If you were to canvass the opinion of most trading heads across the U.K. firms I think you would find a general consensus that the introduction of Best Odds Guaranteed or “BOG” has been a costly and problematic exercise. One firm – Paddies I believe – went out alone and then in true lemming style, all followed. You might assume that every bookmaker involved had teams of number crunching nerds buried up to their neckties in spreadsheets before they got the thumbs up to offer BOG too. Unlikely, I would say. Most would have jumped in feet first, panic-stricken.
BOG has been costly of course, and at a time when data and streaming costs have soared and alongside the introduction of POCT and ABP – margin is under attack.
Throw in the fact that every major festival increasingly seems to be a procession of winning favs and you can see that there’s a bottom line issue brewing or brewed.
So, a few months ago when Ladbrokes unveiled BOG Plus I was somewhat taken aback. Not content with offering Best Odds when your bet is returned at a bigger price than what you took, the big red firm went one better and offered one price further up the odds ladder. Whilst somewhat (hugely?) at odds with their CEO’s stated aim to return to “sound bookmaking principles” Ladbrokes were undergoing lots of changes to attract a more recreational base and this initiative seemed to be borne out of more than just commercial acumen – some might suggest panic. I didn’t really give it much more thought until I saw them using Frankie Dettori jumping into a cup of coffee as a means to promote it on telly. Ok, now I’m thinking a bit more about it.
Today, a rather large flare went off when I found out that Bet365 have quietly aped this promotion and are now offering it on all races, with no upper BOG payout limit. Their MO is pretty simple in my view – they want to drive everyone else out of business and they will do it by operating to no margin or negative margin on racing if they feel that’s what’s needed. BOG+ being offered elsewhere initially, presents them with a great opportunity to put everyone else in a head lock.
The fact that 365 now offer this means that all those Trading heads I mentioned earlier are scratching their heads. Will another firm jump? What will we do? Where are our nerds and why are they not wearing neckties?
For 365, driving racing margin into the ground is largely immaterial. Whilst I’m sure they have a massive UK racing business by all standards, I am equally sure that paying BOG+ will not even result in a tremor in their accounts dept.
But the wider implications of it for other firms, for racing and for punters is potentially quite impactful. Some will say it’s competition and great for punters. I can see that point of course – but it’s yet another entry in a column of costs associated with the sport (for those that choose to offer it) and when the world’s most dominant betting force decides it wants to run with it, everyone else is under starters’ orders.