Since the time the first punter got beat at the hands of the first bookmaker, the latter has always been referred to as the punter's chief nemesis and arch enemy. So when Peter Veitch, a British horse player, who made profit of millions of pounds betting on horses, titled his book narrating the racy account as Enemy Number One, everyone knew he was talking about the traditional bookmaker.

Patrick Jay
Patrick Jay

It therefore came as a shock for many horse racing industry experts gathered as delegates for the 36th Asian Racing Conference at a city hotel here when Patrick Jay yesterday suggested that racing may need to enter into a partnership with bookmakers if it has to survive and grow from its current situation.

Patrick Jay is a global sports consultant with over 20 years of experience in the sports betting sector in Europe and Asia, so you cannot dismiss lightly his argument with reference to the future funding of the UK racing industry.

Whatever the merits of Jay's argument, it livened up the opening business session of the 36th ARC titled 'the wagering landscape', after it was given an excellent start by Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, chairman of the Asian Racing Federation (ARF), whose wit rivaled his tremendous understanding of the subject matter even as he quickly listed the challenges faced by the wagering industry in an extempore speech that set the tone for the discussion. David Eades, with 25 years' experience as BBC broadcaster, moderated the debate.

Patrick Jay highlighted the fact that betting exchanges, like Betfair and Betdaq, had failed to live up to their initial promise. The revolutionary idea of allowing a punter to match his betting skills against another punter and thereby render the traditional bookmaker redundant, lost its way somewhere along the way as smart syndicates took up one of the sides.

Jay also argued that bookmakers like Ladbrokes and William Hill have a robust presence and distribution system that can be utilised to book and settle wagers, and the time has come for the racing industry to take advantage of this set up, so that the it can focus all its energies on offering a better racing product to the masses.

Jay displayed such a fine grasp about the issues faced by the British horse racing industry that by the end of his 20-minute speech, perhaps half of those who found his suggestion sacrilegious when they first heard it, felt the idea had merit.