October 26, 2017

New Light on Bingham Case

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:28 am

As widely reported, news of Stuart Bingham’s punishment for breaking betting rules has met with mixed opinions within the snooker community. Some polar opposites have been expressed on social media from those that would just let him off and also welcome Ste Lee back with open arms to those that would like to see him publicly flogged to within an inch of his life.

All opinions are valid, except for the stupid ones, in particular the ones that are based solely on the evidence presented by those making the judgement. My own was very clear on one particular ruling, I disagree with players using bookmakers to ‘lay off’ highest break insurance bets, for me it is taking advantage of a unique position for their own personal gain just by virtue of the job they do and I don’t think that’s on. However, this morning I have become privy to some information that has changed my mind on my own initial position.

I have to say that I wasn’t alone in wondering how and where Stuart could have laid off these highest break bets, I wondered if it may have been something he managed to get on at the betting exchanges, though with the sums quoted I did question that. If he’d used either his own or his manager’s account to try and get these on at a bookmaker, assuming he could even find the bet, he would have known he was a dead man walking, so how did he do it?

Step forward Philip.

Philip is a friend of Stuart’s who describes himself as a pro-gambler, he is not a bookmaker. It turns out that on two occasions over the period quoted, Stuart contacted him to ask if he’d like to offer him a price on his break being beaten, as a bet between friends. Philip’s memory of the exact details of one of them is a little hazy but the tournaments involved were the UK Championship in 2014, when Stuart’s break was beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147 and the 2016 China Championship, when Stuart’s 141 against Shaun Murphy was beaten by Murphy in the same match later in the day.

Philip agreed to give Stuart a price willingly, had he not agreed, Stuart could not have got any bet on anywhere else.

The conversation below took place in between those two breaks in China, notice the ‘somebody other than you’ response, so if Stuart had beaten the break it was not a bet and he would not have gained twice. 

(For the record I am not sure if the segway is sorted yet.)

So, how does this change things if at all?

Well, I think this opens up a whole new argument. Is a personal bet between friends classed as gambling? Or is this a private matter between the two parties involved?

Are the WPBSA correct to highlight this in their judgement in a way that implies, without being written, that Bingham was placing these bets with betting firms? 

Why did those conducting the investigation not speak to Philip about this at any point?

The obvious question that I’m sure you are all asking is, how did they even find out about this? Well, the very simple answer is that Stuart offered the information up voluntarily by handing over his phone. Does this imply that Stuart himself was unaware that making a bet with a friend was also against the rules? Is it against the rules? 

I’d argue that this now becomes a very grey area, a bet between friends, whether it’s a straight 50/50 side bet or a bet of this nature is not the same as throwing your money at the bookies. Stuart has a friend who is in a position to offer this to him and he decided to take advantage of that, both knew the risks and had his breaks not been beaten his friend in the case above would have been £1500 better off. Philip was also under no obligation to offer Stuart the bet.

My information is that Stuart will not be appealing his ban, which of course included other issues which are not in dispute, but I think it’s important that the judgement 6(a) is put into perspective as this is a significant point which makes this case different to some recent others, it made me question my opinion, so I dare say it may also make others do the same.

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