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Betting Shops – How they used to be….

Home Forums Horse Racing Betting Shops – How they used to be….

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  • #20228
    • Total Posts 27

    I was thinking back to when I first started going into betting shops. It was 1984, I was 15 but nobody really checked. The one at the top of our road was a small independent, which like so many others would disappear and become part of a chain. I’m pretty certain there weren’t tellies then and that the results were written in felt tip on the board behind the counter. Tickets were carbon copied. Smoking very popular and around 2pm on a saturday they’d be a cloud of smoke floating just below the ceiling. I don’t remember seeing early prices but i’m not sure about that. Lucky 15’s weren’t around then and multiple bets were confined to Patents, Yankees, Union Jacks etc. The commentaries were by Radio and there was mention of the odd scandal where someone had somehow delayed the race commentary by a couple of minutes and knew the winner before the shop were aware the race had even started. Fruit Machines and Snacks hadn’t appeared either. If you weren’t near a shop and wanted to find out the results you could always phone 168 (i think that was the number). Thankfully Ceefax came along around then which made life easier, although it was painfully slow, bringing up the pages back then.

    I’d be interested if anyone can add to this or go back any further in time with some observations.

    % MAN
    • Total Posts 5104

    Ah yes the "good old days" – grim places.

    I remember at my local independent the staff were behind a massive steel grill.

    There was a thick smog, the old boy with the marker board which had the prices and results and the only link with the outside world was the Extel blower which, occasionally, gave something approaching a real representation of what was actually happening in the race – how often did the winner run on late?

    There was no food or drink allowed and they had blacked out winndows – there was a real feeling of doing something illicit.

    I remember the day televisions were finally allowed, although initially they only had the terrestrial TV coverage.

    I also remember the first day of SIS – oh what a day that was – for the first time seeing pictures from far flung courses which had just been random names.

    • Total Posts 8179

    I was sent up our street to ‘Lauras’ with my dads 3×4 penny double and a sixpenny treble..the bet was written on paper which was wrapped round the money.; seem to remember having to go down some steps but can’t visualise what it was like inside. One of my earliest childhood memories was of skipping up the road shouting ‘Laura, I’ve got the bet money’ when there was a policeman standing nearby. I can only assume he totally turned a blind eye to it all [either that or everyone did the ‘what is this crazy child talking about’, act]. Then home to watch it on the telly with my dad. Must have been late 50’s early 60’s. No wonder I turned into the hardened gambler that I am today.

    • Total Posts 3777

    I remember them well : the smoke, the old boy chalking up the odds, the discarded slips… and the embellished commentaries. :lol: I’ll never forget a so called "mug punter" coming in to one such shop in the very early 80s just as a handicap chase from Doncaster was about to start. He quickly scribbled on a slip and ran to the counter just as the tape went up – he had put £20 ew on a horse called Night Nurse. It won, carrying top weight at odds of 14/1. Needless to say, he went bananas.

    Racing punters back then actually loved the ambience of these places.

    Gambling Only Pays When You're Winning

    • Total Posts 819

    Our local bookie used to employ an old boy as a runner called Sid, who used to go from door to door round our streets, this meant me my brother and friend (about 11 or 12 at the time in the late 70s) could put our 2 x 2 1/2 pence wins and doubles on no questions asked as we just said they were for our dad.

    You could guarantee any winnings returned would be less than calculated which we always called ‘Sid Tax’.

    When we were 15 or 16 we were able to enter the sacred hut which was his shop and listen to the world’s best invention ‘the blower’,
    and if you wanted to take a price you had to look at the William Hill prices that were printed in the Sporting Life

    Oh happy days!

    • Total Posts 8979

    I remember my uncle posting bets via the Royal Mail on a Saturday morning for that afternoon’s racing. Time stamped, but I think there were a few scandals with unscrupulous postal workers.

    The day I first went into the local bookies was one of the most exciting days of early adulthood (I was 16 or 17-ish I think).

