AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: Against Betting

Anyone who works in or around the betting industry will be fully aware of the snobbery that is harboured within the sport from some quarters. Very strange quarters in some cases. There was a case a while back of a racing journalist that provides data, predominantly for betting purposes and wrote for a company that exists purely for gambling. They quite sniffily declared that they’d never take paid work for bookmakers, that despite the firm they wrote for being owned by bookmakers and articles they’d written that had been published online surrounded by affiliate links to bookmakers. Whether totally oblivious or in denial, they’d not accept their living was ultimately bookmaker funded.

The rumbles that continue below the surface erupt occasionally when someone pens an article on how racing needs to distance itself from its links to gambling. When this happens there is rarely an alternative given. A Tote monopoly doesn’t count because of course it’s still about people losing their money betting to fund the sport, exactly the same as it is now, just the funds channelled differently.

Imagine if the pariah status of bookmakers was raised to that of tobacco and no advertising was allowed. That would put paid to The Racing Post the racing channels pretty much overnight, it would knock ITV Racing bandy too given their advertisers. That’s not to mention the sponsorships in racing. Of course, nobody is suggesting that’s going to happen. It’s all very well people wishing bookmakers and betting wasn’t there but what would the alternatives be, full page adverts on horse feed and riding boots to take the place of the bookie’s omnipresent advertising revenue?

I’m sure that if betting were lobbed onto abys there would still be people that would happily go racing just to marvel at the beauty of the thoroughbred and the spectacle of it all. There wouldn’t be many though.

Regardless, if those of a sniffy variety believe it or not, most people are only interested in horseracing if it involves some sort of financial interest, maybe not in every race but in some way. If you are rich enough you can buy a horse, by far the most important form of gambling on horses, without you heroic sports people there would be no racing. Next up and a leg, or even a micro-share in one. Giving a little which maybe a fair bit depending on your means, back.

Then there’s the rest of us, punters. Betting on horses makes us part of it, if you have even just a couple of quid on a horse, for the build-up and duration of that race you have vested interest in that horse. It’s someone else’s horse, in some cases worth the sort of money that could keep you in the lap of luxury for the rest of your life, but for the duration of that race it’s ‘your’ horse. That’s what has kept people of modest means interested for centuries. OK, that and the hope of copping enough on a Yankee or ITV7 to join the ranks of the fabulously wealthy. It is mostly all about betting.

Then there’s the beleaguered on-course bookmakers. Their fortunes took a real knock when it was decided that the bookmaking industry could write their own prices and cease taking the SP from the racecourse where it was transparently created and returned. There has been a resurgence in the betting ring of late with some bigger punters returning to do business there. You just know that it won’t be long before sights are set on the on-course bookies and getting their wings clipped again.

Even worse, some racecourses don’t appear to realise that draw and value that a healthy betting ring ads to the attraction of going racing. If the racecourse bookies were to be dwindled out of business you get the feeling that it would only be when it was too late racecourses looking at their own finances would realise what they’d done. Wouldn’t it be better for racing, rather than try and usher gambling out of the back door like an guest that’s outstayed their welcome, to accept it as part of our rich heritage, embrace it and promote it, responsibly of course.

I have heard that it’s been said that when people are suffering with the current inflated cost of living at home it’s ‘obscene’ for them to hear about people having big bets on horse races. We all know that there are people out there richer than us, all those people that own the horses those of us at home are watching on TV for starters. I personally, love watching programmes about cars I could never afford the petrol for and hotel rooms which are more a night to stay than I earn in a year, or indeed features on £1000 a head grub at racecourses some people enjoy. I’m fascinated not disgusted at the ostentatious nature of it all. It’s escapism not the rub-down surely?

Maybe not, but if that sort of thinking is going to be adopted who is going to tell the Queen that she’d better get the bus and dress down a bit for Royal Ascot?


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle