Daily dose of betting information looks a sure thing - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

A new tabloid is on the cards, for those interested in the odds. Steven Vass reports

WITH the country in the grip of a gambling boom, the media slapped a substantial pile of chips on the table last week.

Jeremy Deedes, the former Telegraph Group chief executive, is fronting a plan to launch a 128-page daily tabloid for gamblers next spring. If £12 million venture capital can be raised, The Sportsman should become the biggest national title to launch since The Independent in 1986.

Dennis Publishing has announced it is going bigger on gambling too. It is adding two new titles to Inside Edge, the magazine for professional gamblers it launched 18 months ago. From next month, Total Gambler will be given away free with Dennis men’s titles, including Maxim, Bizarre and Viz. Its 28 pages will be aimed at gamblers of all levels. The 650,000 print run shows the scale of Dennis’s ambition.

This will be followed by the UK’s first dedicated magazine for poker enthusiasts, in the autumn. It will be a stand-alone title with a print run in the “tens of thousands?.

Channel 4’s Late Night Poker series is returning in August with a new reality TV flavour. On the renamed Late Night Poker Ace, players will vie to become the UK’s best amateur. Entrants will prove their poker mettle by playing on the site to win through to play on TV.

In reality, the media’s interest in gambling has not quite happened overnight. While Inside Edge is 18 months old and Late Night Poker began in 1998, there have been a number of lower key arrivals including Poker Zone and Poker Channel on Sky. Five also covered the European Poker Tour last month.

In March, former foreign secretary Robin Cook fronted a £210m bid for Trinity Mirror’s Racing Post, backed by investment bank Warburg Pincus. The rejected bid valued the Post, which sells 80,000 a day, at more than a quarter of the £800m offer for Trinity’s three national newspapers by events organiser Marcus Evans last month. The three papers’ combined circulation is over four million.

Jeremy Deedes says this explosion in interest has been spawned by the internet through betting exchanges like Betfair, which lets punters become bookies by offering odds for different events online. Online casinos and bookmakers are also doing good business.

“All this has meant that the culture of betting has embraced a new generation of young people who are interested in sport and what goes on in the City,? says Deedes.

Internet gaming companies spend heavily on advertising to capture these young gamblers. As Richard Downey, publisher of Dennis’s gambling titles, says: “The one thing that they all want is mass market exposure for their brands. In terms of mainstream media, there is not much for them to go into.?

Charlie Methven, the former Telegraph sports writer who is to edit The Sportsman, says the media has only really caught on since the unexpected success of Inside Edge. “From my days as a horse racing journalist, I knew a lot of people who kept saying they had lots of customers looking to read about betting. Like everyone else, I was a bit slow. I should have been doing this a year ago, but better late than never,? he says.

For The Sportsman, which has received seed capital from the late Sir Jimmy Goldsmith’s sons Zac and Ben, the key question is whether it can differentiate itself from the Racing Post and the national newspapers.

Methven is bullish about this. Unlike the Racing Post, which is mostly about horse racing and greyhounds, the new title will concentrate on whatever is the main betting story of the day.

“I think there’s room for both of us. Horse racing is not the glamorous end of the gambling industry, but it’s still enormously popular,? he says.

As for the nationals, he says: “There is a huge misconception that sports betting and sports news are almost the same. They are totally different. A sports newspaper reports on what’s happened yesterday, but a betting newspaper reports on what’s happening tomorrow.

“If the nationals were to move into gambling, they would need a whole new staff and a new dedicated supplement. They could, but I don’t think they will.?

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