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Anaglogs Daughter
22 Jun 10 20:26
Date Joined: 05 Jan 10
| Topic/replies: 29,477 | Blogger: Anaglogs Daughter's blog
UK-listed bookmaker Sportingbet has become embroiled in a damaging PR firefight after the company closed the accounts of customers betting on a series of races last month.
The issue, which is still being played out in the pages of the UK's racing press, arose on May 10 when UK-based horseracing trainer and professional gambler Barney Curley orchestrated a betting coup which involved associates placing large accumulator bets on the running of four fancied horses at three separate racetracks.

Curley and his associates said they placed a number of bets with a range of bookmakers including Sportingbet, and the gamble paid off when all four horses triumphed.

But it has since emerged that four people who initially placed a series of accumulator bets with Sportingbet had their accounts closed and their bets voided as bookmakers cottoned on to Curley’s coup before the first race was run.

In an article in the Independent newspaper last week, Curley went public with his complaints regarding Sportingbet – lambasting the company's representatives as “comedians” – and said he would be taking up the issue with the Independent Betting Arbitration Service (IBAS) in due course.

But while Sportingbet’s action meant the bettors did not receive the full jackpot from the bold attempt to defeat the bookies, marketing experts say the PR fallout could now come at a greater expense to London-listed Sportingbet.

Sponsorship and bookmaking industry insiders pointed out the Curley furore swiftly follows Sportingbet’s recent spate of sports and racing sponsorships in the UK.

“It was up to them to either hedge the bet or let it ride,” said one industry insider. “You can’t void bets after they have been struck.”

A spokesperson for Sportingbet told GamblingCompliance that rather than looking to swerve a potentially large payout, the betting accounts were cancelled after suspicious betting patterns were detected.

“We identified an unusual occurrence in the betting pattern when four individuals placed their bets, and as is standard practice in these situations, we took the appropriate actions.”

The spokesperson added: “As you will appreciate, we do not divulge individual customer betting details as it would be in breach of customer confidentiality.”

It was late last year that the largely continental Europe-facing Sportingbet declared that a fall in the cost of media and sponsorship costs in the UK meant the company would be redoubling its marketing efforts in the country.

In its full-year results statement last October, the company said the UK had been “generally over-serviced with a relatively expensive media environment.”

“The impact of the recession in the UK has led to the cost of media falling, enabling the group to consider strategies in this market which hitherto had been prohibitively expensive.”

As part of this change of strategy, Sportingbet signed a deal to become shirt sponsor at then-newly promoted Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers, which is thought to be worth just shy of £1m over the course of the two-year deal. The company also recently announced it was sponsoring England’s test cricket grounds for the summer.

But the group also launched a series of horserace sponsorships, including the sponsorship of Windsor racecourse and – as luck would have it – two races at Wolverhampton on May 10 involving legs of the Curley gamble.

Sources close to the company suggest the total spent in the past year on horserace sponsorship likely exceeds six-figures.

A sports sponsorship specialist said that from a PR perspective, the Curley affair was “obviously very bad” in the short term for Sportingbet.

“From a sponsorship perspective, we always believe that people sponsor sports because of the emotional connection between the sport and the fans,” they said. “It’s about trust, and in this case it appears that a level of trust has been broken. It goes against the very reasons for why you decided upon sponsoring a sport.”

The specialist added that sponsorship was about brand-building. “This just comes across as sour grapes,” they added. “It seems to be petty and small-minded. It makes Sportingbet look like a small player, rather than among the big players.”

But credibility aside, there are also financial and trading factors that should be considered.

“Unlike for example Coca Cola, a bookmaker is not only using sponsorship for branding, they are also presumably looking to get new sign-ups.

“So the reputation among people who might be tempted to either switch or open a new account is damaged. It might well stop them signing up. They might look at Sportingbet and ask themselves whether they want to get involved with the brand.”

Sportingbet has remained silent on the PR costs associated with the Curley affair, though by another coincidence it held a presentation for journalists and analysts on Thursday last week on the same day that IBAS released its annual report which showed that bookmakers were “conceding more readily than before” in disputes and that recoveries had risen 21 percent to £385,044.

At the meeting at Sportingbet’s London headquarters, the company’s head of trading Gary Pearce displayed a trading screen that showed how the company monitors its betting minute by minute and colour codes – and if necessary stops – the bets of insiders, or ‘shrewdies’.

