Mark wonders why the bookies even bother with their token demand to stop when the fun stops
More mature musings on the betting game from our columnist
It is unclear if the gambling industry ever possessed a moral compass but, if it did, it has long since been discarded.
Fully aware at all times of the potency of the narcotic it has been allowed to unleash on an unsuspecting public, it has yet managed to fleece a large section of the political establishment into believing it clutches values of balance and responsibility close to its compassionate heart, a claim so palpably, so ludicrously, false that it defies credulity that anybody of even the most basic intelligence and social awareness could possibly have been taken in.
“When the fun stops STOP.”
A fine-sounding sentiment, at least within the confines of the PR department from which it issued, yet in truth one as duplicitous as it is trivial, as anybody with hard-earned experience in the field could testify.
Almost all research ever carried out into gambling addiction reveals that once the initial buzz, or fun, has worn off, a certain number of people are unable to stop, as if an enemy has permanently installed itself inside them.
Even those fortunate enough to evade addiction will be aware of the degree to which the urge resides “in the blood”, sometimes with the force of a wild and runaway horse.
The bookmakers and their representatives are aware of this, yet continue to persist with “responsible gambling” initiatives, as if that wild and runaway horse can not only be led quietly to water, but induced to drink its fill there.
When in doubt, pundits might reveal that their mind is leaning them one way and their heart the other.
Yet how many of us are apt to decide from outside these jurisdictions? Away from gut feeling? Or idle fancies? After all, when it comes to reviewing the day’s business, how many times have we
asked ourselves “where did that come from?”
When a headline on the BBC sport website informed us that a bookmaker had quoted a dead footballer among contenders for the Birmingham City manager's job, there was no starting price returned that the culprit would be Paddy Power.
Ugo Ehiogu suffered cardiac arrest and died tragically in April this year.
He was 66-1 in the Paddy Power list, a few places above Ozzy Osbourne.
The firm have apologised for making a “genuine mistake”, leaving us to reflect on whether this latest embarrassment might lead to a rethink of the firm’s puerile publicity strategy.
A day later Ladbrokes published a tweet taunting Burnley fans after their Carabao Cup defeat to Leeds.
It so happens that Ladbrokes are one of Burnley’s commercial sponsors, leaving the firm in need an urgent apology.
This can stand as an advanced epitaph for an era, hopefully soon to close: “It was only intended to be a bit of fun but failed in that regard.”
The first meeting of the season at Warwick.
It’s jumps-only here now, leaving a few of us mildly nostalgic for the eagerly contested selling handicap over a mile on Easter Monday, where the plots would have the bookies swatting away chalkmarked prices faster than a flurry of hornets, and for the Warwick Oaks, which Henry and the Major might be targeting with one which hadn’t quite made the grade at the bigger tracks.
Warwick can more than hold its own over jumps, where the five fences down the back straight provide a fine spectacle and a good test on the winter ground, though the weather today leaves more than a trace of summer in the air, and a reminder that there are few more pleasant places than a racetrack to spend a quiet afternoon in the sunshine. Or not so quiet, as the case may be. A regular has one lined up for the first at Lingfield, and probably at Beverley, too, allied to intentions to wade into the odds- on shot of Skelton’s in the first here, which surely can’t be beaten, unless the second favourite is a lot better than it looks on paper.
Offer to stroll to the pre-paddock to take a look at this potential danger, though whether the eye will be in after all these years is a moot point.
Make a few notes, as if I know what I’m talking about, and looking at, before returning to inform the assembled company I think the favourite will win, which it does, solidly enough, to the relief of those who played and missed in that first race at Lingfield, and needed to strike one clean to the boundary to settle the nerves.
Still going on, all of it, after all these years, though I’m more of an umpire myself these days, anxiously checking the counters in the pocket on the stroll to square leg, wondering if that appeal to back a 7-1 shot in the 2m3f mares’ handicap hurdle (4.05) was unduly speculative and ought not to have been answered in the affirmative.
It leads two out, hits the last hard and can’t quite get up again on the run-in.
The winner, Rebel Yeats, was the first under rules for jockey Edward Austin, who can derive considerable satisfaction from the manner in which he organised his mount to beat the already-lauded conditional James Bowen in the tight finish.
Somebody always coming through, laying down markers in the external world, where it tots up for real, and accrues consequence.
Or karma, as the Indians would observe, probably with a bemused if not critical eye on that interest in the 7-1 shot. On the absence of the each-way. You keep going. What alternative is there?
A deserted bookies, late afternoon.
Apparently there were a few in for the Arc earlier and to bet on the football, then it dried up.
Even one of the machines has given up the ghost in a corner.
A life spent in or close to the betting game can stand as evidence that, of the many outcomes it can yield, a settled sense of happiness isn’t one of them.
Of course there is the “buzz”, a different mode of arousal and agitation altogether, of which I have never been greatly fond, and always wary, though, as Jeffrey Bernard once observed, after you have gambled more than you can sensibly afford to lose on an event of uncertain outcome it is very difficult to get excited about anything else.
And still sometimes that sense of shame on meeting an acquaintance shortly after leaving a betting shop.
You may not believe you are being taken for a mug, or wiling away your precious existence in an idle and irresponsible manner, but others might since, after all, as Bernard also observed, the first question to surface in the mind of the committed punter, is “might I be able to win enough here to avoid actual work?”
Worth paying note to the 2m novices hurdle at Uttoxeter today (2.25).
The race was won in tidy style by the expensive purchase Palmers Hill, who looks the type to hold his own in better company in due course, but the eye was also drawn to the efficient jumping of the second home Enola Gay, who will surely be winning soon.
From a fine stable typically yet to find its stride, Enola Gay is a lightly-raced French import who couldn’t do himself justice on his British debut at Newbury last December.
He shaped as if he might get a little further here, though there wouldn't be any pressing need to switch from two miles at his stage.
One to follow.