A former horse racing data analyst at the UK’s national news agency appeared in court this week accused of fraudulently altering with race results for personal gain.
Jack Bentham, 24, of East Yorkshire, worked for PA Media, formerly the Press Association. As well as producing multimedia news services, the agency has long supplied live horse racing and greyhound racing data to the betting industry.
It also provides an automated pricing solution that produces real-time fixed odds for sportsbooks’ trading teams.
As reported by The Yorkshire Post, Hull Magistrate’s Court heard Monday that between October 13 and October 22, 2018 Bentham “manipulated race data to change the race results in his favor.”
Local news reports do not detail the exact nature of Bentham’s tinkering, nor the races involved, other than to say he made roughly £10,000 ($13,600) via a Paddy Power account.
Authorities launched an investigation after Paddy Power and Skybet complained about “irregular betting activity” on accounts linked to Bentham.
He pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-September.
You committed fraud in that, while occupying a position, namely racing specialist, in which you were expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of the Press Association, you dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain,” said Prosecutor James Byatt.
Bentham’s lawyer, Nick Tubbs, said his client accepted responsibility for his offenses and had taken steps to address a gambling problem.
Echoes of Historic Scam
It’s possible the inspiration for Bentham to meddle with the results was provided by a fraud perpetrated 27 years ago that used similar tactics.
In August 1998, someone working at the UK’s Racing Post deliberately altered the results of four greyhound races for the benefit of a gambling syndicate before the newspaper went to print.
This was the days of dial-up internet, before data providers had technology to supply bookmakers with a live feed of results from even the most obscure, far-flung sporting events with minimal latency.
And the greyhound races in question were suitably insignificant, taking place at two of the UK’s smallest tracks.
Three months earlier, a rival racing-focused newspaper, Sporting Life, had folded. This meant the Racing Post was the only readily available source of information for bookmakers for fringe betting events.
This time, the Press Association transmitted the correct results to the Racing Post shortly after the Saturday races had been run.
But when they appeared in the following day’s print edition, the names of three of the winners had been changed. Meanwhile, the 11-10 odds of a heavy favorite had been altered to 3-1 to yield a significantly larger payout.
Bookies Get Suspicious
The fraud was only partially successful. Numerous bets, including several linking the races in rolling accumulators with total odds as high as 199-1 had been placed in land-based sports books across the country.
But some bookies were suspicious of the bets when members of the syndicate came to collect their winnings. The claimants were told the outlet had insufficient funds to pay them and they were asked to return later. None did.
But many successfully claimed their winnings. While the amount the syndicate won is unknown, reports at the time said it was a minimum of $50,000.
No one has ever been arrested in connection with the crime.
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