21 January, 2022

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: Statements Of Intent

One of my favourite stories which illustrated the bubble that racing lives in involved Badger. Badger was a veteran floorman when I first started, he only recently passed away. He was a lovely chap, proudly boasting that he’d never had a proper job. Making the tea for the workers laying the M5 didn’t count because he used to tell them that he couldn’t make it when there was local racing that afternoon. Based in Exeter, local for Badger was Devon and Exeter as it was, Newton Abbot, Taunton and at a stretch, Wincanton.

He was stretching it for this particular tale. It’s not even that much of a tale but it goes like this. Badger would work for various bookmakers, sometimes two at a time when Silver Ring bookies sent guys with radios in Tattersalls or vice versa. Of course, neither bookmaker knew he was working for another which often led to confusion and the odd funny scene. Sometimes Badger wasn’t so lucky, he’d not been hired by anyone so would go racing on spec in the hope he’d find someone that needed a workman. He had a huge collection of those old card badges, when he got to the races he’d try and match one with that day’s colour up then blag in with his fingers over the previous punch holes. He was quite dextrous too, he needed to be, some of those badges in his collection were akin to Swiss cheese.

This particular day he took a real punt, nobody had hired him for Wincanton but he thought he’d take a risk and go there on the off chance. Like I said, it was a real punt, he couldn’t drive so decided to hitch-hike. Not quite such a longshot because if one of the bookies spotted him and had room in their car he’d be long odds-on to be picked up, everyone liked Badger. The real gamble this day was that there was an inspection too. The story goes that he’d got a lift so far but was then stranded for some time, past the inspection time, Badger was starting to really panic and probably get a bit cold too. Just as it seemed all was lost, a benevolent motorist picked him up, on entering the car our panicking hero looked wild eyed at the driver and spluttered out, ‘Is it on?’ The driver had absolutely no idea what ‘it’ was.

It was on, Badger made it, but was absolutely dumfounded that this guy didn’t not only know that there was an inspection at Wincanton but didn’t even know there was a racecourse either. He told all the people on course who’d listen, he just couldn’t work out why someone wouldn’t know. Of course, for Badger, horseracing was life itself, for most other people, just a few pages they skip by in the sports section of their newspaper.

What’s that quaint but nothing much of a story about dear old Badger got to do with anything? Well. It seems that although updated to the digital age, that bubble racing people live in still exists. There has been some discussion about bookmakers’ affordability checks and quite how draconian, intrusive and unfairly used that might be. I decided to post a poll on twitter, the question and answers as follows.

There were dismissive comments from people that work in the industry and post a lot on twitter, wrong demographic, wrong type of follower, they just don’t mean what they vote etc. Unknown to me at the time of posting, Bruce Millington did a similar poll last year, his results were.

Further to that, professional gambler Neil Channing posted a report from Racing TV from December 2020 which included the following, ‘The survey concluded that 93% of the c. 2,000 respondents “think that they should be responsible for deciding their staking limits or betting spend.” The whole article can be read here.

If I was a high flying in the betting industry, I’d be thinking that it was high time for the industry to come out of denial and realise what a catastrophic impact any such regulations could have on casual punters. By very nature, casual punters are the ones the bookmakers make their money from. Should the worst-case scenario come to be, it does appear that those type of punter will just go elsewhere to spend their leisure money.

Contrary to the dismissive comments from the ‘industry tweeters’ bubble, racing isn’t that big a deal to most people. Gambling certainly isn’t. What’s more likely to happen is that the professional and winning serious punters will always find a way to get on, be it via private layers or proxy accounts. Those people that such legislation is aimed at who certainly need to be identified and given the help they require, a tiny minority, will find a way to scratch the itch to gamble somehow if they don’t get that help, the rest? They’ll just lose interest and not bet, valuing their privacy more than the desire to have a thowaway punt every weekend, at least that’s what the polls say. But of course they could all be wrong …..


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