Decimalisation of odds perhaps "the most controversial" prosposalPICTURE: Mark Cranham
Decimal odds set for trial run in the spring
THIRTY-NINE years after Britain’s coinage was split into units of ten, traditional bookmakers are about to let punters bet at decimalised odds – for a weekend trial.
The move is the most radical among ten initiatives announced on Monday for implementation over the next few months by Racing For Change, the project being led by Racing Enterprises Ltd, the cross-industry body that operates as the commercial arm of British horse racing.
No date has been fixed for the trial, but it is expected to be conducted over a weekend in the spring, when there are several meetings and at least one of the terrestrial broadcasters is in action.
The experiment will involve a dual system of odds, from early prices up to SPs, allowing traditional fractions to be
returned, as well as their decimal equivalent, both on- and off-course.
Despite the currencies of the United Kingdom and Ireland being decimalised since February 15, 1971, bookmaking has held fast to its age-old use of complicated fractions.
However, the advent of betting exchanges heralded the introductionof decimalised odds, and now traditional fixed-odds bookmakers give internet customers a choice, although betting-shop and on-course bookmakers have remained wedded to fractions.
Anticipating resistance from some quarters, a statementissued by RFC admitted that of the ten initiatives, “perhaps the trial introduction of decimal odds will be the most controversial”.
Explaining the thinking behind the weekend trial, it added: “The current fractional odds – the meat and drink of established punters – link back to the days of pounds, shillings and pence.
"However, fractional odds are alien to young punters and betting exchange players, who grew up in the decimal age.”
Nigel Roddis, who started work on Monday as development director for betting with RFC, will be responsible for the logistics of turning what looks a simple idea on paper into reality.
He said: “Many people and agencies will need to be on board, from the bookmakers and the broadcasters to the media, but we’re very keen to trial the initiative, because it hits one of our key strategies, of making betting on horse racing more relevant and up-to-date.
“We want to reach out to a wider customer base and maximise their involvement. Part of the exercise will be to demystify some of the elements, of which fractional odds is one.”
Roddis added: “Racing generally has not been very good at trying out new things, probably for fear of failing or being ridiculed for trying. But we should be big and bold enough to try, provided ideas fit into the overall strategy, because only then will we know what works and what doesn’t.”
Simon Clare: backed initiativePICTURE: Steve Nash
Coral tradingdirector Simon Clare, a member of the betting product working group initially set up by the RFC project, backed the initiative, saying: “Decimal odds are inevitable, whether they come in a year, five years or ten years, or earlier.
“But this is a trial, and its successful implementation will be all about communication and presentation, so that regular customers are not alienated, while younger customers are encouraged to look at betting on horseracing.”
Summary of Racing For Change initatives
-Trial of decimal odds at several race meetings over one weekend in spring 2010.
-Funded media training for jockeys and trainers, together with an appearance fee budget set aside for non-racing media work.
-All jockeys and trainers to be listed on race cards by their first names and surnames.
-The outcome of photo finishes to be displayed on screen at the same moment as the judge's announcement. Saddlecloth numbers will be larger to improve visibility.
-Race names to be simplified and racecourse announcements to be modernised.
-On-course bookmakers encouraged to offer standard each way terms and enhanced customer service via agreed minimum service standards.
-Racecourse initiatives to improve the enjoyment and understanding of a day at the races for both new and regular racegoers, linked to a new independent quality assessment scheme.
-The establishment of a new free membership club for younger adults that will offer discounted admission to many racecourses and shares in several racehorses.
-A new website launched to promote horse racing to new and novice customers.
-A central PR campaign from January to promote racing more effectively to a wider audience.