What is PA Media and What Does It Do?
It seems as though the gambling world is never short of a scandal to keep things interesting. And that’s precisely the situation where PA Media is concerned. This company, which was formerly known as Press Association, saw a racing specialist employee utilise his position so as to ensure he took home £10,000 from his bets. How did he do this, though? Well, he proceeded with changing race results so as to suit his own agenda.
Jack Bentham, 24, worked in his role for the company when it was known as Press Association back in 2018. Located in Howden, East Yorkshire, the company became the victim of Bentham’s criminal mind, when he “manipulated race data to change the race results in his favour”, according to James Byatt, working for the prosecution. Bentham went on to plead guilty to the charges of fraud by abuse of position at Hull Magistrates’ Court earlier on in August.
An investigation was launched into PA Media when complaints were raised by brands like Sky Bet and Paddy Power, which benefit from the betting odds generated by the Yorkshire firm. It was found out that Bentham had won around £10,000 by utilising a Paddy Power account after altering the results. His defence solicitor, Nick Tubbs, spoke of Bentham having a gambling problem since the age of 18.
But what is PA Media exactly? How does it operate and what services does it provide to the gambling industry in the UK? And furthermore, what, if any, other sorts of situations has it found itself in that haven’t been good for business?
The History of PA Media and What It Does
PA Media was actually founded in 1868 by a group of provincial newspaper proprietors, going by the name of the Press Association. It was thought up as a way of providing a London-based service of news-collecting and reporting from around the whole of the United Kingdom. Through this, the founders sought to be able to produce a more accurate alternative to the monopoly service that was provided by the telegraph companies.
It was in 1870 that it produced and transmitted its very first press telegram, and in 1926 it appointed its first Editor-in-Chief, Arthur Cranfield.
Many years later, it branched out even more, expanding its output to cover the sports and new media sectors. Press Association would also go on to change its name in 2005, becoming known as PA Group at the time. Then, in September of 2018, it became known as PA Media, coinciding with a move from the offices located at Vauxhall Bridge Road to a newer space with a focus on digital media.
Today, the Editor-in-Chief is Pete Clifton, who was appointed to the role in 2014. Prior to this, he was the Executive Producer for MSN in the UK, as well as the former Head of Editorial Development at BBC News. The company creates over one million words of news and features each week, as well as 30 million hours of live video streams. At the same time, it captures live data from more than 100,000 horse and greyhound races around the world every year.
How PA Media Operates
One of the key parts of how PA Media operates is in the area of sports data. Through this, it powers leading media, broadcast and digital outlets around the world. The company specialises in both live and non-live data content for over 20 different sports, including football, horse racing, golf and tennis.
In January of 2020, the PA Media Group that serves as the parent for all other operations, announced the launch of its PA Betting Services umbrella brand. This was to serve as the hub for all of its sports betting operations. Through it, all multimedia betting content and services for existing customers, as well as other markets located in the United States and Africa, would be provided. This gave the company the ability to merge its data collection and distribution services with the sports betting scene.
However, even prior to this, PA Media has been involved in the sports betting scene. It has served the racing and betting industry for more than 60 years with such assistance, with a primary focus on the horse racing and greyhound racing sectors. And while it started out providing this solely within the UK, it has since branched out to provide it for the United States, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, India and others. The data included incorporates information regarding racecards, silks, form, tipping, live shows and results.
With regard to brands like Paddy Power and Sky Bet, amongst others, it is the role of PA Media to set the betting odds at these sites. It is these odds that sports bettors view when they visit the different sportsbooks and decide upon if they want to place a wager with those particular stated odds. Therefore, it is up to the company to provide not only legitimate and fair odds to these platforms but supply them with truthful information regarding the results of the events and data surrounding such.
And it is there that Mr Bentham was able to insert himself into proceedings and provide himself a big payout as an employee of PA Media.
Territories And Coverage
PA Betting Services is recognised within the industry as a leading supplier of horse racing data. The UK & Ireland still remain as two of the locations that it places a focus on, but beyond that, it has spread out far beyond, as noted earlier. Alongside the aforementioned countries, PA Betting Services also covers Japan, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Latin America and Hong Kong. And there are plans for that to expand even more in 2021, too.
