What is Tapeta?

What is Tapeta?  Tapeta is a synthetic racing surface, akin to Polytrack, which consists of a trademarked mixture of silica sand, wax and rubber fibres laid to a depth of several inches above a tough, woven fabric membrane or a layer of asphalt. Tapeta is specifically designed to mimic the root structure of turf and, as such, produces a unbiased racing surface, which produces little or no kickback and copes well with wet weather.

Tapeta was the brainchild of Michael Dickinson – best known in Britain for saddling the first five finishers in the 1983 Cheltenham – who set about creating a kinder, more forgiving alternative to dirt on which to train his horses. He designed and laid the first version of Tapeta at his purpose-built Tapeta Farm in 1997 and, in 2005, formed Tapeta Footings Inc, which now has offices on both sides of the Atlantic.

Continued research and development has led to numerous iterations of Tapeta, which has been widely adopted by racecourses worldwide, including Wolverhampton, Newcastle and, most recently, Southwell in Britain. Martin Cruddace, Chief Executive of Arena Racing Company (ARC), which owns Southwell Racecourse, said that replacing the existing Fibresand surface with Tapeta represented ‘another significant step forward’.

When was off-course betting tax abolished?

When was off-course betting tax abolished?  As part of his Budget speech in March, 2001, then Chancellor of the Exchequor, Gordon Brown, announced that, from January 1, 2002, the betting levy would be abolished. Previously, the government had collected a betting duty of 6.75% from bookmakers, which was passed on to off-course punters as a 9% tax, payable on stake money or winnings. Instead, bookmakers would be taxed, at 15%, on their gross profits, allowing off-course punters to bet tax-free for the first time since 1968.

Beforehand, Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise had predicted betting duty would plummet as off-course punters sought to avoid paying tax by betting offshore or online. A spokesperson for bookmaker Victor Chandler, whose move offshore was believed to have spurred the Chancellor into action, described the proposed 15% tax on gross profits as ‘simply another stealth tax’.

Nevertheless, as announced by the National Audit Office in January, 2005, the move proved highly successful. The so-called ‘Big Three’ bookmakers, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral, all repatriated their offshore operations and the value of bets placed off-course increased by nearly 100%, from £27 billion to £53 billion, in the period since the law was changed.

What is ‘overround’?

What is 'overround'?  Otherwise known as ‘vigorish’ – an Americanisation of the Russian word ‘vyigryshi’, meaning ‘winnings’ – ‘overround’ is the profit margin that bookmakers factor into a betting market, such that they make money regardless of the outcome. In a ‘fair’ market, the odds for each outcome, once converted to implied probability, should add up to 100%. In a simple coin toss, for example, the odds against tossing heads are 1/1 or ‘even money, which converts to an implied probability of (1/ (1+1))*100 = 50%; the same is true for the odds against tails, so it’s easy to see that 50% + 50% = 100%. However, to guarantee a profit, bookmakers offer odds that are shorter than they should be in a fair market.

Sticking with the coin toss example, let’s say a bookmaker offers odds of 10/11, rather than 1/1, about each outcome. Fractional odds of 10/11 convert to an implied probabiliity of (1 / ((10/11) + 1)) * 100 = 52.4%; 52.4% + 52.4% = 104.8% so, by creating an ‘overround’ book, the bookmaker can expect to pay out £100 for every £104.80 paid in, which yields an expected profit 4.80/104.80 = 4.6%. This approach requires only that each outcome, in this case, heads or tails, is backed proportionally to its chance of winning.

What is an Alphabet bet?

What is an Alphabet bet?  In the same way as the name of the multiple bet known as a ‘Heinz’, which consists of 57 bets in total, is derived from the ’57 Varieties’ advertising slogan once used by the H.J. Heinz Company, the ‘Alphabet’ is so-called because it consists of 26 bets in total; in other words, the same number of bets as there are letters in the English alphabet.

The ‘Alphabet’ is a multiple bet on six different selections in six different events, typically horse races or football matches. Selections are combined in two patent bets, one on selections 1, 2 and 3 and another on selections 4, 5 and 6, one yankee bet, on selections 2, 3, 4 and 5 and in six-fold accumulator bet, on selections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Each patent consists of three singles, three doubles and a treble, making seven bets apiece, while the yankee consists of six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator, making 11 bets. Thus, 7 + 7 + 11 + 1 makes a total of 26 bets.

Of course, the ‘Alphabet’ is not a ‘full cover’ bet. Covering all the permutations of singles, doubles, trebles and accumulators for six selections requires 63 bets in total, and is catered for by the more expensive ‘Lucky 63’ bet. By not covering all the permutations, punters run the risk of missing out if results fall the wrong way; if, for example, selections 1, 2, 5 and 6 win, the Alphabet punter collects on four singles and two doubles, whereas – notwithstanding the increased outlay – the Lucky 63 punter collects on four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator.

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