As if officials with Betfair didn't have enough to worry about with traditional bookmakers like Ladbrokes and William Hill constantly battling their every move, Betfair had a public relations blunder over the weekend and had to publicly apologize for comments made by one of its senior executives.
On Friday, Mark Davies the communications director for the world's leading P2P site, apologized for some harsh comments about a horse owned by J P McManus while he was being interviewed for a segment on Attheraces during a May 27 broadcast.
In addition to a public apology over the comments, Betfair said it would donate an "appropriate sum" to charity.
Davies' comments were regarding the possibility of a McManus horse winning the running of the Bonuspring Stayers' Hurdle.
"J P McManus backed the second favorite (neck runner-up Bannow Bay) in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2002 because he didn't believe that Baracouda was necessarily going to win it - and he did that in huge size," he said on the air.
The apology was made on Friday as Francois Doumen, who trained Baracouda to win the race in question for McManus, voiced fears over the ground for the star stayers' intended seasonal debut at Ascot next week.
The official apology was read live on the air during Attheraces coverage by Betfair spokesman Casper Hill.
McManus was upset over the initial comments but Betfair wanted to make sure that accurate information was included in any apology.
"It has been confirmed to Betfair by Mr. J P McManus - and Betfair and Mr. Mark Davies completely accept - that contrary to what Mr. Davies stated, Mr. McManus did not back the second favorite in the Stayers' Hurdle at last year's Cheltenham Festival, rather than his own horse Baracouda, in huge size or at all," the apology read.
Through the statement Davies acknowledged that skullduggery is a serious accusation with betting exchanges and wanted to make sure that his comments weren't related to any inappropriate betting action on McManus' part.
"Betfair wants to make it clear that Mr. Davies did not intend to infer and completely accepts that there was no improper behavior by Mr. McManus and apologizes to Mr. McManus for any words that might so suggest."
Hopes that Baracouda could meet Rooster Booster in the Ascot Hurdle next Friday have receded slightly, with trainer Francois Doumen concerned about ground conditions.
Officials with the company have agreed to pay an appropriate sum to a charity of McManus' choosing as an added sign of their apology and to clear the air among the parties.
Despite massive gains in popularity among punters and the betting public, exchange sites like Betfair still remain in limbo as the government works it way through the Gambling Bill, which will overhaul all aspects of gambling in the UK.
Traditional bookmakers like William Hill and Ladbrokes argue that Betfair should be forced to pay levies that are in line with what the High Street shops pay instead of a commission tax, which is currently in place. Some in racing also feel that Betfair hurts the racing industry by not returning some of its proceeds to the sport.
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