The company’s representatives were keen to emphasise that they were looking to attract the recreational better as opposed to keen punters. But it is arguable whether its efforts with respect to the Curley affair will attract either.
Pause Switch to Standard View Sportingbet Isolated After Voiding...
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Report Biodiesel June 22, 2010 8:51 PM BST
Ill never open account with them over that
Report ko2 June 22, 2010 9:09 PM BST
ridiculous situation, they have lost whatever credibility they had left
Report workrider June 22, 2010 10:23 PM BST
how could anyone possibly bet with them , you'd never know if the bet won , weather you would be deemed a in their words , a shrewdie , and not get paid . recreational betters in other words losers  Laugh
Report Anaglogs Daughter June 22, 2010 10:47 PM BST
Someone said something along the lines of "Put on 100 quid on a 2/1 shot...If it drifts say to 4/1 before the off e-mail them and tell them you are voiding the bet you dont want it on"
Report Tank01 June 22, 2010 11:06 PM BST
all 4 didn't win did they.
Report Anaglogs Daughter June 22, 2010 11:13 PM BST
3 won but its not the point, after the first one was backed off the boards on the show they emailed the punters to tell them the bets were void, why didn't they do it an hour before the race
Report lustrumm June 22, 2010 11:16 PM BST
Bio they didnt have any credibility to begin with.

If for example you found out a player was questionable on an NFL game or a baseball game and placed a bet with them.
If the line moved in your favour they would void the bet and send you an email to that effect.
It happened me and when I took it up with them they were stunned to think I felt hard done by.
They are not bookmakers in the traditional sense. They will tell you flat out they have no interest in entertaining anyone who might take an edge on them.

Of course if you had a bet and one of your players got injured then the bet would stand but dont expect them to explain that to you
Report Kerrygold June 22, 2010 11:59 PM BST
Gary Pearce - lol - typical

surprised he's still working there after that robbery

This company used to be a proper book mid 1999/ to2001 after that they lost the plot  -not sure why - used to lay a proper bet in them days.
Report slickster June 23, 2010 12:27 AM BST
personally i think it was very good of them to email the "punters" and let them know their bets were to be made void. these people are not punters "in the traditional sense".... only one way to ensure this wont happen again. take away barneys licence. how he holds one is beyond any reasonable comprehension....
Report Man-O-War June 23, 2010 12:39 AM BST
Slickster must be a PR manager for Sportingbet!![:o]
Report Man-O-War June 23, 2010 12:44 AM BST
Slickster must be a PR manager for Sportingbet!![:o]
Report rock piper June 23, 2010 1:15 AM BST
Once upon a time 2001 to 2003 they bet to very attractive percentages, but there tended to be messing when you tried to get on.
Report Kerrygold June 23, 2010 3:33 AM BST
could not tell you about that time piper - only know them years they took some proper bets on all sports mostly from Asia -
Report lustrumm June 23, 2010 8:55 AM BST
I used to bet with them since their inception and they never laid a bet. They were always messers
Report downallstar June 23, 2010 9:01 AM BST
With all the big boys paying out, and the BHA saying there was nothing untoward here, these clowns have been left looking like the 2nd rate outfit they are.

Why should they be happy to take a bet of a mug at 1pm, but void it at 2pm when they cop that the mug may be a shrewdie???

Pity IBAS are so spineless.
Report Tank01 June 23, 2010 9:48 AM BST
The article clearly states all 4 won, which wasn't the case. That was my point Analog
Report crouchingtiger1 June 23, 2010 10:47 AM BST
Curley and his associates said they placed a number of bets with a range of bookmakers including Sportingbet, and the gamble paid off when all four horses triumphed.

I gave up when I read that line. Shoddy journalism
Report lustrumm June 23, 2010 11:26 AM BST
Crouching did VC lay them just out of curiousity ?

I know it is sore whe one gets caught but it was a fair cop I am sure we all agree and bedgrudgingly say fair play to him.
A man in his seventies pulling off an online stroke.

Bad Jounalism it may well be and I wonder how the indepeendent got roped into batting for Barney Curley of all people but none the less to do what Sportingbet did goes against the very grain of Bookmaking.

To this day you can stand on a joint or behind a counter in Ireland and refuse to honour a winning bet.

If a bookie hasnt his word than he has nothing surely and now Sporting have nothing
Report crouchingtiger1 June 23, 2010 12:20 PM BST
I don't know if VC laid them but very short price they did. If a non-racing firm like sportingbet caught it then it's surely long odds on that everyone did in some size.
Report Biodiesel June 23, 2010 12:29 PM BST
PR disaster for sportingbet,reputational damage is immense, if I was a stakeholder I be furious
Report lustrumm June 23, 2010 12:38 PM BST
I don't know if VC laid them but very short price they did. If a non-racing firm like sportingbet caught it then it's surely long odds on that everyone did in some size.

