Bookmakers do their very best to offer fair odds to the betting public. Unfortunately, situations sometimes occur that can change the dynamic of a market, not the least of which is the last-minute withdrawal of a key player or contestant from a scheduled event. In the case of horseracing, it is not at all uncommon for an owner to pull an entry on the day of a race, which can have significant effects on the odds for all other starters, especially if the horse removed was among those favoured.
To protect bookmakers and bettors from potentially disastrous outcomes, Tattersalls Rules were developed to settle questions relating to bets, commissions for bets and other matters arising out of wagers or gaming transactions on horseracing. They include Rule 4, which spells out how to deal with postponements, abandonments, changes of venue, voided results and non-runners.
For example, under Rule 4 (b), “Bets on a horse which does not come under Starter’s Orders or on a horse declared by the Starter ‘not to have started’ will be void.” That means stakes are returned to those who have wagered on the withdrawn horse.
The problem is that the bookmaker still has to honour bets placed on the other entries at agreed upon odds. In the case where 7/2 odds have been offered on a second favorite and the 4/6 favorite is withdrawn, the bookmaker stands to lose quite heavily. For this reason, Rule 4(c) was developed. It provides for a scale of “deductions” to be made from winnings paid out when horses are scratched pre-race. In general, the lower the odds of the non-runner are, the higher the deduction will be from the winnings.
Specifically, the Rule states, “In the case of bets made at a price on the day of the race before it has been officially notified that a horse has been withdrawn before coming under Starter’s Orders or has been declared ‘not to have started,’ the liability of a layer (i.e., bookmaker) against any horse remaining in the race, win or place, will be reduced in accordance with the following scale depending on the odds current against the withdrawn horse at the time of such official notification:
“If the current odds are:
3/10 or longer: by £0.75 in the £
2/5 to 1/3: by £0.70 in the £
8/15 to 4/9: by £0.65 in the £
8/13 to 4/7: by £0.60 in the £
4/5 to 4/6: by £0.55 in the £
20/21 to 5/6: by £0.50 in the £
Evens to 6/5: by £0.45 in the £
5/4 to 6/4: by £0.40 in the £
13/8 to 7/4: by £0.35 in the £
15/8 to 9/4: by £0.30 in the £
5/2 to 3/1: by £0.25 in the £
10/3 to 4/1: by £0.20 in the £
9/2 to 11/2: by £0.15 in the £
6/1 to 9/1: by £0.10 in the £
10/1 to 14/1: by £0.05 in the £
Over 14/1: no deductions made.”
Should two or more horses be withdrawn, the Rule states that total deductions may not exceed £0.75 in the pound. Also, for bets made at Starting Price there are no deductions, unless “insufficient time arises for a fresh market to be formed.” In such instances, the same scale of reductions applies.
Looking at the case cited above where a 4/6 favourite is withdrawn and a 7/2 starter wins, the payout for a £100 wager will not return the originally anticipated profit of £350. Instead, it would be reduced by 55p in the pound to £157.50.
The vast majority of bookmakers in the U.K., both online and off, comply with the Tattersalls Rules and these deductions. Some such as Coral, however, do not apply any deductions for withdrawn entries priced over 9/1. Always be sure to check the terms and conditions of wagering before placing a bet.