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Letter: Don't shed tears when we are no longer here.

Byline: Ben Keith

AS AN independent bookmaker, I wish to put my hand up and shout, "We're still here!"

As the big three, Gambling Commission and exchanges destroy any hope the independent bookmaker has of competing, I sometimes wonder whether the racing media, and punters as a whole, appreciate and recognise the necessity of a healthy betting market that includes the smaller bookmaker.

Independent bookmakers still have a vital role in ensuring the major corporate players do not take advantage of their position. They are also the ones who bring a bit of colour, character and fun to the game.

As the betting ring faces its painful death, I know it will not be long before all the pretend-sad-face after-timer melancholy comes out, along the lines of, "Where have all the tic tacs gone?", and "What happened to all the bookies who used to be here shouting the odds?"

The answer, for punters, is: you chose to turn your nose up at them when they were there, took 2.92 on an exchange about a 15-8 chance, and bet on the phone or a boring and anonymous website with the big three, instead of taking advantage of the many much more friendly and competitive local bookmakers.

Now you have to bet on the Tote against a huge retention; with Betfair who, in my view, have made it clear they are no longer the punters' friend; or with the big three, who have never made any bones about being mercenaries.

I know, though, that the punter is mesmerised, and there is really nothing the independent can do to pull him out of his hypnotic state.

All I ask is that we do not have fingerpointing and moaning when it is just the big three and the exchanges.

Punters and much of the racing media have known for years that independents are on their knees, but they have chosen to look the other way.

It was so tiring to have to endure all the punters' martyrdom when Walthamstow closed. Everyone knew Channel 425 and Betfair would be the end of the Stow, but they were either too greedy or could not be bothered to do anything about it.

So don't cry and say you are so sad about it when it happens.

Ben Keith

Star Racing
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 9, 2008
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