AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: What is this bookmaking obsession with Arbers?

Let’s get this out there right away, I have been involved in the bookmaking/betting/on-course industry for the majority of my adult life but I’m no bookmaker, I’m a writer. I now work for Star Sports but they wouldn’t let me loose in the trading room for all the tea in China because I wouldn’t have a clue. I start with that statement because I’m going to question some very well-respected people in what is to follow, including people that work with Star Sports because I’m baffled and would like to be educated.

What is the obsession with ‘Arbers’?

This most pilloried of people have been mentioned as if the enemy from the top down in racing, including in the Houses Of Parliament this very week. Now please refer back to the first paragraph if people that actually work in trading rooms are already screaming at their screens, but what difference does it make what people that bet with you do with their winnings?

‘Arbers’ first came into punting parlay, at least to my knowledge, on-course when the exchanges kicked into gear and chaps with their phones to their ears would hover around the ring snapping up prices when told to. The firm I worked for at that time used to love them, the boss was a great judge and form student, if he didn’t fancy a short one and was trying to get it in the book he’d check with his man on the end of the telephone, check the exchange price and ever so slightly top it. Sure enough the extremely polite Mr Arber would nip in and have a monkey on and maybe nick himself a score. My boss got the bet in the book and the Arber was happy, who’s the loser, irrelevant of what won? The bookie was there to take bets and the punter to back horses.

Others in the ring weren’t so keen, never accommodating their business. The excuse being that they were arbing, when in reality they’d just been asleep and had their card marked without the need to employ a floorman. I know that the late, great Freddie Williams was of the same opinion of arbers but not for the same reason. I remember giving him a heartfelt plea when I was sent to back one back at Newbury having laid a lump, he was top priced, gave me the ‘arber-eye’ then laid me the bet I’d asked for after hearing my plight. If Freddie was against it, there must have been a good reason.

But why? No bookmaker that I’m aware of has ever asked a punter what they’ll do with the winnings should they win before taking a bet. What difference if they spend it on records, as I probably would, or give it to someone on Betfair in exchange for a free tenner?

Bruce Millington cited an example that if one bookmaker offered 11/10 heads and another 11/10 tails arbing people could fill their boots. I would say that if just one bookmaker just offered 11/10 heads as a matter of course punters that know value would fill their boots over a period anyway. So then when would it be good business that those punters that just had a bet at odds on offer from a firm whose sole business it is to offer odds and take bets are shown the door and not the trader that made the rick in pricing?

I’ve veered off the point, but not totally. Given that people that are paid to set odds for bookmakers are skilled people, you’d have to assume they priced up 11/10 when everyone else is 10/11 for a reason and that reason being that for whatever reason they want to get it on their book. What does it matter what someone is planning to arb the profit or spend it on beer, and of course, it still has to win.

Surely, it’s all about being competitive, if one firm’s traders are right more often than they are wrong when they top the market and stand by their convictions that firm will thrive while others sink or seek new odds-compiling brains. It’s universally accepted at the business end of any event, the exchanges by their very nature reflect the true chances of an event’s outcome in their prices. As they bet to nothing any layer would be heading for the work house topping them as part of his or her modus operandi.

In reality, most of the moaning about arbing is about business done hours before an event when exchange markets are so weak that a half-decent bet on them can replicate a ‘massive move’ that doesn’t exist. If a firm pays to be on odds-comparison sites to show the punting world that they are top priced, it’s a fair assumption they made a conscious decision to get it in the book. Doesn’t a punter have the right to be annoyed and incredulous when they call to oblige and have a bet they are knocked back and hit with the ‘A’ word!

For all those seething, I’ll refer you to paragraph one and await to be enlightened.

Simon Nott





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skintmobSimon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring