MP moonlights as bookie to learn about on-course ring

Philip Davies - 1 day bookie

Philip Davies - 1 day bookie

There is a long history of Members of Parliament taking a keen interest in racing. Winston Churchill owned many racehorses; Robin Cook was a regular tipster and column writer for the Glasgow Herald. Philip Davies is less well known, and one of the few to have actually worked in the industry. He is also a breeder and owner.

Davies sits on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee at Westminster, which has horseracing as part of its brief. Recently he set out to expand his knowledge of the betting side of the business by working as part of on-course bookmaker Keith Johnson’s team at Doncaster. The day complemented time spent previously with off course betting companies.

Davies said the experience would inform his contribution to Committee discussions about betting in general, and it certainly highlighted some of the challenges faced by bookies operating in the ring at racecourses. He said, Keith is one of the bigger bookmakers and it s difficult to see hoe lots of them keep going, to be honest. There were not many big bets taken and they are reliant on volume of turnover rather than big bets. We are in tough economic times and people do not have a lot of money to bet with.”

Hmm, I could have told him that, and I daresay most of you could, too.

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Johnson welcomed his apprentice for the day, and said that it had been an eye opener for the MP. He went on to reflect on just how much individual bets had fallen in recent years, saying, “He was surprised at the economics of the business. We took a £2,000 each way bet on a horse that got placed, but even with that in the mix our average stake per ticket was less than £12. A few years ago we would have been n the £20 a ticket area.”

At least Davies committed to the importance of the on-course ring, and hoped it would not be lost. He added, “It (the day) emphasised to me how on-course bookmakers are an essential part of the experience of British racing and it would be a sad state of affairs if it was to take place without them.”

Well, Mr Davies, you’re in the ideal place to help strengthen the ring. You might start by pressing bookmakers to offer consistent each way terms and racecourses to remember that the primary purpose of the entertainment on offer is racing.

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