The Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) is an independent body responsible for the integrity and accuracy of the starting price (SP). The SP is used in the settlement of bets on British horseracing struck with licensed bookmakers in betting shops or through their websites. The job of the Commission is to ensure that the returned price accurately reflects the price available to bettors at the ‘off’ of each race.
The SPRC does not set individual prices, overrounds or margins, nor does it set targets for what they should meet. Indeed, its members would not wish to do so and substitute their judgement for that of the marketplace. The SPRC’s responsibility is simply and straightforwardly to set the parameters by which the SP is calculated and to ensure, so far as within its power, that bookmakers and the SP Validators – and the technology that they use to monitor market movements – are operating within the framework it has specified.
The SPRC is not responsible for the conduct or integrity of bookmakers. Any complaint about the fair settlement of an on-course bet should be directed first to the Betting Ring Manager at the racecourse and then – if it cannot be resolved – to the Tattersalls Committee (www.tattersallscommittee.co.uk) a provider of alternative dispute resolution for on-course bettors. Any complaint that a bookmaker has acted in an unfair matter or in a manner prejudicial to the good name of betting should be directed to the Gambling Commission (www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk) the regulatory authority for betting in Great Britain.
Starting Prices have traditionally been returned using the on-course market since the 18th century. With the growth of markets for betting off-course, it was considered essential that the SPs accurately reflected the on-course market and the established view was it was important for SPs to be seen to be independent of the bookmakers who accepted off-course bets using those prices. The Starting Price Liaison Committee of 1994 was turned into the SP Executive in 1999, before the creation of the current body, the Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) in 2004.
The SPRC was created as a result of a study commissioned by the SP Executive, a group of representatives from the Mirror Group, SIS and the Press Association. The aim was to provide an opportunity for independent scrutiny of the processes used to return the SP, particularly to deal with questions about the accuracy and integrity of individual starting prices from off-course bookmakers, bettors and other interested parties, a role that the SPRC has fulfilled ever since.
In 2020/21 the SPRC conducted a review into the composition of the starting price. The full findings of the review can be read here. The review concluded that with only 1.4% of British horse race betting taking place on-course, an exclusively on-course generated SP was no longer accurately reflective of the betting market. The review also noted that two major off-course bookmakers had begun to use their own pre-race betting shows rather than follow the traditional route of offering their customers the on-course market price. An enforced reliance on off-course generated SPs, brought about from June 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulted in SPs with a lower overround (theoretical bookmakers’ profit margin) than SPs generated on-course in the equivalent period of the previous year. The outcomes of this enforced trial, combined with the theoretical benefits of creating an SP based on the portion of the betting market where the overwhelming majority of betting takes place, led the SPRC to recommend a new SP system. This would be based in the majority using off-course bookmaker prices but incorporating an element to reflect the on-course market.
Administration of Gambling on Tracks Limited. Police the administrative aspects of the ring, such as pitch allocation, late payments, disputes, etc.
Racecourse Media Group. Betting shop service providing pictures and data sources to the betting industry
Amalgamated Racing. Betting shop service providing pictures and data sources to the betting industry.
Gambling Commission www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk
Police the regulatory aspect which forms part of a licence condition for the bookmakers including the display of maximum guaranteed liabilities.
Press Association www.pressassociation.com
Manages and employs the validation team.
Racecourse Data Technologies. A computer systems and software company.
Satellite Information Services. Provider of picture and data sources to the betting industry.