There have been a couple of incidents recently that really highlighted to me how ‘The Game’ has changed since I first fell in love with it. Yes, fell in love with, that’s before I ever set foot on course, and despite losing almost all money earned in the most unpleasant environment to William Hill every Friday afternoon. I don’t love it any more, at least not the high street side of it, I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a bet in a betting shop but do remember the last time I visited one.
It was that same William Hill shop of my youth. I don’t know how many people are aware but I have written a ‘Tales From The Betting Ring’ column in Racing Ahead magazine since issue #2 back in the mid-2000’s. It may have come to an end now, but that’s another story. Anyway, in recent years I have been sent a box of magazines every month to distribute as I see fit. Distribute them I do too, often at the racecourse. This particular occasion I decided to visit the three betting shops in town and ask if I could leave a pile of 10 magazines for their customers to peruse, hopefully enjoy then buy on a regular basis. It’s not the first time I’ve done it and they’ve always been happily accepted by the managers of said shops.
The last time I took my pile of 10, hot off the presses, completely free, Racing Ahead magazines and asked the manager if it was OK to leave them in the shop. He said yes with a furrowed brow, then picked up five of them and handed them back with an apologetic, ‘We’ll never get rid of all of them, there’s not that many people that come in here interested in horseracing’, keeping just five.
This is the same shop where a gaggle of young mug punters, myself included fell in love with racing, holding in store ‘10 to Follow’ comps and the like and pretty much to a man still support the sport one way or another 35 years later. Has it really come to that, looking at the two sole inhabitants of the shop, granted it was early, pushing buttons, their flashes reflecting in their glazed eyes, it seemed it had. I found that heart-breaking.
NO SCORE DRAW
The second incident continues the electronic theme but this time going off in my pocket. My phone has a few bookmaker ‘Apps’ on it. I generally bet with GW Sports via WhatsApp but have access to some other accounts – just in case I can get on the ‘too good to miss’ offers they occasionally tempt your with. For whatever reason, I forget now, but I had opened one of these Apps but closed it again, nothing done before getting on with my day.
Whatever it was had interested me in the first instance must have done so again because I revisited the App. I noticed that my account, with very little in it, had a score less in it that it should have. I checked my betting record and was very surprised to notice that ‘I’ had placed a bet on a ‘Football Special’ both teams to score and the named one to win. I certainly hadn’t had the bet, in fact haven’t bet on football for years.
I tried to find a ‘help’ number to talk to someone about the phantom ‘score’ and ask what could have happened, after all I hadn’t had the bet. I felt sure that if I explained that I worked in the industry and had no idea how the bet had been placed it would be voided and I’d get my score back. I was perplexed not to be able to find a number to call. Instead I resorted to the live chat where a chap named ‘Chad’ came on to help me. I explained that there was a bet on my account I hadn’t had. You’ll have to trust me here, I didn’t even check how the, by now in progress, match was going, after all I didn’t have the bet so wasn’t really my concern, no, instead I got straight onto Chad.
I quickly typed my predicament to Chad.
Chad was having none of it, he said (in hindsight probably correctly) that Apps can’t make bets themselves. ‘BUT,’ I protested, ‘I didn’t place the bet, have a look, I never bet on football’. ‘You must have’ typed out Chad.
I was getting a bit miffed that Chad didn’t believe me, after all honesty is the biggest prerequisite of ‘The Game’. Ah, that was it, I hadn’t told Chad that we were all in it together and that I was in ‘The Game’ too. I quickly rectified that, fully expecting his tone to lighten, and get a quick ‘bet cancelled’ resolution.
But no, Chad was still having none of it, he said that made no difference. I protested that I was an honest chap, didn’t have the bet and would just like it cancelled, could he please ask the traders and explain that I was ‘In The Game’ too. That would surely do it.
It didn’t. Chad came back after a short wait to say that the traders, my brethren of sorts in ‘The Game’ after all, had said that I must have placed the bet and that as the match was in progress they weren’t prepared to cancel it’. I’ve never been a fan of banging heads against a brick wall, this time one named Chad and some treacherous traders, after all I told them I’m honest, in the game and didn’t have the bet but they didn’t believe me, so I logged off with the hump.
Looking at it logically it’s likely that the bet was placed by random movement in my pocket, so technically by me with that protestation. I still honestly have to idea how that match ended but the bet didn’t cop so I did my score. I was really cheesed off for the rest of the night. No, not because I’d done a score in cold blood, but because Chad and his trader mates back at the bookmaker HQ would rather assume that someone would go to so much trouble to try get out of a bet that looked like losing than take a man at his word that the bet was placed in error and he’d like it cancelled.
How dare they not believe me, I work in ‘The Game’ too after all!
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring