I tend to work all hours, but I grudgingly admit, late Tuesday nights I work alongside my television with it tuned into Bait Car.
The show is quite fascinating.
If you haven't seen it, bait cars are vehicles which are left with the keys in them, in the hopes of catching car thieves in the act, and prosecuting them. All of it is done in a controlled setting.
The TV show follows some of these police departments on their quest.
In North America law enforcement everywhere is using this as a way to combat crime. As the bad guys catch on, car theft goes down.
In Surrey, for example, auto thefts are off 55%.
since the Bait Car program started. The narrative "Car theft is serious and if you steal a car you are going to be caught" seems to be resonating.
Flipping over to racing, I think we have our own bait car. They're called Betting Exchanges.
Horse racing, just like stock trading or any other vocation with money involved, has their share of bad apples, looking to make a buck by screwing the public. In the old days this was done quietly and with near impunity. If you were a trainer and you wanted to stiff a 1-5 shot and blanket the exotics at the track for a big score, you did so at the windows. Your buddy would cash, bring the money over to you and presto, you're gold. If you wanted to hide your bets with a bookie, you could do that too. It was all hush-hush, no one would ever know, and we can count on one hand how many (of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of folks in racing since 1908 when pari-mutuel was invented) times it was ever prosecuted.
Now it's a bit different. The bad guys can find other ways to bet to lose, like with technologically savvy betting exchanges. But if you try, watch out. You are probably going to get caught.
It was announced today that in the UK a trainer was suspended for 8 years for corruption of the pools. His bets, done primarily on betting exchanges Betfair and Betdaq left a paper trail. In addition, odd looking bet sizes and bet timing bothered the exchange software, which is not much different than Nasdaq or Dow monitoring software, and red flags popped up. After an investigation, boom went the dynamite.The whole eye-opening ruling is here.
Of course the knee-jerk reaction of racing is not surprising and totally expected. Namely, the exchange is to blame for the corruption, not the person who used it to allegedly cheat. That's the Sargent Schultz "I see nothing" response we see so often in our sport. It's the same pie in the sky, polyannish thought that if we ban a drug, no one would ever use it again.
Corruption in racing didn't start when a betting exchange was created - it's been around forever. But this decade, more and more people are caught, because authorities have a tool to combat it. In addition, the narrative "If we try to cheat they're watching and we could be suspended for 8 years" starts to take hold, and it starts to clean up the game.
Exchanges are racing's bait car, and they're working exactly as designed.