Betting exchanges changed the industry forever. But 11 years on, market-leader Betfair is fighting battles on all fronts. CFO Stephen Morana dons the gloves.

“Are you allowed to stand outside the local off-licence selling duty-free cigarettes and beer? When you need an extra few quid, can you drive up to the taxi rank at Victoria Station and pick up people in an unlicensed car? No! Well, why should anyone be allowed to lay bets in an identical fashion to a licensed bookmaker? Why have the bootleggers at Betfair just been allowed to sell their business for billions?” Star Sports owner and managing director, Ben Keith.

This quote is typical of a certain vintage of bookmaker. Ben Keith styles his company Star Sports as ‘The Gentleman’s Bookmaker’ (he seems to have learned a few things from his previous employer, the original gentleman’s bookie Victor Chandler). He is nostalgic for the good ol’ days when a racing course betting ring was populated by sharp-witted and sharp-suited characters who used their mathematical genius to work out the odds rather than their computers.

This could be dismissed as the rant of a man being left behind by technology. And, frankly, it’s an old argument that has been voiced again and again since Betfair launched at the turn of the millennium. Incredibly though, the argument continues.

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