Cheats beware: Tom and Mark and Paul are training their beady eyes on
you had a bet with Betfair yesterday, Tom and Mark will know about it. Or they
could, if they wanted to. If it was a big bet, laying a horse that ran well
below form, they may have looked up your betting history since 2004 too. And
the next time that you have a similar bet, they will probably know about that
Tom and Mark are the betting
analysts in the security department at the British Horseracing Authority, and
the breadth and power of the information at their disposal is remarkable. The
sport in general now accepts that Betfair works closely with the regulators to
fight corruption. It is still startling, though, to see it at first hand.
To the analysts, individual accounts are numbers, not names, and the
identities of those behind them remain Betfair's business unless the
investigators have cause for concern. Every bet placed on Betfair is logged on
the system within seconds, while at any one time, around 100 "flagged" accounts
will be receiving particular attention. Bets are recorded, patterns noted and,
where necessary, local stewards informed of suspicious betting patterns. On the
other side of the desk, another member of the department is compiling
information received from the betting analysts and elsewhere, which may
eventually become evidence for a BHA disciplinary panel.
When Paul Scotney, an ex-policeman, arrived to
head the department in 2003, he believed that it was essential to gather,
process and use information as efficiently as possible. Nearly four years
later, the security operation is very different from the days when it was
confined to a pokey office in Portman Square that never seemed to have anyone
"The real watershed for racing was betting exchanges," Scotney
says, "because they didn't cause corruption, they brought it out into the open
and exposed what was already there.
"Take [the jockey] Gary Carter. He
had been cheating in racing for years, long before exchanges came long, but it
was the exchanges that gave us the opportunity to expose him."
Such well-known names as the jockeys Robert
Winston and Tony Culhane have been among those banned from the sport in recent
months, and the success of Scotney's team has also been noted elsewhere in the
When a recent tennis match involving Nikolay Davydenko
ended in controversy amid bizarre betting patterns, the Association of Tennis
Professionals asked the BHA's team to help them investigate. Other sports may
now follow their lead when the Gambling Act - which makes cheating at betting
an offence punishable by up to two years in prison - comes into force on
"I've been here seven years," Phil Walker, Scotney's
deputy and the head of investigations, says, "and the operation then and now
are poles apart. Five years ago, the ATP would not have considered asking us
for help, but now there may be a growing demand for our expertise."
That demand could prove to be a concern as well as a compliment to the
department, as the sporting and betting worlds face up to the Gambling Act.
Listing a job with BHA security is now an asset on a CV, and the authority may
need to work hard to keep the team together.
As Scotney concedes,
corruption will never be eliminated, and there is still much to be done.
"When we first signed the memorandum of understanding with Betfair
[which allowed the department access to the exchange's betting information] we
were sending 'red alerts' to local stewards all the time," he says, "which
meant that we had deep concerns about the betting patterns on a particular
horse. Now, I can hardly remember the last time we sent out a red alert.
"We are trying to change a culture of what was acceptable practice, and
is no longer acceptable. Some of these jockeys come over as apprentices and
conditionals and get themselves into something, and don't realise they're doing
something wrong. Some of them have been groomed for corruption, and some of
them have even been groomed by trainers.
"It's a long process and you
can't just issue new rules. There are still some groups in racing who see us an
A few feet away, Tom and Mark are still poring
over the markets. "Of course, people will do their best to hide," Mark says,
"but even if they are using several accounts, we will be able to link them
together. And sooner or later, people always tend to make mistakes."
Jockey being watched At least one more well-known jockey is
likely to face disciplinary action by the British Horseracing Authority in the
near future, while some others continue to risk their careers by passing
information for reward, Paul Scotney, the BHA's head of security, said
yesterday. "We're quite happy now in terms of the majority of jockeys," Scotney
said, "but there are still some stupid ones out there and some of them are
Scotney was clear on one rider, who is being closely
investigated by his department. "We've got one cheat still out there who is
still in our sights, and we are quite confident that we will get him. He's been
cheating for years, but he's involved in two investigations at the moment, and
his time will come," he added.