Greyhound racing after an electric hare has proved one of the most popular gambling mediums in Britain for the past 45 years or so. Curiously enough it does not seem to have caught on to anything like the same extent elsewhere.
If you go to a greyhound track, you have the choice between betting on the tote and betting with bookmakers. If you want to bet on greyhounds away from the track, you can bet with a bookmaker at starting prices – or, in a few instances explained later, at tote prices.
Unlike horse racing, greyhound races at any one track do not have varying numbers of runners from race to race. Some tracks work on a basis of six runners in each race, others five. This standardisation sets limits to the type of bets you can have. At the track, you can have win, place and forecast bets on the tote. There may also be various multi-bet pools involving the results of two or more races. These vary in character from track to track. Track bookmakers only take win bets.
Away from the track, bookmakers are usually prepared to take win and each-way bets at starting prices, and forecast bets.
Regulation And Control
Tote betting on greyhounds is different from Tote betting on horses. Tote betting on horses is operated throughout the country by one single statutory body, the Horserace Totalisator Board, For greyhounds, each track is allowed to operate its own tote, though greyhound totes are not allowed to accept bets off the course. The conditions under which tracks are allowed to provide betting facilities are subject to strict controls laid down mainly in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1963 to 1971, and implemented by the local authority (county council or county borough) in which the track is situated.
Apart from the regulations which deal with totes, tracks must allow bookmakers to attend race meetings and provide a convenient place for them to take bets. The number of bookmakers that are allowed to operate is fixed by the track. The track itself is not allowed to engage in bookmaking, as distinct from running its own tote.
These conditions apply to all greyhound racing tracks, and are laid down by statute. A track must have a track betting licence from its local authority before any betting can take place. There is, however, an additional form of private licensing operated by the National Greyhound Racing Club (N.G.R.C.). The N.G.R.C. is a self-appointed controlling body for greyhound racing, and has a comprehensive set of rules dealing with the conduct of greyhound racing. It is not, though, the greyhound equivalent of the Jockey Club. It issues licences to tracks authorising them to race under its rules. At present, over fifty tracks hold licences to race under N.G.R.C. rules, though the number is falling as tracks are swallowed up by property developments. A list of them can be obtained from the N.G.R.C., St Martin’s House, 140 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P OAS. They include most of the larger tracks in the country, but it is important to realise that there are many greyhound tracks which operate perfectly legally with track betting licences issued by their local authorities but which are not licensed by the N.G.R.C. to race under their rules. The word licence has two meanings in this context. Tracks which race with-out an N.G.R.C. licence are often called ‘unrecognised’ but this does not mean that they are illegal.
The N.G.R.C. rules for greyhound racing include a wide variety of subjects and situations (licensing of tracks and officials, conduct of race meetings, racing procedure, registration of greyhounds, and so on). The N.G.R.C. rules state that the stewards should take no cognisance of any disputes or claims with respect to bets.
Betting is not allowed at trials. (In greyhound racing, a trial test run on the track, which may involve one or several greyhounds. Trials are not mixed in with proper races at ordinary meetings). Although part of the training programme for greyhounds, trials have official status and their results are recorded and made available for racegoers in the official racecard. There is no equivalent in horse racing.
Place betting at most tracks is confined to the first two places. Forecasts are normally correct order forecasts on the first two dogs to finish. In a six-dog race, there are thirty possible combinations to choose from. At tracks which have five dogs in each race, there are twenty possible correct order combinations. There are twenty-eight possible either order combinations in eight-dog races and fifty-six possible correct order combinations.
Track deductions are very variable, within the statutory maxi-mum of 12( per cent. Many tracks deduct a smaller percentage from' win and place pools than they do from forecast and multi-bet pools. The situation is likely to change, so if you go greyhound racing you should check at the track to find out what the deductions are on the various pools.
In recent years, many track totes have introduced a variety of multi-bet pools, involving the results of more than one race. These go under different names at different tracks, and have varying unit stakes. As well as win doubles and accumulators, which follow the same principles as for horse racing, which follow the same principles as for horse racing, there are either order forecast doubles and trebles, on certain races.
What happens if you bet with a bookmaker? On the track, the prices offered by the bookmakers fluctuate in the same way as the betting market on a horse race. The returned starting prices represent the best odds on offer at the off. Normally, you will be able to bet win only. The betting market is usually weaker than it is on horse races – smaller amounts of money will cause more violent fluctuations in odds. There are fewer bookmakers at the track and the total amount of money involved is smaller. One or two big bets can change the structure of odds on offer very quickly. An advantage of betting with a track bookmaker rather than the tote is that you know exactly what odds you are getting when you make the bet, whereas it is impossible to tell in advance exactly what dividend the tote will return. All tracks provide tote indicator boards which show continuously changing totals of the units bet on different numbers in the win, place and forecast pools. With practice, it is possible to use these to make rough calculations of likely dividends, but these will only be anywhere near accurate if they are made in the dying seconds before the off – the picture can change very rapidly in two minutes, or even one. Nevertheless, tote indicator boards at greyhound tracks provide the backer with much more, and more useful, information than does the Tote on racecourses.
Off the track, many bookmakers restrict their greyhound betting to tracks that are members of the National Greyhound Racing Society (N.G.R.S.). The N.G.R.S. is a trade association whose members are all those tracks licensed by the N.G.R.C. to race under its rules. Others accept bets at local tracks, whether or not they are members of the N.G.R.S. Because of the variety of rules on this point, it is important before you have an off-course bet to check that the bookmaker accepts bets for the track concerned.
Forecast betting is relatively more popular on greyhounds than on horses. To enable off-course bookmakers to accept and settle forecast bets, the National Sporting League (N.S.L.) has devised a system of forecast returns which are based on the starting prices of the winner and second in a race. This is published in the form of a chart, and bookmakers who use this system have copies available for backers to see. The ‘dividends’ that are read off the chart are known as starting price forecasts, or S.P.F.