Talking Betting With......Geoff Banks
How are bookmakers adjusting to today's betting environment and the modern punter? Today on the blog Stephen talks with the UK's leading independent rails bookmaker Geoff Banks.
Today we continue our popular Talking Betting With... series, where we talk to those who rely on the world of betting to earn a living in a number of different ways. We try to get inside the mindset of these "insiders" and unearth advice for all bettingexpert punters.
In the latest in the series we chat to one of the strongest and most opinionated independent layers left in the country, Geoff Banks. He has pitches at most of the major tracks in the South and holds strident views about bookmaking and the the future of horseracing in the UK
How did you first get into the world of betting and gambling?
That’s an easy one. My Father was John Banks. A fearless layer who loved gambling and horse racing. It would be hard not to have developed his love and enthusiasm for horse racing and bookmaking specifically.
What jobs have you had in the industry?
I started work in my Dad’s betting shop in Weybridge, fractionally under 18 years ago! It’s fair to say I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. From there I grounded on betting and percentages at Reading Dogs. It’s fair to say I didn’t know what I was doing there either, but I turned a profit, more out of luck – and dodging Terry Dartnall’s runners than anything else!
I followed on with several years working in Dad’s credit office and alternating with trips to the Racetracks. Finally I took over my Dad’s telephone business in 2002, and bought a series of on course pitches for myself in the ensuing period.
What is the biggest win you have ever had as a bookmaker?
Biggest single win was £120,000 when Denman won the Gold Cup in 2008. I felt his Hennessy performance to be so devastating – he would best the shorted priced Kuato Star. And so he did! Biggest single loss was £140,000 on Kauto Star in the gold cup of 2007.
How do you deal with losing runs for the firm?
Losing runs? Ride them out! It’s traditional the punters go in cycles of winning and losing – their favourite period is October to December every year! The worm always turns.
What advice would you give to any aspiring punters trying to do it professionally?
Not my job to assist the punters! But the one tip I learnt – was to note down everything I did as a bookmaker- particularly the losses. To avoid repeating errors. Too many punters fixate on their winners.
How has the bookmaking game changed in recent years?
Like many other industries, it’s had to evolve with the arrival of the internet – and the stiff competition it brings. Average wagers laid have decreased on track as the cashless society bites into the business bookmakers transact, and exchanges pressure margin.
Off track, the large concerns focus on Casino products quite naturally. Racing has been the biggest sufferer.
What are the hardest things about being the man in charge?
Nothing wrong with being in charge. My time is my own. I concentrate on running a stress free business, with clients who largely enjoy a wager, rather than the professional type. In return, my clients are traditionally laid precisely what they ask for – at the best of odds.
We concentrate on keeping our clients for life. I don’t worry about the concerns of professional punters. They have their job, I have mine.
What mentality do you need to survive at the top of a firm?
It’s critical to focus on the individual client to succeed. Too many potential quality clients are put off bookmakers by being lumped in the professional bracket by the odd win or lucky run. We take a longer view.
Second it’s as important not to view bookmaking through the eyes of the punter and get to fancying runners. The main objective is to lay horses at the right price. Achieve that and you win. Resilience and a sense of humour come also as valuable allies.
Do you use "inside" information for betting/trading or purely your judgement?
We rely on judgement and market watching. The past would have involved watching which ‘face’ was backing a horse. These days it’s become necessary to monitor in particular the drift in odds of some runners on exchanges. There’s little doubt many runners are out for a run, with little hope of winning or seeking another target. This has always been the case, so we shouldn’t be surprised at this.
In the past, this wouldn’t have greatly affected the market. These days, those same animals are unquestionably laid by connections on exchanges, who facilitate such action. It’s not uncommon to witness huge negative action on exchanges, which are routinely ignored by the stewards and BHA alike. The BHA and Integrity are at odds - if they take up the issue of non triers as aggressively as they should, I feel they believe it would portray the sport in a bad light. Their integrity department contains a handful of individuals to monitor the 1500 fixtures we have annually. It’s an impossible equation of course. Personally, I feel this is a poor way to look at the sport as a whole. We should stamp out corruption more aggressively.
How do you see the game developing in the next ten years?
Depends on several questions. Will layers and businesses on exchanges still be protected from taxes uniquely in the UK which a bookmaker would naturally pay? Or will the powers that be adopt the view of countries like Germany and Ireland?
Will FOBT’s in shops and casino products dominate the thoughts and profits of large concerns? Will racecourse Bookmakers continue to base a business on trading bets with exchanges in a declining market? Will the regulators take the issue of integrity, in an exchange driven world, with far more vigour than at present? Will racetracks continue to dominate and hog the lions share of the betting cake?
Follow Geoff on Twitter: @geoffbanksbet