On-course bookies rail against Goodwood ‘cashless trial’

On-course bookmakers have urged the government to relax the restrictions on cash betting for this week’s Goodwood meeting, after 5,000 punters have been given the green light to attend the event.

Current restrictions rule that only four on-course bookmakers will be permitted on the Sussex track this Saturday, and will only be authorised to take bets via cards as part of a ‘cashless trial’.

Reported by The Guardian, on-course bookmakers have appealed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to allow cash betting, citing concerns over technology, connectivity and bet processing times.

“The last thing we want are problems with the trial,” said Robin Grossmith of the Federation Of Racecourse Bookmakers. “The DCMS probably doesn’t appreciate the difficulties we may have. This is something we are going to be talking to them about on Monday, as a matter of urgency.

“The problem is that Parliament is in recess. Who we can get hold of to make a decision, I really don’t know until we try. Our political advisors will do it for us and we’ll see where we get but the clock’s ticking down pretty quickly.

“We think if cash can be taken, it will be a success. We’re just concerned that there could be all sorts of technical problems that are beyond our control.

“Every betting shop in the High Street takes cash, every supermarket takes cash, I don’t know of a business that doesn’t. We’re working out in the open air that the SAGE experts say is the safest place to be, yet cash is to be banned and we don’t understand the rationale.”

Racing bookmaker Simon James raised concerns over the time it takes to process a bet using a card, emphasising that it takes eight times longer than processing a bet with cash.

He said: “I’ve timed it and it’s about 30 seconds per bet coming in. If you were to work flat out for half an hour, the gap between races, you could take 60 bets. That isn’t allowing for any payouts.

“If the first favourite wins and you have a queue of 30 people trying to get paid, you could spend the whole of the next race’s betting time paying people out. This cannot be allowed to happen. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

Using a cashless system, according to James, also means that each transaction will tie up a portion of the bookmakers funds which will not be cleared for several days. He added: “When I work with cash, my float would only go down by the amount I’ve lost on a race. Taking card payments only, my float’s going to go down by my turnover.

“The amount of money we would have to have in preparation for any race-meeting is going to be beyond the realms of most bookmakers to manage. Only an elite few would be able to do it, especially for four or five days on the trot.”

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