Punters pay for racing's insider deals

February 7, 1997

HORSE race betting is a mug's game - if you did not already have your suspicions, economists at Nottingham Trent University have now proved it.

Amid persistent rumours of horse-knobbling, and recent gossip suggesting that jockeys are receiving sexual favours in return for inside information, two senior economics lecturers have at last put a figure on the cost to the ordinary punter of shady dealing. The average punter loses 16p in every pound as a result of insider trading and more than Pounds 85 million is wagered each year by those who are in the know, it was found.

Leighton Vaughan Williams and David Paton analysed data on more than 5,000 horses from the 1992 flat racing season for the Economic and Social Research Council, examining the pattern of odds that bookmakers set to compensate for being stung by the insiders.

They found a large discrepancy between odds set for high-profile, high-class handicap races, where insider trading is almost impossible, and the low-profile races where it is thought to be rife.

The researchers expect their techniques could eventually be used to identify insider activity in other financial markets, but perhaps of more immediate interest - certainly to those horse racing punters undeterred by the findings - Mr Vaughan Williams and Mr Paton are able to offer some advice: for the best chance of a return on your cash, avoid betting on long shots, avoid low-profile races and avoid races where there are a large number of horses, as these are the areas where the bookies are most likely to squeeze the odds for compensation.

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