Barney Curley: trained three of four horses involved in the coupPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Betfred agree to payout on Barney Curley coup
BETFRED have paid out on the 'Barney Curley coup', ending a 21-month dispute that followed a £4 million paper profit landed by five relatives and friends of the Newmarket trainer in May 2010.
Those involved linked four horses in combination bets. Three of the horses, Agapanthus, Savaronola and Sommersturm, were trained by Curley, who had also once trained the fourth horse, Jeu De Roseau, subsequently trained by Chris Grant. The odds on all four tumbled as the coup unfolded, with three horses winning and Sommersturm losing.
UK bookmakers, including Betfred's betting shop division, and some Gibraltar-based online operators, including Ladbrokes and Stan James, paid out but Betfred.com withheld the £823,000 claimed from them, while 888sport withheld a further £29,000, pending an investigation by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (predecessor of the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner).
In a dramatic conclusion, a joint statement issued by the interested parties on Monday announced that Gibraltar’s Gambling Commissioner had “decided to pursue the matter no further”, prompting Betfred’s Gibraltar-based online operation to pay out and the claimants to discontinue their legal action against the Gambling Commissioner. 888sport, although not a party to the settlement, has alsoagreed to pay the bets.
The settlement prohibits the parties from divulging further details or commenting on the agreement, but represents a victory for Curley and the claimants and a blow to the reputation of Gibraltar’s Gambling Commissioner.
Despite a declaration by the BHA that no rules of racing had been breached, and a ruling favourable to the claimants by the Independent Betting Arbitration Service in respect of a related dispute involving Sportingbet, the GRA instructed operators to withhold payment until its own investigation was completed, an instruction withdrawn in February 2011. Betfred decided to wait until the investigation had been concluded.
In a letter dated May 27, 2011, Phill Brear, the GRA’s head of gambling regulation, criticised the BHA’s stance, asserted that the claimants’ behaviour was “fraudulent” and accused Curley and the claimants of orchestrating “a complex and longstanding deceit”.
Five days later, citing Brear’s letter, Betfred voided the bets under a rule stating “Any person or group of persons acting in an attempt to defraud Betfred.com will have their bets voided”.
The claimants responded by applying to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar for a judicial review of the actions and decisions of the GRA, alleging, in part, that Brear was not impartial and had pre-judged the case.
The episode generated unwelcome publicity for Betfred and soured relations between the GRA and BHA. Paul Struthers, at that time the BHA spokesman, stated: “It is not for the GRA to tellus that we are wrong in our interpretation of the rules. This highlights our concerns in relation to offshore betting operators being outside British gambling legislation.”
Given the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner’s forcefully stated views on the coup, which Brear described as a “fraudulent enterprise”, the settlement represents a reversal for Gibraltar’s regulatory body.
Read David Ashforth's commenton the Curley coup only in Tuesday's Racing Post newspaper