Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…
IT IS A 1/33 SHOT that as a betting shop manager I wouldn’t have got away with telling a punter collecting winnings, that I was rounding down his or her returns from, say, the £25.34 they were expecting, to just £25 – for ease of keeping the shop’s accounts nicely rounded.
And I don’t believe that the odds would have been any longer that I could have convinced any of my customers that I felt they had probably had enough bets for one day, and then suggested to them that they should pop off home to chill out before coming back tomorrow to have their next wager.
Without, that is, taking the risk that they would be waiting for me outside, with bad intent, when I knocked off for the day, to tell me politely that they had fancied the 16/1 winner of the last, and would have won enough to cover all their losses for the day – with enough left over to finance their few pints in the pub that same evening.
I mention the rounding down proposition as, while I was away on holiday recently, I dined with friends at a local restaurant, and when we received our separate bills and prepared to pay them, our waitress asked us all if we would mind rounding UP the pence part of our payments – ie, paying an extra 47p for the one ending in 53p, and 16p for the one ending in 84p.
I have to confess I was so shocked – and, perhaps, ‘relaxed’ after enjoying a couple of glasses of dry white, (should restaurant owners be responsible for how much their diners spend on booze, and/or drink and whether they can really afford it?) – that I did indeed shell out almost 11 shillings more than I should have done.
Next morning I was still baffled about why the waitress had asked the question, and even more about why I had actually acceded to it!
But then I visited a local record shop and made a couple of purchases, the total for which amounted to £59.98. I handed over three twenty pound notes, which the proprietor duly deposited in his till, before smiling at me.
I coughed meaningfully, and inquired as to whether he had run out of 2p pieces. He became very grumpy, reached behind him to his till, picked out a coin and literally chucked it towards, if not at, me.
I had to admit that at this point I had a flashback to the days when I was a relief boardman (yes, I really am that old) and was in a betting shop where I hadn’t previously worked , when a customer had come up to collect his returns – and disputed the amount he had won with the manager, who had settled his wager.
The manager picked out a selection of coins totalling some 80p (possibly even 16/- back then!), opened the door out into the shop and hurled the money at the startled punter, who had to scrabble around to pick all of it up.
I made a point of not being sent there to work again.
Still on this year’s hols, I popped into a betting shop to check out a race a pal and I had backed in our shared yankee. The horse wasn’t running for 15 or 20 minutes and there were, meanwhile, two races to be run, both with marginally odds-against, but about to go odds-on, favourites. To kill the time, I risked a tenner double on the two – they both won. I collected my winnings – which came in the form of fivers and tenners. Try as I might I couldn’t make the double come to a precise amount, either at SP or at the odds on offer just before the off. I made it an extra 20 or 25p, but once again decided to grin and bear being short-changed for the third time!
Now on to a rather more threatening current concern of the industry, about affordability checks on bookmaker customers. This seriously worries me.
I spend far more money on my long-term hobby (compulsion?) of buying vinyl records, than I would ever do by placing bets.
Yet precisely almost one record seller has ever asked me whether I can afford to purchase 8 LPs, 3cds and a couple of singles on one visit, for a three figure sum. Certainly not when I was recently in a local record shop doing much that very thing.
The racing and betting worlds are justifiably becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility – hopefully not probability – of significant curbs being introduced in the not too distant future.
But why should they be? How does anyone know how much money I, or any other betting shop client, have to spend, and what business is it of theirs, anyway?
And while we’re thinking about affordability checks and problem gambling – has ANY purchaser of National Lottery, or Post Code Lottery tickets ever been asked whether they can afford what they are spending? Are Bingo punters restricted to how many games they can take part in? Should betting shop managers have to check how much people have put into the shop ‘fruit machines’? Do casinos quiz their high and low-rollers about their financial situation – none has ever done to me during my three visits to Vegas.
In the interests of research I checked out the ‘Gamble Aware’ website, (begambleaware.org), which asked me to answer a series of 7 questions to determine ‘Do I Have A Gambling Problem?’, starting with ‘Are you completing this tool to better understand your own gambling?’ ‘Yes’
‘Do you ever feel worried about your gambling?’ ‘No’
‘Is your gambling causing you any difficulties?’ ‘No’
‘Do you need to keep gambling with larger amounts of money?’ ‘No’. I’d like to have added ‘Only occasionally when I’m winning.’
‘Have you ever gambled with more than you could afford to lose?’ ‘No’ However, there is no indication as to how to determine what ‘more than you could afford’ actually means in this context.
‘Have you ever gone back later or next day to try and win back money you’ve lost?’ ‘Once or twice’. Surely if you have another bet after a losing first wager of the day it is, by definition, in the hope of winning back today’s or yesterday’s losses? Doesn’t automatically mean you’re betting excessive amounts beyond your affordability level.
‘Have you ever hidden anything about your gambling. For example the amount of money you have lost or won, or time spent playing or something else?’ ‘Once or twice’. Surely, there is no punter who hasn’t occasionally allowed people to believe (s)he has won more, or lost less, than is actually the case?
Anyway, that was the survey – and here came the frankly ludicrous assessment:
‘Based on your answers you appear to be experiencing some harm from gambling.’
Okay, that’s the machine’s opinion. Certainly isn’t mine, but I now presumably go down into the Gamble Aware stats as a (potential) problem gambler?
Which, I think, is ridiculous, totally unjustified….. but entirely unsurprising.
If you disagree, try the survey yourself and see how you are rated.
Discussions about what represents hard or soft betting or gambling have, though. been going on for many a year.
For example, here is what the eponymous founder of William Hill had to say about this very question when asked by a journalist in 1969 whether he approved of gambling. His answer appeared in Reveille magazine – ‘Not of gambling as such, no…….betting I do approve of. Betting is intelligent studying, and backing your opinion. But I call a gambler a person who bets what he can’t afford. Getting out of your depth – that’s gambling…..I don’t approve of gambling, but I will back an opinion – that’s the art of making a book. It’s only buying and selling money.’
There spoke the world’s greatest bookmaker.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.