:: Irish businessman’s airborne camera a hit with fans of in-play gambling
A Northern Ireland businessman who has infuriated the horse-racing world by using high-tech drones at meetings has said he has no intention of stopping the controversial practice.
Michael ‘Mick’ McCool’s airborne cameras allow him to get a short time advantage over punters watching TV coverage of the races online.
Effectively, those using Mr McCool’s video feeds for live ‘in-play’ gambling can, if they are quick enough, take advantage of the TV transmission lag and place a bet on a horse they know is going to win.
Remarkably, it is not illegal – and the 49-year-old is already branching out into professional football.
“I have found a niche in the market and they [racecourse owners and online bookmaker giants] don’t like that,” an unrepentant Mr McCool said.
“I know the law and there’s nothing illegal in what I’m doing. My company [Foxfly, based in Britain] is a legitimate media company, giving a lot of people employment.
“What comes from the drones I use are my images, recorded from a public place, and my intellectual property, which I can use for whatever purpose I want. People watch my pictures on my equipment, in my premises.”
Mr McCool claimed: “If I went beside a racecourse and filmed the picture off their screens, that would be illegal but I’m not doing that.”
Drone use has escalated since race meetings went behind closed doors in June 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic removing the split-second advantage on-course punters over their online betting counterparts.
Mr McCool, who now lives near Leicester in England, seized this business opportunity – much to the chagrin of a billion-euro industry that has, according to him, been trying to shut him down ever since.
Two years ago, he was charged over flying a drone in a congested area after being reported by officials of Chelmsford City racecourse in Essex. Flight logs from the drone showed it had been used at 13 other racecourses in the previous two weeks.
The charges were later dropped, with the Crown Prosecution Service paying Mr McCool and an associate over €68,000 in legal fees.
“I get stopped by police all the time – I suspect the racecourse people have contacted them – but they soon realise that I’m not doing anything wrong,” he said.
“For me as a professional gambler, it’s all about the edge you can get. Some people may have an issue with gambling, but that’s a different argument. Everyone should gamble responsibly – no one is suggesting otherwise.”
Mr McCool moved to England to work as a greyhound trainer in the 2000s and got involved in professional poker.
In 2006, a fellow competitor introduced him to in-running betting and he started live-streaming races on his mobile for people to put a wager on the outcome.
“Within a few weeks, I was doing it full-time,” he recalled.
This modern-day ‘game of drones’ is reminiscent of the plot of classic Hollywood movie The Sting, where two grifters orchestrate a delay in the radio commentary of a horse race to avenge a friend.
But like all ventures involving gambling, there have been ups and downs. “I’ve been broke a few times,” said Mr McCool.