    It was basic, no telly, no machines, no coffees, etc. But it was great. The blower was wonderful.

    ‘They’ve gone past together’.

    That phrase gave you hope, nowadays you can see your fate as they cross the line, in those days the excitement could last another five minutes while they developed the print. Until I worked out that the commentator almost always mentioned the one he thought had won first.

    I remember when Ceefax came along and you could discover who’d won the 6.30 from Leicester without waiting until the next day. I thought that technology had reached a zenith.

    The other single-most important event of that time was that I lived in the very North of Scotland and it wasn’t until the 80’s that we were able to get the Sporting Life. I remember the first day I bought one. It was like entering a new world.

    • Total Posts 438

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when I was eight. I was with my father and he would ensure that I didn’t become warped or corrupted.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when you had the ITV7. It gave everybody a talking point for the day.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when they closed at six. That meant that betting shop staff worked social hours and that companies were less exposed to robbery.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when the break in the National Hunt season ran for more than five weeks, from the Horse & Hound meeting at Stratford to the first meeting at Newton Abbot, with a certain M.C. Pipe saddling four winners. Whatever happened to those days?

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ at the advent of Channel 4. It would revolutionise racing, they said. How right they were.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when the number of days at Cheltenham was three. Sometimes, more is less.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when the number of metings per day had a mode of two. Nobody complained that the sport was dying then.

    I can remember going into my local bookies’ when FOBTs weren’t number one. People knew each other; they stayed all day; there was no underlying unease, as though people were about to get mugged or stabbed.

    Bring back the betting shops of yore.

    phil walker
    • Total Posts 1376

    I’m amazed and annoyed how many people use those darned roulette machines etc, I know its how the bookies make their money but would be more than pleased if they disappeared.

    What I don’t miss from the old days of betting shops is the smoking, so pleased to enter shops nowadays and not get choked by the pall of horrible smoke getting into my clothes and throat.

    • Total Posts 1535

    This brings back a few memories. My first visit to a bookmakers. I can’t exactly remember when but it was a few weeks before my 18th birthday, so being underage I didn’t want to hang around. I nipped down to my local, popped in, popped out, then went straight home and watched them on TV.

    It was a patent that I did, only pennies stakes but back then I was getting lots up. I was only keen on one horse in the patent but picked any other two to simply make the numbers.

    The one I picked was no world beater by any means and probably no one on here remembers him, but he was called NO BOMBS. Can’t remember what I won but I do remember that.

    I also remember

    SILVER BUCK formed a winning 10p EW Patent that year with THE DRUNKARD DUCK and SCOTS LANE forming the other two.

    Not bad but I did each way, all each way. Got just short of £90
    whereas win to win, place to place which I do now would have netted me over £200.

    You learn by your mistakes.

    Yes I remember they use to mark the winners on a board in felt tip. They also had a list of runners on a paper with the fav usually priced in red.

    My local bookmakers was Mick Dines up in the north west, which became the Tote and now Betfred.

    In the early days you had to pay tax too, or have it deducted from your winning.

    However in the late eighties the was a bookmaker

    who in the morning let people off paying just half price on tax (5p) instead of (9p) or (10p) in pound.

    I also remember when racing was frozen off around January/February they used to have greyhound racing on.

    • Total Posts 136

    In the days before computers or even white boards, the results were put up in chalk. In a few shops I frequented this resulted in a work of art – a range of colours and "fonts". Talk about taking pride in your job.

    What I hate most about todays shops is the frequency that staff are encountered who communicate in monosyllables and appear to resent being distracted from their i-phones or in some cases a tv behind the counter.

    • Total Posts 1555

    First thing I remember was Walter Smith standing on a corner near the big circle as we called it taking bets for the only betting shop in town. I think the first horse I ever heard named was Nicholas Silver so I’ve seen a few changes.

