Hollywood Bets denies allegations of conflict of interest

By ESHLIN VEDAN Time of article published Feb 21, 2020

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Durban - FRUSTRATED punters at Hollywoodbets Greyville resorted to violence after horses that had been declared favourites failed to do well.

Some are now alleging a conflict of interest by gambling companies that sponsor jockeys and trainers.

But sponsors, jockeys and trainers alike have dismissed the allegation, saying all is above board.

The POST has established that jockeys and trainers have endured verbal abuse in the parade ring for a few weeks.

Last Wednesday the situation turned ugly when, in the first two races of the evening, one of the country’s top jockeys, Anton Marcus, could not get the horses he was riding in both races into the top four.

Holy Guacamole, the favourite in the first race, finished last while Fergie’s Rock, his horse in the second race, came seventh.

A favourite is the horse that has the most money bet on it and, as a result, is deemed most likely to win.

On Wednesday night last week, when most punters realised they had lost money again, they turned their anger towards racing steward Matthew Lips who monitors races to ensure nothing untoward is taking place during races.

At some stage, a cooldrink bottle that was thrown at Lips missed him but struck trainer Paul Gadsby.

The POST spoke to several punters, none of whom wanted to be named. Some claimed that a conflict of interest had arisen now that big gambling companies were sponsoring jockeys and trainers.

They said they feared races could now be rigged to boost the profits of the gambling houses.

“How do you explain the fact that a top jockey like Anton Marcus, riding a favourite, can’t get a place,” asked one punter.

“With jockeys being sponsored, how do we know races are not being rigged?”

Another punter said: “In the last few months, I have been monitoring the situation. More and more favourites are not winning. I’d say only about 20% of the favourites are winning. Eighty percent of the time, favourites don’t win. And when a favourite doesn’t win, the punters lose big time.”

One regular racegoer said that in recent times, the odds were stacked against punters and questioned the sponsorships that were being paid to jockeys and trainers.

“You can never have a referee who is playing the game. Yet, you have gambling houses sponsoring jockeys and trainers. How can that be right?”

Another punter said: “Nobody is looking after the interest of the public, and it has reached a boiling point. We are angry and feel like we are being played.”

Punters asked that the issue of sponsorship be reviewed.

However, trainers, jockeys and Gold Circle denied any wrongdoing.

Gadsby said: “I’ve been in racing for more than 50 years. Hollywoodbets are more of a marketing company. Nobody has asked me about racing or my horses. They are professional people with ethics.”

A spokesperson from the SA Jockeys Association said: “It is the first time that I’ve heard about this. Every horse is doing its best. Everybody wants to win. At the end of the day, the horse is in control of its destiny.The sponsorship is a nice initiative to trainers.”

Michel Nairac, director of Gold Circle, said that he is aware of the incident and that the culprits have been identified.” The security response team dealt with the matter, and it fizzled out.

“We have identified the culprits and we know who they are and will take action,” said Nairac.

Hollywoodbets denied the allegations. This is their response: 

It is difficult to understand why Hollywoodbets’ investment in horse racing, and other sports, via sponsorships, should be seen as a conflict of interest.

Horse racing, soccer, cricket and road running are some of the sports that Hollywoodbets puts money back into via development programmes, incentives, bursaries and contributions. Horse racing, in particular, includes the whole spectrum of stake holding from sponsoring races, owning horses, sponsoring racecourses and trainers and the grooms’ incentive programmes.

There are also punter incentive programmes, such as the recent guaranteed minimum Pick Six pools and on-course incentives for Pick Six punters. There is also a new punters competition in the pipeline that will be announced in the near future.

Hollywoodbets has been sponsoring trainers for 15 years and has owned horses for 18 years.

Hollywoodbets only started sponsoring the racecourses in July 2019. However, we have been laying bets on horse racing for 20 years prior to this. We’ve grown our business from one branch 20 years ago, to 84 around South Africa, all this time laying bets on horse racing (and other sports).

Half of the 20 English Premier League soccer clubs have betting company sponsors as do 17 of the 24 English Championship teams - they all bet on soccer, it will be illogical and ludicrous to deduce from this that they are trying to influence results.

Local betting companies such as World Sports Betting, Betting World, Interbet, Track and Ball, and others have been sponsoring races for a number of years. It would be counter-productive to influence the results of races.

Hollywoodbets has 5 475 team members and the communities we operate in rely on us to run our business with impeccable corporate governance. We are licensed and regulated by six provincial gambling boards and the National Gambling Board.

Punters get irate when their bets lose, that is part and parcel of any betting, including horse racing. By definition, there have to be winners and losers. Jockeys, horses and trainers are flesh and blood. Favourites are not guaranteed to win every race. Every punter knows that.

Just as soccer and rugby players miss penalties, cricketers get ducks and drop catches, jockeys make mistakes, and horses may have off-days - that is what sport is about.

With regards to the alleged incident at Hollywoodbets Greyville, we believe this involved irate punters, the senior handicapper and stipe, Matthew Lips and trainer Paul Gadsby.

We understand the punters were requesting clarity on why the favourite in the race got beaten, words were exchanged, and a scuffle ensued. We do not know the details of the incident. However, we believe it was addressed by Gold Circle, and resolved.

Maybe more transparency is needed in racing when favourites get beaten? Maybe stipe reports or trainer/jockey comments need to be discussed sooner after races rather than later? This is the feedback we will pass onto Gold Circle.

However, to insinuate that Hollywoodbets has an influence on the results of races is somewhat far-fetched and is speaking from a tainted mind and one ignoring all the variables and factors that go into a horse race.

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