The Open Bet: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly explained


The Open Bet has been understood and misunderstood in equal proportions. The upside of it and downside of it are equally damning. It is difficult to understand how the legal process allowed it happen in first place but after years of fighting it, the battle was lost. Phumelela were at the forefront of that battle and it told in the end.

It could have been construed to be the start of the rise of the online bookmaker and the growth of the bookmaking market but the demise of the tote. To be totally fair the rise of the bookmaker in the current situation was equally the growth of sport, the Open Bet and the move to online betting as data became more accessible.

The strength of the horseracing product was evident as the bookmakers fought out the lengthy cases in court and won. But often these days one hears of how unimportant horseracing is to their business. Difficult point to sell if they fought so hard for the open bet.

The bookmakers can tell a different story about their growth in sports betting, numbers and casino games but the essence of their game was horseracing. This is a worldwide story. Almost no legitimate and profitable bookmaker can start his story with sports betting. They all started with horseracing.

The bane of the industry was that the funding for horseracing comes from the tote. It's a plain and simple issue. The tote and indirectly tote punters form the supply chain to the majority of stakes and the odd sponsor adds value to the bigger races via an increased stakes pot. No matter how much bookmakers 'support' racing via sponsorships their take out of the sport is mind boogling. Plus they get the benefit of converting more tote punters into bookmaker open bet punters via this advertising.

For the punter, why wouldn't you bet with the bookmaker in the open bet format? The industry tote is shocking when it comes to customer service levels, payout times and connecting with the customer. Unless things have changed recently, which no ex-tote player will know about as he has already left that building, the tote product is stuck in the past in almost every way.

The service level in the bookmaking game is almost the opposite. The big bookies in South Africa are slick, answer phones, take complaints and solve issues. They also pay out almost immediately or at worst within the day. Some even pay bonuses at the end of the month if you have a losing month.

The Open Bet has killed the tote due to the combination of legislation making it legal and the customer service of the bookmakers. Also, until recently, it was impossible and still could be in places, to bet with a bookmaker and the tote in one place with a combined bank online. Simple logic but it was never done. When it was done it was so illogically designed, it seemed easier to just take the open bet with almost every bookmaker. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the 'open bet' tote at some bookmakers is larger than the actual tote of the operators. This speaks volumes.

It is a given that a lot of the punters playing don't even know they are backing horses on the open bet rather than it going to the actual tote. Some Bookmakers present it in a simple format that speaks to no differentiation between the two. Even though the language clearly says Open Bet, few punters understand what all the fuss is about and bet anyway.

Unless they are educated, they really don't know or even care where the money goes as long as they are being paid out and paid out fast.

Bookmakers have also countered the big exotic pool days by guaranteeing maximum payouts for up to R15 million. That is enough for the biggest of pools.

In all the Open Bet is here to stay unless the bookmakers realize that it is only a matter of time before they kill the goose that lays the Golden egg. In fact, that day may be just down the road. By then the industry that once was the main sport of the town in the infinacy of modern day sport will be a heap of ashes with only the good old days to speak of.. What a pity it is when greed kills the game!  

© 2009 All rights reserved.