has the virtues of familiarity, based on its many years as a trusted medium for the majority of punters.
As a Commission, we too seek to be a trusted body. Our board is composed of colleagues with a long knowledge of the betting world, but who are independent of other parties within the industry.
We publicise and are accountable for our activities, not least through the mechanism of this annual report, which sets out our deliberations and decisions. Our website adds to that visibility and transparency. The SPRC is both the punters’ and the bookmakers’ guarantee that the SP is conducted with integrity. It is a role that the Commission has been pleased to play over the past year covered by this report; and one that we will continue to play in the future – for just as long as the SP remains in demand by ordinary punters. If and when there is little or no demand for the SP bet, there will be no role for a body such as ours. With some half of current bets conducted at SP, that time is apparently not yet.