Allegations of in-play betting by media reach racing integrity boss

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Allegations of in-play betting on course during the COVID-19 pandemic by employees of a corporate media organisation have reached the office of racing integrity commissioner Sal Perna.

But wagering is not one of the functions of the office, so the complainant was advised to take up their complaint with Tabcorp and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.

The allegation, which was put to the office in April, was published in Perna's annual report tabled in Victorian parliament last week and came less than a fortnight after a Racing Victoria staff member allegedly organised to provide a group of professional punters with a direct feed as part of an unauthorised technology trial.

Racing Victoria's executive general manager of integrity Jamie Stier put a stop to that trial after The Age enquired about an alleged deal involving a feed.

The Victorian Bookmakers Association believes the two allegations are not isolated incidents.

Lyndon Hsu, joint chairman of the VBA, says the association and its members "are aware that certain individuals have access to a quicker live price feeds".

"We are also aware that certain suppliers of wagering software and communications links are attempting to monetise such advantages by charging for the 'privilege'," Hsu told The Age.

Hsu compared the behaviour – in which some punters are allegedly taking advantage of regular punters who are betting in-play via delayed broadcast feels – to insider trading on the stock market.

"It is fair to say that when the use of price-sensitive information has the benefit of a timing advantage, this clearly disadvantages not just bookmakers but more importantly the broader wagering public," he said.

"In financial markets, elements of such behaviour would be considered not only wrong but indeed illegal. Live quick feed is a desirable aspect of wagering but it should be available to all punters and not a select few.

"Just as governing tennis authorities remove stat counters with their laptops, we have observed persons with laptops located near starting gates to observe jumps with the obvious intention to gain a timing advantage for in-the-run betting."

The issue of using direct feeds of vision from broadcasters for the purpose of in-play betting – placing wagers after a race has started – has come to the fore during the pandemic, which forced racing behind closed doors, and Perna noted in his annual report that his office was tipped off about a potential integrity breach in April.

"ORIC received a complaint that employees of a corporate media organisation were still allowed on track during the COVID-19 restrictions, gaining an advantage on in-play betting markets by being on track when the remainder of the punting public were not," the annual report said.

"The complainant was interviewed and it was ascertained that the complaint related to two Victorian tracks and others interstate. The complaint was referred to the relevant controlling bodies, Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Tabcorp and the relevant interstate integrity body."

However, the office this week confirmed to The Age that it was not the complaint that was referred to the appropriate authorities. Instead, the complainant was advised they would need to take their allegations to the relevant controlling authorities as wagering did not fall under the office's jurisdiction.

The VCGLR and Racing Victoria said they were not contacted by the office of the racing integrity commissioner and could not comment further on the complaint.

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