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Sad list of 'if onlys' casts long shadow on pitch wars.

Byline: Howard Wright

IF ONLY the catalogue for on-course bookmakers' pitch positions had contained a wealth warning, something on the lines of the spread-betting companies' obligation to point out that taking part "involves a high level of risk, and you can lose more than your initial stake".

Perhaps then those bookmakers who invested their life savings, and more, into what some have come to look upon as a pension might have been more aware of what could happen down the line.

If only the legislation allowing the buying and selling of pitch positions after 1998 had been drafted with a watertight definition of what actually was being bought and sold and for what time period, if any.

Perhaps then the real point about the reforms, and their attempt to give value to the pitches while removing the old system of standing in dead men's shoes, would have been appreciated better.

If only the drafting of the Gambling Act 2005 had taken serious account of pitch positions and tenure, whether they were adequately covered in previous legislation or not, instead of simply sweeping away the five-times admission rule and opening up 'commercial negotiations'.

Perhaps then the DCMS select committee, which issued its report this week, would not have needed to accuse the government of naivety over the consequences of its legislation, or have vehemently upset the Racecourse Association over so-called 'misunderstanding of facts'.

If only the bookmakers had got themselves organised earlier, and the RCA had not taken a unilateral, clearly confrontational stance last March.

Perhaps then there would have been a chance for peace to be approached, rather than the threat of war being prolonged, while everyone appreciated that the world in 1998 - when the pitch rules changed - would have very little relevance to what happens in 2012, in any walk of life outside death and taxes.

If only the DCMS working party could get the bookmakers and RCA reps to sit in a locked room until they found an acceptable solution. If only . . .

jjOH DEAR. Just as the international pool-betting authorities are working out how they can introduce a global triple trio bet in 2009, instead of the trifecta, one of the main exponents has given up the ghost.

The Singapore Turf Club is discontinuing the triple trio, which involves selecting the first three in any order in three nominated races. One of its officials said: "Feedback from customers shows that interest has declined over the last few months in favour of single-leg bet types."

In its place will come a trial run of 'evens and odds' offered on all races at all meetings, where punters will bet on even or odd saddlecloth numbers.

Should anyone be wondering, if there is a dead heat between an even and an odd number the pool will be voided.

Maybe the UK Tote could add this one to their list of new bets waiting in the wings ready for a positive answer on their future.

jjCHRIS BELL, he's the Ladbrokes chief executive, isn't he?

Not according to the Fly on the Wall's snout, who calls to say he's heard that Namco Europe has appointed Chris Bell as general manager of its new, dedicated Kiddie Rides Division.

Now there's a thought. Sadly, for those with mischief in mind, a call to HQ at Rayners Lane confirms it's another Chris Bell.

jjIF YOU want a job doing, ask a busy man, or at least a man used to being busy.

That seems to be online operator Sportingbet's watchword, as they welcome back Peter Dicks as non-executive chairman and appoint James Wilkinson as group finance director.

According to information disclosed to the Stock Exchange, Dicks already boasts 21 current directorships, as well as 12 he has held in the last five years. He had another 20 in companies that have gone into liquidation since 1986.

But that's nothing compared with the catalogue of directorships that Wilkinson accumulated during his time at the events and publishing company Informa and the celebrated dry cleaners and workplace clothing group Johnson Services.

Wilkinson's tally adds up to 142 board positions in the last five years, aside from 14 in companies described as "dissolved by voluntary strike-off".

Currently without a directorship to his name, Wilkinson should find his singular role at Sportingbet to be a stroll in the park.

'If only the bookmakers had got themselves organised earlier'
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 25, 2008
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