Mark co­ton

Mark is puz­zled at the con­tra­dic­tion in terms shown by the Rac­ing­Post

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

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

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