Sportsbooks in the UK traditionally use fractions to express odds, but today marks the start of a major wave of change which will see many UK bookmakers switching to an alternative decimal format. The change will start at the racetracks, with Ascot making the first move.
The switch to a decimal odds format is being promoted by a group called Racing for Change. The group’s chief executive Rod Street believes the old system, with odds like 7/2, is too hard for the younger “digital” generation to understand. Under the new system, the same odds would be expressed as 3.50.
“We need to attract a younger audience and to do that we need to overhaul betting language that is alien to anybody who went to school since the UK went decimal in 1971,” says Chris McFadden, chairman of Racing for Change.
Paddy Power, which offers internet betting in the United Kingdom and abroad, believes that some punters may oppose the change. “There are some dinosaurs in racing who won’t want this, but we’ll give the gambling public whatever they want.”
In fact, like most online sportsbooks in the UK, Paddy Power gives punters a choice of either fractional or decimal odds, letting them switch between the two formats whenever they please. Unfortunately, this sort of freedom cannot be provided at trackside betting shops, where odds must be displayed prominently for all to see.
Racing for Change is also campaigning for other improvements to the UK racing scene, like larger numbers on horse cloths, and giant screens showing photo finishes a race as the result is announced. These changes are aimed at keeping punters coming to the tracks, rather than staying at home and placing their bets online.