There was a time, back in my day, the heroes on the telly were a little dodgy maybe figures.
They were Arthur, who always had a monkey on him and Del who wanted Hooky Street to live long.
The Grange Hill spin off Tucker’s Luck had a character sticking on for a professional punter going around the betting shops. There was Big Deal where the hero was an actual professional punter, Robbie Box. Gil’s bookies was a regular feature, betting wasn’t just OK it was cool, albeit in a seedy sort of way.
And drinking, well, the pubs were always packed, blimey even the good folk of Coronation Street smoked tabs and drank pints on a Wednesday night.
At that same time, we 15-plus-year-old kids discovered that some pub had a games room. These were the sorts of pubs that had existed for 100 years in local areas, the nearest you’d get to a meal in one would be a packet of crisps and a pickled egg. The games room teenagers could mope and dream of being 18. There would be the odd kid dumped in there on a weeknight while their parents had a few beers. Generally, though, it would be sullen teenagers that couldn’t grow a ‘tash good enough to chance it in the pub itself. At least you could ‘Go to the pub’ and catch a glimpse of the type of wastrel you aspired to be at the time. Just someone old enough to be in pubs.
The cooler places didn’t have games rooms, or underaged kids in there. Unless you looked 18 of course. Even though it seemed to take a lifetime, you soon were old and wouldn’t dream of going to the pubs with a games room, they were old men’s pubs. You’d be in the cool gaffs that had girls in, because that’s where you went to meet them. Even better, they’d go there to meet you so you’d go there any night you could afford a pint.
All these years later, it’s all changed. All the pubs that had games rooms are gone and are now houses or flats. The coolest of the cool pubs are now owned by chains and are no longer cool. If you want a cheap pint, cheap grub, or at 10am to meet the people in that town that have given up on life, there’s your place.
The pubs that had games rooms in were for the generation of men that went to the pub for a few pints after work, the local, walking distance from home. Times have changed, we are now told that if you drink more than 14 units of booze a week you’ll die, or at least not live as long as you might do. That’s about six pints, about as many as I’d need in a night before plucking up the courage to speak one of the girls I’d gone there hoping to meet. The message eventually got through, habits have changed and pubs have closed down all over small towns.
Pubs on their knees and people drinking responsibly the fun and health police have now focused on betting. Apparently backing losers can seriously damage your wealth, and your health. In fact, if you bet you are akin to that guy you’d glimpse through the hatch from the games room drinking what he’d earned that week. If you keep telling enough people that betting is bad and for mugs they’ll believe it. Not content with that as a fact, the fun and health police have decided to fast track things. If you are still determined to bet despite being told that you really shouldn’t, you are going to be told that you can’t afford to. You are to be saved from yourself and stopped, a little snoop into your bank account will put paid to your dreams of getting a Saturday Yankee up once and for all.
Judging by a recent experience in a betting shop even they don’t want you to ruin your life betting. That is when asking for a three-figured bet a favourite at a price on the screen in an empty bank holiday betting shop five minutes before the off. After the price was written on the slip by the lethargic-looking member of staff, his eyes glazed over for a second then he informed me, ‘There’s a red cross come up, you can’t have that’. He then gave me my money back and called someone to bemoan how quiet business was as I was still stood there open-mouthed. It would be hard to make it up.
My most recent #BettingPeople interview, yet to be broadcast is with legendary bookmaker Stephen Little. An early interviewee in the series, he’s been revisited after writing his autobiography ‘From Bicycle to Bentley’. One year he turned over £21,000,000 on course, imagine that. It’s hard to these days, isn’t it?
He never closed a winning account. Why not? Because he wanted to take as much money as possible and bet to figures. Stephen sniffed the wind of change and got out of the game when the going was good. The Bentley has gone now, but he still has the bicycle, fear not, he’s not ribby though, I’ve seen his house.
The wind of change is coming again. Everyone is being told betting is bad, even dedicated horseracing programs try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Is there anyone out there apart from those with a vested interest that are going to fight the agenda from the fun police? It’s hard to see that there will be, so those of us with a vested interest had better come out swinging pretty soon. No betting, no racing?
Remember The Exeter Inn, The Prince Blucher, The Wheatsheaf, The Four In Hand, The Hare and Hounds, The Swan, The Boars Head, The Prince Regent….
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.
Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
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