OK. But to be fair if you dont know than nobody will. client confidentially and all that is it.
Report crouchingtiger1 June 23, 2010 2:19 PM BST
lustrumm - i don't work their anymore mate.
Report The Icchantika June 23, 2010 3:03 PM BST
Letter from the great man in today's RP.
Report Anaglogs Daughter June 23, 2010 5:03 PM BST
This was the first article on it.

'Nobody will win as much on horse racing in 100 years'

He has mentored three jockeys for this week's Derby, but the bet that won him millions earlier this month is his greatest high. He tells Chris McGrath how he did it.

'I do it for the buzz,' says Barney Curley. 'Beat the system, beat those smart-arse bookies'

He has been out working a horse on the gallops. "Not a sinner about," he says, with wry satisfaction. "Sunday morning, they're all in bed." But the wind has exacerbated his conjunctivitis. There's something wrong with his ears, too – they're stuffed with cotton wool. Barney Curley moves slowly, nowadays, can't walk very far. Last year he lay in hospital for three months. "Lucky to get out. It was evens each of two, live or die." He's 70. And three weeks ago he pulled off one of the most extravagant gambles in the long history of the Turf.

"Nobody will ever win as much on horse racing, this century," he pronounces, in his measured Co Fermanagh tones. Quite how much, he will not say, though industry estimates of £1m sound hopelessly conservative.

One of the men who helped manage a project of rococo complexity, joining us in Curley's sitting room, suggests that it was first discussed before some of the horses involved were even born. Come the day – a humdrum Monday 10 May – four were linked in a series of trebles and accumulators. Three are trained by Curley himself, in probably the smallest stable in Newmarket. The fourth he had sold in 2008 to Chris Grant, a trainer on Teesside.

Agapanthus won at Brighton; then Savaronola did the business at Wolverhampton. But Curley's third runner, Sommersturm, was beaten later on the card. That left Grant's horse, Jeu De Roseau, who made his first appearance in 742 days to win at Towcester's evening meeting.

Had Sommersturm completed the job, the bookmakers would all have reached their various maximum payouts – an aggregate Curley reckons at over £20m. But it has been hard enough getting them to pay out, as it is. "I'm pleased the other one didn't win," he insists. "If these fellows can't pay three, what chance would we have with four?"

Previously, Curley was most celebrated for Yellow Sam, who won at a country track in Ireland in 1975. There was only one telephone at Bellewstown, and Curley had a friend act out a prolonged call to a fictional dying aunt, so blocking desperate attempts by off-course bookmakers to cut Yellow Sam's starting price. His winnings have been computed as the equivalent of €1.7m (£1.4m) today.

Such a ruse, of course, could not be entertained since the advent of mobile phones. "People were telling me that our day had gone," Curley says. "You know, punters I knew over the years. It's finished, they said, over. I never thought like that. Because bookmakers are always trying something new, to rob punters, to get them to bite. That's what beats them. The greed."

And that's what spurs Curley. He doesn't need the dough. Since the loss of his teenage son, Charlie, in a car accident in 1995, his chief purpose in life has been a charity he set up in Zambia. In his youth, Curley studied to become a Jesuit. For all the picaresque and iconoclastic flourishes of his life since, he is respected by some of the most eminent horsemen of his era.

Sheikh Mohammed once facilitated a donation of £2.5m to his charity. Trainers with 20 times as many horses in their care consult his opinion. When they arrived as teenagers, from Italy and Ireland respectively, he was mentor to subsequent champion jockeys in Frankie Dettori and Jamie Spencer. His latest protégé, Tom Queally, will be joining them in the Investec Derby on Saturday.

So why persevere with the precarious adventures that redeemed him from the penury of younger days? "It's not for the money," Curley says. "It's for the buzz. Beat the system, you know, beat those bookmakers, those smart-arses. You go into a betting shop and see them robbing these poor fellows, with these gaming machines. They're as addictive as crack cocaine. You see them coming back to the counter with their credit cards, for another tenner. Of course the great thing about those machines is that number nine won't go to even money and win five lengths."

Equally, he remembers sitting in hospital and reading about footballers on £100,000 a week. "I know they're the best at what they do," he says. "But here's me, the best at what I do. And every year, when I came to a certain figure, I said: 'That's enough'. But now I thought: 'I've been underpaying myself the last 15 years. My job's a lot harder. It's about time I caught up with these fellows.'"

Granted that it all pays off, the planning almost seems its own reward. Curley invokes a draughts board. "You'd change the pieces hundreds of times," he says. "Put horse A there, and have horse B in here. But this one's not going well, that one's lame. And we're operating with very few horses, you know. Take horse B out. A week later, back in again. It's not easy. Horses are so unpredictable."