The company offers the core data needed to launch and run an online sportsbook, but also supplies specific content services to be able to increase traffic volume and flow. PA Betting Services covers around 175 horse races every day, taking into consideration all the countries that such events take place in. So, what data is included in the horse racing feed? Well, it features full race card information, including:
- Prize Money
- Previous Form
- Line by Line Runner Comments
- Overall Race Preview
At the same time, while the race is taking place, updates are sent via PA Betting Services from the racecourse. This includes details on live shows, non-runners, off time, fast results and more. And for each race covered by the company, the team transmits multiple updates, ranging from between 20 and 70 live revisions per race. This is done so as to provide the customer with a high-quality, in-depth service in real time.
The Story of Jack Bentham and PA Media
Jack Bentham began working for the company when it was still going by the name of Press Association. About one month after being gainfully employed by the business, he started committing his offences against the horse racing results. This took place between October 13 and 22 of 2018.
The court clerk who read out the details of the charges against Bentham detailed his crimes in the following way:
“Between October 13, 2018 and October 22, 2018, at Howden, East Yorkshire, you committed fraud in that, while occupying a position, namely racing specialist, in which you were expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of the Press Association, you dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely winnings of approximately £10,000 for yourself”.
In short, rather than submit the race data in its true and honest form to the Sky Bet, Paddy Power and other sportsbooks, Bentham opted to adjust the results so that they favoured him. Placing greyhound and horse racing bets of his own from a Paddy Power account, Bentham managed to scoop his £10,000 before bookmakers complained about certain irregularities coming from the Goole, East Yorkshire area. This led to the investigation being conducted and the guilty party being found out.
The defence for Bentham said that his client had now addressed his gambling issues and accepted the responsibility for the offences he had been charged with. Bentham, for his part, pleaded guilty to the charges of fraud by abuse of position, and was granted unconditional bail. He is due to be sentenced at Hull Crown Court on September 14.
Bentham Operating on Other Instances of Fraud?
Some people believe that Bentham was trying to emulate a similar sort of fraud case that took place around 27 years ago. In August 1998, an employee of the Racing Post proceeded to deliberately alter the results of four greyhound races prior to the newspaper being printed. This was done so as to be of benefit to a gambling syndicate.
Back then, only dial-up internet connections were in-use within many businesses, so providing bookmakers with live feeds was impossible technologically speaking. The greyhound racing results that were manipulated were also highly insignificant, occurring at two of the country’s smallest tracks in Reading and Yarmouth.
Three months prior to that, the only newspaper that served as a rival for the Racing Post, known as Sporting Life, had folded. Therefore, the Racing Post was the only available source of information for bookmakers to utilise when it came to fringe betting events. This meant that the results could not be cross-checked between both of the publications.
The Press Association transmitted the correct results to the Racing Post shortly after the Saturday greyhound races had concluded. However, when they showed up in the following day’s printed newspaper, three of the winning runners had been altered around. At the same time, the 11-10 odds of a favourite runner had also been altered to 3-1, yielding a much higher payout for such.
That episode of fraud was only partially successful, though. Various land-based sports betting brands across the country had experienced multiple bets, which included multiple ones linking the races in rolling accumulators. Total odds from those reached as high as 199-1. This led to some of the bookies becoming ultimately suspicious when members of the gambling syndicate arrived to collect their winnings. The sports betting shops informed the members that they had insufficient funds on the premises to provide the payout and that they should return later on. However, none of the ones informed to do this ever returned.
That being said, some bookmakers didn’t notice the red flags being thrown up by the fraudulent activity and ended up providing a payout to the claimants. Big-name brands like Coral and William Hill were targeted by the fraudsters, as well as much more independent bookies like Ted Hornby Racing located in Hull and Hulased Rossy Brothers in Hedon, Withersea. The amount won by the syndicate after the manipulated results is unknown but reports from the time suggest that it was likely a minimum of £35,000. Nobody was ever arrested in relation to the crime, either.
Other Areas Where PA Media Operates
The fact that PA Media is so well-connected to the country’s media and newspapers means that it is a big player in the UK. In fact, it is even involved in the plans for the eventual death and funeral of the Queen. Secret documents were leaked that explain official social media blackouts and a ban on retweets at the time of the reigning monarch’s passing. Those plans were first revealed in 2017, going by the name of Operation London Bridge. The scale of the funeral arrangements and government anxieties over whether the country has enough resources to be able to execute such are voiced within the documents.
According to those same leaked documents, the Prime Minister will be informed by a civil servant at the time of the Queen’s death that “London Bridge is down”. The monarch’s passing will be announced via a newsflash on the PA Media wire. Naturally, the company is well-connected in terms of media and news, and this pretty much puts in place the grand scale of how it operates within the United Kingdom.
That begs the question as to how such a large-scale operation could have allowed the racing result manipulation to have gone on without realising it beforehand.