Updated rules for returning starting prices using off-course market revealed

The scene in a busy betting ring at Doncaster
Starting prices have not been set using the on-course market since the Covid-19 outbreakCredit: Edward Whitaker

Updated and more transparent rules setting out how the starting price is decided and reflecting "contemporary market dynamics" will come into force from Sunday week.

The Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC), the body responsible for the integrity and accuracy of the SP, said it had been reviewing the methodology for returning starting prices which were decided using the off-course market since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new mechanism and rules, available on the SPRC website, cover issues such as non-standard each-way terms and price sources.

The on-course market was the exclusive source for the SP until racing went behind closed doors in June 2020 due to the pandemic, with a temporary solution using online operators then introduced.

In March 2021 the SPRC decided the SP would be formulated using off-course firms even when racecourse bookmakers returned to the track, citing the on-course market as only responsible for 1.4 per cent of total betting on racing.

The changes mean the SPRC will consider any price source to be valid if freely available to customers in the UK, if the prices are available to each-way terms derived from the win-only price – which rules out the Betfair exchange and the Tote – and if the price source constitutes at least one per cent of the UK market for betting on British racing.

New rules for returning starting prices to be introduced in May

This leaves the door open for racecourse bookmakers to collectively contribute to the sample that forms the SP.

Members of the Betting and Gaming Council have promised financial assistance to pay for a technical solution to incorporate on-course information, although on-course bookmakers were previously paid for their data, which may prove to be a stumbling block to their inclusion.

SPRC chair Nick Rust said there was a need to move on from temporary arrangements
SPRC chair Nick Rust said there was a need to move on from temporary arrangementsCredit: Edward Whitaker

The SPRC said the current list of bookmaker brands which provide the SP sample is made up of bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Sky Bet, Unibet and William Hill, but added it would like to widen the sample.

Coral is not included as the SPRC deemed their prices to be too similar to their Entain stablemate Ladbrokes.

Paddy Power and Sky Bet are included despite both being part of Flutter Entertainment as they each set individual prices.

SPRC chair Nick Rust said: "I'm grateful to my fellow commissioners and the members of our technical sub-committee for the work they have done to update the SP mechanism.

"We needed to move from temporary arrangements put in place as a result of coronavirus to permanent ones which reflected both contemporary market dynamics and the commission's previous decision to move to a largely off-course price basis.

"The SP continues to be robust and plays a very important role in ensuring fair returns for betting customers whether betting at SP or benefitting from best odds guaranteed."

The SPRC also said that average overrounds per runner, the bookmakers' theoretical built-in profit margin, were "considerably lower" in 2021 than in the period before Covid-19 when the SP was determined from the on-course market only.

On-course bookmakers argue this is because the prices of outsiders have increased to make up for shorter prices among the fancied horses.

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Bill BarberIndustry editor
Published on 23 April 2022Last updated 12:30, 23 April 2022