Following our less than scintillating experience with the cretinous Geoff Banks, we decided to give Star Sports a try, to see if we could find an independent bookie willing to stand a bet. Star Sports is a Hove based operation run by Ben Keith, with a shop in Mayfair, London and some ante post prices on site. You cannot bet online. Its reps are often seen at major horse racing meetings and they will lay a hefty bet if the price is right.
The majority of its wagers are taken by telephone. By and large, prices are not advertised anywhere with the exception of featured ante post and outright (e.g. English Premier League winner) markets. The customer calls the freephone number, gives their account number and the agents place the requested bets. The agents aren’t your typical apathetic customer service personnel; they understand betting terminology and are well informed. For those worried about a lack of paper trail, Star Sports will email a statement of your bets to you upon request.
Our golf enthusiast decided to give them a blast for the PGA Championship in August. Setting up the account was smooth, as was depositing by debit card. He asked what sort of liability they would accept on selections before deciding how much to deposit; generally it would be to around £25,000 takeout. So far, so good.
Odds were advertised on site and were competitve. For example, Star Sports was industry top price on Rory McIlroy at 8/1 and accepted a £3,000 bet on him. Our golf punter also took a number of selections each way at fancier prices, with Star Sports being true to its word and laying bets for a £25,000 liability. There was the extra incentive of them paying 6 places, meaning that the each way element held that little bit more value.
About half an hour before the off our golf bettor wanted to cover Paul Casey, as he generally starts well before fading, but can sometimes hang in there for a place. £400 each way was requested at 45/1 (50/1 was available at several other books), but the trader accused our man of arbitrage betting and declined the bet. A confused conversation ensued, whereby our punter asked how he was arbing if the exchange was trading at between 54/1 and 59/1 for Casey to win (plus several books were offering a higher price and equivalent place terms), following which the trader relented somewhat and offered a maximum bet of £50 each way, which was taken. It is to Star Sports’ credit that it laid £50 each way, even though it [mistakenly] did not consider the customer to be betting recreationally.
At the end of the tournament, our golf punter showed a loss of around £500 and had a balance of around £10,000 after one of his selections placed. The balance of the account was requested back to card and was paid the following day in full.
All in all a positive experience. Ben Keith is a little different from your average bookmaker; he openly admits to ensuring that his firm doesn’t lay prices out of sync with the betting exchanges, stating that he is running a business will ultimately lose money if he takes on ‘the machine’. He also doesn’t claim to be big time and to be laying million pound bets, concentrating more on the customer service side of things. Being an independent is tough and there are a huge amount of expenses to cover, but Star Sports at least offers something relatively unique in not treating its customers like dirt.
Would we recommend betting here? It depends. The lack of visible prices before you bet are an obvious negative (although this would not be the case in the shop or for certain ante post/outright markets), as well as the fact that placing a bet is time consuming when compared with a couple of clicks online. However, the customer service was generally excellent, the payout was quick and the odds were perfectly good. For the recreational punter, it’s certainly a great option.