The one that excited most curiosity is probably Jeu De Roseau, but Curley has nothing to hide. Grant is a friend of Andrew Stringer, Curley's assistant. "And I've sold him numerous horses over the years," he says. "If there are five gentlemen in racing, Chris Grant is one of them. A decent, honest, hard-working fella. We were at this sale, and I said to him: 'You should buy this one, there could be a turn in him. He's been sick, given us nothing but trouble. But he did show a bit of form, back in Ireland.' A thousand quid. Can't go wrong."

A while ago, Grant telephoned. The horse had begun to thrive. Curley was sceptical. What would Grant have, to work him with? But he was insistent. "The horse had a very bad virus when he was here, looked terrible," Curley remembers. "And he was saying he was looking well now, that he's turned a corner."

Grant was thinking of running him at Towcester. "That's funny," Curley replied. "I've been trying to find a horse to run in the seller on the card." He had been ringing round, looking to fill another barrel in the bet. But nobody had come up with the right horse. In the event, Jeu De Roseau enabled Curley to switch his sights to a handicap instead.

But the real miracle was for three of his own horses – he only has 11 – to peak together. Their own reformation was mental rather than physical. "Agapanthus turned nasty last year," he says. "We rested him, he loved his day out hurdling, just began to shine. And we did the same with [Savaronola], he was a right nasty piece of goods when he came. One day at Southwell he kicked the place down. Now he's as quiet as a lamb. The horses here have the best time of any stable in the world."

A strategy was gradually refined. A network of agents picked, tested, discarded or trusted. Bets synchronised. "Fifty pounds in the wrong place," he says. "That's all it would have needed. And most people are untrustworthy, when it comes to money."

But much else remains beyond control. There were evidently other days, other horses. It was like postponing the Normandy landings for bad weather. When Grant's horse entered the equation, 22 other entries had to be scratched just to get a run. "Same as someone robbing a bank," Curley says. "The next thing, hasn't been seen for years, but there's a police car parked over the street. You can't plan for things like that. And then, on the Saturday morning, one of them was dead lame. The vets were here, the blacksmiths were here. There was no shouting, no roaring. Quarter to ten, I went up to Mass. If it's going to come, it's going to come. And the next couple of days it got better, and he was just sound to race. In normal circumstances, I'd have done nothing with him for a week."

Another medical drama, for Curley himself, saw him detained in hospital until Monday afternoon. "I get out of all this carry-on at 3.40, so I'm just back in the house to watch Agapanthus at 4.10," he says. "But it was nothing to do with stress or anything. Just my blood was wrong. I'd be watching those races like I'm sitting here now, smoking. My heart would be..." He holds out an impassive hand. "You know, we'd done all we can, that's it."

Now he winds up the flash young jockeys, asking which is the best Mercedes on the road? But all he really wants is to get back to Zambia. September at the earliest, according to his doctors. Direct Aid For Africa has built a school for 1,600 in Zambia. "In racing, people always want to get on your arm," he reflects. "The people giving their lives out there, they don't want anything off you. And once you've been out, it draws you back – those children with their big brown eyes looking up at you, with nothing to eat."

His wife, Maureen, reproaches him for squandering his gifts on horses. "She says I should have been managing director of Tesco, something like that." He pauses, shrugs. "You see, I believe peace of mind is a great thing to have. And I've wonderful peace of mind."

After reading about the coup, Dettori telephoned Curley. "I hear you've had a touch," he said. "I'm pleased. Because the news on the street was that you were losing it."

They had begun to forget about Barney Curley. And now, suddenly, he has left an immortal footprint on the Turf. "It's something I don't think will ever be done again," he says. It will be a good while, however, before any bookmaker grows at all complacent in that assumption.

To learn more about Curley's charity, go to

Barney Curley

Age 70

Curley managed pop band Frankie McBride and The Polka Dots, the first Irish band in the British Top 20.


Adjusted value of Curley's famous betting coup with Yellow Sam in 1975. Some disgruntled bookmakers paid his winnings in single notes, filling 108 bags.
Report santa concerto July 2, 2010 8:01 PM BST
a good man  barney curley for what he does in africa.   and love his   stings on the bookmakers!
Report jasonk178. July 2, 2010 8:28 PM BST
unsportingodds should be forced to payout on the vioded bets and have their licence removed.what the feck sort of a firm are they to think they should be able to get away with that carry on.SHAMELESS AND SPINELESS.
Report typhoon ginger September 15, 2010 10:16 AM BST
Not to be forgotten........
Report Kerrygold March 14, 2014 6:14 AM GMT
bump for people who have bad memories.........this place should not be allowed operate........
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