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The Joys Of Bookmaking

With welcome news that crowds can now attend sports events in Wales, my mind has turned to Ffos Las on the 1st of February and how much I’m looking forward to it. 

The West of Wales in the depths of winter certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of a place they’d want to be. The crowd will be thin and the business light. However, it’s the very fact we CAN be there that means we are getting back to where we want to be and for me, that’s on a racecourse laying bets. 

I’ve had time to think lately (you probably wondered why the ground was shaking) and what’s become apparent is that bookmaking isn’t just a job but more a part of who you are. 

When my late father first took out his licence he was told “when you do this for a living son, you probably won’t eat in the Ritz but you won’t be eating out the gutter either.” 

I’ve missed it and here are (in no particular order) some of the reasons why…..

Not knowing how the day will pan out good, or bad, will it be steak and chips or beans on toast for dinner? We used to pick up an old colleague on the way to the races and the first thing he’d say when he got in the car was “I wonder what today will bring?” you don’t get that in many jobs and it’s a privilege. 

The camaraderie of the betting ring- you’re in it together. There are books you prefer to others, there are operators you admire and some you want to avoid but we’ve all lived through good times and bad. It takes that lived experience to respect the choice of a lifestyle that’s less than ordinary and although we are competing we want each other to win (mostly.) 

The battle- it’s age-old, it’s them vs you. They want yours and you want theirs. There’s a code, treat your punters fair and they’ll return the favour (again mostly!) 

The sport- first and foremost bookmakers are racing fans. We get the chance to be there for some genuine ‘I was there moments.’ There’s one problem… they’re usually the most expensive- McCoys ride on Wichita Lineman, Sprinter Sacre’s impossible dream, Frankel’s dual on the downs. I paid through the nose in winning bets but the memories are worth much more. 

Being a part of the show- it’s no secret bookmaking has changed and these days it’s more about the day out for most of the crowd than hardened gambling. We get a chance to add to that. The smile on someone’s face as they draw their first winning bet is infectious and even if you have done your stones on the race it’s hard not to smile back.

Last but most importantly, for me at least is the people. You get to see all of life, in all its states. I can’t think of anywhere other than a racecourse where lords and ladies are stood shoulder to shoulder with crooks and cooks. It’s magical, life-affirming and very often comical.

So hopefully I’ll see a few of you at Ffos or if not, another track in the near future. If you have a bet with me I’ll wish you luck and probably tell you that I don’t mean it- the truth is I do (mostly!)

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