Mark is puzzled at the contradiction in terms shown by the RacingPost
Our columnist finds more contradictions in ‘responsible’ betting
It’s “responsible gambling week”. A leading national bookmaker emails to congratulate itself on its participation in this notable initiative and the Racing Post is on hand with its “ten tips to help keep your betting in check”.
These tips begin with a familiar chestnut:
Don’t think of gambling as a way to make money.
“The venue (betting shop,casino,etc) is using gambling to make money. It’s not designed to work the other way around. Over time you will lose more money than you receive. Think of it as an entertainment expense – just like buying a cinema ticket.”
If betting/gambling is indeed to be accepted as a one-way ticket to profit for the proprietor and not the punter, we might wonder what the Post is doing filling so many pages with betting-related advice, notably in the flagship Pricewise column, let alone itself seeking to profit from expensive tipping lines, with a marketing spin designed to persuade us of their earning power.
What kind of “cinema ticket” are we being sold here?
What kind of entertainment might we expect to derive from our betting if the route to profit is actually blocked despite advertising spin to the contrary?
To be content perhaps with the fact that the bookmakers in question throw a few crumbs down from the table to help fund the horse racing industry, provided the sport designs a fixture list to further sup- port and entrench the narrow and selfserving interests of this increasingly discredited sector?
I was actually surprised to get that email from the leading bookmaker, given that I’ve long been restricted to a maximum stake of around £2.87 with them, having had the temerity to bet to a pattern displeasing to the firm (and to every other firm given that they all sing from the same tuneless hymn sheet).
In the old terminology, perhaps itself increasingly discredited,that displeasing pattern was“to seek value”when betting.
That is to say, not just to back a horse because it has appealing form,or perhaps because a good case has been made for it elsewhere, but because the backer in question is satisfied that the price obtained promises to offer an edge.
Among other things, the email advises us to engage in regular “reality checks”, “self-assessment” and where appropriate “self-exclusion”.
We are to “keep track of the time spent betting/gambling” and the amounts of money involved.
All of this accurately describes some of the disciplines the value seeker imposes on his or her betting.
Yet these responsible punters are excluded, almost every single one of them, or at least exiled to the alien avenues of the exchanges, apart from those willingly and consciously participating in the general deception, which include many racing journalists granted favourable trading status by the gambling industry.
Where is the responsibility here?
FALL OF THE INDEPENDENTS
A recent report into “responsible gambling” initiatives in betting shops, disclosing how any relevant information (for what it is worth) tends to be hidden away in a corner of the given establishments, triggered memories from the days of the small, independent betting shops, who would adopt a similar policy with their rules.
Such shops could be found in many small towns in the first three decades from the legalization of betting in 1961, by
which time most had been swallowed up by the aggressive bigger firms,or given up the ghost.
I remember three from a period spent working in the West Country in the early 1980s.
In a side street in Beaminster could be found a tiny establishment run by a former policeman who, true to his former trade, regarded any attempt to win actual money from him amounted to a criminal offence.
The place resembled a polling station, with bets to be placed in small booths, where the cheapest of betting shop pencils would be secured to the wall with string rugged enough to tether goats.
No television, of course; just the Extel feed to accompany your interest,probably anxiously hedged over the telephone by the proprietor in the seconds before the commentator began his interminable description of the race in question.
Crewkerne was a slightly bigger town, just beyond the Dorset/Somerset border.
It had two independent shops, one of which I never entered despite it occupying what was effectively the front room in a row of terraced houses to be found at the bottom of a steep hill close to where I lived.
It was for locals only, apparently; elderly men who would chew the cud with the racing on in the background and who wouldn’t appreciate the intrusions of an outsider, especially one with an eye on winning from the given establishment.
Mind you, the rules would probably cover that unwelcome eventuality,pinned as they probably were by a side door close to where the rubbish was stacked before being carried out to the bins.
You’d read about these rules fortnightly in “Green Seal Service” published in The Sporting Life.
A punter would write in noting how attempts to collect on a winning bet had been blocked by a provision buried deep in the bookmakers’rules;or been heavily restricted by an astonishingly stingy payout limit.
These rules and limits were invariably so tilted in the bookmakers’ favour that a form of vertigo could be induced by reading them, other that is than in the mind of the Life’s adjudicator, who would invariably offer the given punter a few words of sympathy before finding wholly in the bookmaker’s favour. Rules are rules, after all. The other shop in Crewkerne was a bigger outlet which could be found in the small shopping parade just off the high street.
I would sometimes wander down there after the televised Saturday racing had finished, though I seldom had any luck in there,among the screwed up betting slips littering the floor.
Better to conduct business over the telephone.
There were various options in those days,including another local independent operator with a telephone-only licence who expected accounts to be settled by return.
If you were in arrears but wanted to bet with him later on a given afternoon it would be necessary to post the amount due directly into the box at the entrance to his gated estate, shortly before a pair of Alsatians would descend the sloping garden in a state of advanced atavistic excitement.
The bookmaker would be standing at the front door.
For good clients, the dogs would be called off, and a cordial greeting exchanged.
As for the rest of us, well you’re on your own in this business aren’t you? Always have been. Always will.
Old betting shop set-up