    I still remember the thrill of going into the bookies for the very first time. Partly because I was under age and secondly because this bookies was old, dark and you might even say mysterious.

    In those days you had your board marker armed with chalk and the results sheet pinned to a board with brass tacks.

    The Sporting Chronicle was thee paper back then before the Sporting Life came about.

    To be honest I can’t remember the last time I was in a bookies but it must be at least 12 years. I just couldn’t be ar$ed any longer with people who wouldn’t lay you 5k to 1k despite the odds being firmly in their favour.

    There were over 15,000 betting shops in the UK at one time. That number has been halved and in 10 years time I forecast there will be no more than a couple of thousand. With high Street rents and rates as they are most of those shops will also disappear over the next 15 or so years and could force changes in Ladbrokes Coral’s and Hills.

    While the big 3 play an important part in racing I could see some kind of joint venture and a new exchange emerging.

    The best thing that ever happened to the punter was the internet and the creation of Betfair and Betdaq. No banning unless you cheat, you can get virtualy any bet you want on in seconds at a decent price and you don’t have to listen to the half pi$$ed "He jumped off it brigade" bumping their gums in your lughole.

    How betting shops used to be? Great to good to bloody awful!!! depending on your age.

    • Total Posts 1387

    I don’t miss those disgusting creatures that thought they had a divine right to hold a cigarette under your nose whilst all but mounting you in an attempt to read form from where you stood.

    Or the bloke who sold his glasses so he could place a 1p monster acca, and so now has to read form from an inch away from the board, obscuring the bit you’d like to see with 30 seconds until off time…

    Oh god, I could go on.

    Racing Daily
    • Total Posts 1364

    My local bookie opposite The Three Cups pub in Chelmsford just had a limited Extel service over the blower, and an old boy by the name of George marking the results with a 1-2 or 3 next to the entry in the Sporting Life.

    "what won the 330 at Devon & Exeter, George?"
    "let me check that for ya boy …"

    Dem was da days :)

    A couple of wooden stools in a small white room of 10′ x 8′. Cramped. It did feel kind of like a den of iniquity too.

    Ugly Mare
    • Total Posts 1294

    ”How betting shops used to be? Great to good to bloody awful!!! depending on your age.”

    …I would add to that – depending on your sex – too. Such delightful hovels, they were really only for men back in the day. Venturing into one was a fast paced affair, moving quickly to the counter to place one’s bet, and getting the hell out as fast as would allow….

    The original post starts with 1984 – at least this was a very good year with Secreto winning the Derby at 8-1. A rare lingering and empowering moment as most others present appeared to have done their dough on the favourite.

    I find them much more pleasant little places today, clean toilets, cups of tea and occasionally a complimentary sandwich or piece of cake to entice. Depending where you live I suppose :)

    • Total Posts 17716

    I’ve only been gambling since late 2004. There was 2 F.O.B.T’s already but they didn’t have 5 people at each machine in a crowd, smoke was everywhere and there wasn’t a odds-on shot in every race. The first winner I remember having was Celestial Gold. My shop was Victor Chandler on Deptford High Street and everyone knew each other, were friendly and quite clued up. I miss it already (not the smoke), you guys must’ve have had the real good times.

    • Total Posts 3777

    The one I picked was no world beater by any means and probably no one on here remembers him, but he was called NO BOMBS.

    On the contrary, I remember No Bombs very well. He was a decent handicapper trained by Peter Easterby and was sometimes ridden by Mark Birch.

    Gambling Only Pays When You're Winning

    Racing Daily
    • Total Posts 1364

    My favourite bet in a bookies in them days was having a quid on a horse called APPLE WINE, I told all the regulars in there how this thing was a knock on its previous form (hadn’t run for about 500 days) and everyone said I was a mug. It romped home at 25/1 lol
    Get in there …
    I had a fondness for a horse called JANUS too, don’t ask me why. As I remember, it was a charcoal grey hurdler and quite a smart juvenile at that.

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