The JRA's Position Against Betting Exchange

In March 2020, Betfair Pty Limited (Australia) issued an announcement on their website that they would offer the betting exchange market on Japanese racing. JRA has confirmed that they had started covering Japanese racing from March 28th, 2020. Betfair commenced without any notice to us.

After recognizing the commencement of betting exchange on Japanese racing by Betfair, we have sent letters to Betfair twice to cease the betting exchange on Japanese racing from our perspective of maintaining the racing integrity. However, they had continued offering the markets for two months. Thanks to the cooperation and support from racing authorities and connections in Australia and some other countries, on May 28 Betfair stated on their website that they had made the decision to pull Japanese racing. Although they stated their position on betting exchange on their website, we hold a completely different view from them. We would like to clarify our position on betting exchange as follows.

We understand that betting exchange is a type of wagering introduced in the early 2000s in the UK and now this has been widespread with approval in some countries such as the UK, Ireland and Australia. The major difference from traditional betting is that you can lay a horse to lose. The JRA has consistently opposed to this type of wagering for years.

When Betfair obtained a license of betting exchange in Australia in 2006, the JRA sent a letter to express our concerns about dealing the betting exchange covering Japanese racing. At that time, the CEO of Betfair replied to us that they would not accept bet from people in Japan and have no plan and intention to offer the betting exchange market on Japanese racing.

Last September, Betfair commenced offering the betting exchange market on Hong Kong racing without any notice to The Hong Kong Jockey Club. The HKJC protested against the infringement of their intellectual property rights by Betfair and argued that betting exchange poses the fundamental threats to the integrity of racing. And also the jockeys who are licensed to ride in Hong Kong objected to being exposed to the suspicion and innuendo that will inevitably be associated with riding a beaten favorite that has been heavily laid on a betting exchange. In response to The HKJC’s protests, Betfair decided to cease betting exchange on Hong Kong racing shortly afterward. We share the same view with The HKJC in that betting exchange poses threats to the integrity of racing.

Another point that we have to remember is that from the view point of the sport of thoroughbred racing, betting exchange is not an acceptable option.

 “Betting” is indeed one of the aspects related to thoroughbred horseracing all over the world. However, betting is not an absolute factor in racing, since there are some countries which prohibit betting activity on authorized horseracing under their respective national laws. 

In spite of this, thoroughbred horseracing is held in many countries, because of "improvement of breed" (charms of pedigree) to test speed and stamina, show performances through "conduct of the race" (fascination of the sport) and its existence as sports entertainment to support not only the racehorses but also jockeys and all the people involved.

Further, from a viewpoint of horseracing as a sport, it is necessary to determine the summit. That is why the winner, and not the loser, should be praised. It does not mean that the losers are miserable. This is because without losers there would be no winner and no competition. Competition encourages improvement. In terms of betting, it may be possible to lay horses to lose, which is the majority, but it does not make sense from a sporting perspective.

The JRA have long promoted thoroughbred horseracing as “sports entertainment.” Gambling in Japan is illegal for the most part and special law is enacted as an exemption of the Criminal Law to allow for the operation of horseracing, based on the premises that we maintain the integrity of racing. We have been communicating our position at every major international conference of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and Asian Racing Federation. 

As such, the betting exchange platform which allows betting on the losers and profit from it not winning is totally unacceptable from the standpoint of maintaining the integrity and also from the principles of the sports that all competitors should aim to win.

As we mentioned above, the JRA strongly opposes the betting exchange and urges any betting operators Not to offer betting exchange on Japanese racing and Not to provide the service to Japanese citizens.

June 15, 2020
Masayuki Goto
President and CEO
Japan Racing Association