Labour’s win good for bookmakers but bad for racing

Bookies
Bookies

My 92-year-old mother is a habitual gambler. She plays bridge most days and she bets on horses too. She particularly likes exotic bets offered by the Tote, which pays out big rewards for little stakes if you have all day to try to figure out which horse will finish in which position.

It is hard to imagine that the data-suppressing zealots at the Gambling Commission would not classify her as a gambling addict. But here’s the thing: her cognitive functions are extraordinary. She is as sharp as a tack. And her memory is much better than her three children, who do not spend hours tossing up whether to bid spades or no trumps before studying the racing form.

She may be an addict, but she is never going to get dementia. And there may be a connection.

People like my mother should be of great interest to the NHS and the Tote. Were they to combine forces, the finances of working out a Trifecta every day to the tune of a £1 stake far outweigh the cost to the NHS of a dementia patient.

A Trifecta, for those of you who have forgotten because your neuroplasticity is too rigid, involves predicting the first three horses in a race in the right order.

The moral of this story is that the NHS, the Gambling Commission and the Tote should encourage senior citizens to spend more time on thoughtful, reasoned gambling, not less.

According to Guardian journalist Rob Davies, the Labour Party is in bed with the gambling industry. And after Tony Blair and Gordon Brown introduced the 2005 Gambling Act, which is directly responsible for the misery caused by addictive online casino games, why wouldn’t it be?

Davies, the author of Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain, has identified a “river of cash” that has flowed from the bookmakers to Labour recently, some of it straight into the offices of Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves.

In spite of being fined £40 million for breaches of their licences in recent years, the bookmakers still found funds to make 12 significant political donations, all of which have gone to the Labour Party.

The most notable Labour placements into the betting industry in recent years are both former Gordon Brown henchmen. Tom Watson retired from politics to run a gym; he now has his feet under the table at Flutter Entertainment, who own Paddy Power, Sky Bet and Betfair.

Michael Dugher, a former spokesman for Gordon Brown in Downing Street, is now chief executive of the bookmakers’ lobbying group, the grandly named Betting and Gaming Council. He regularly mentions Stephanie Peacock, who will more likely than not be the next gambling minister, on social media.

One can imagine that Dugher’s current bookmaking paymasters are delighted that he got the introduction of a levy on foreign racing kicked into the long grass under the ineffective noses of the last Government.

Now his pals have come riding over the horizon into Downing Street, there is less chance of that happening in the next four years than Lord Lucan opening parliament on the back of Shergar.

Racing has to bear some of the responsibility for not getting a better levy deal under the last Government. It failed to reduce its cost base, most obviously by not pooling its media rights and marketing them as one. But there are other areas of duplication that the incoming Government are well briefed about – and it will now use those inefficiencies as a stick to beat racing with.

When the Labour Party looks at horse racing, it sees billionaires and toffs in top hats and trilbies. It is offended that horses change hands on occasions for millions of pounds. Even if the buyers are from overseas, its assumption is that someone is getting rich.

Labour should want to nurture the 85,000 jobs that are linked to horse racing and the soft power and influence that the sport gives the UK. But in reality, the party is chippy that ‘racing’ didn’t do more to court it in opposition. So Labour will be more interested in listening to the arguments of those who financially supported the party in the run-up to the election.

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