To most that read Len Thompson’s excellent book, they will empathise with the phrase of – ‘Taking the Bookies to the Cleaners’.
Len’s perspective comes from an era where gambling was; illegal, cash only, with limited security, but most important of all – widely loved by the working classes, as both social entertainment and a potential means of getting a big win from a small outlay.
It was that love for gambling that eventually saw it legalised; not because the government of the day wanted to please the masses, but as a means to raise tax revenues.
Having worked at Director level for Ladbrokes, the British and Dutch Totes and an Asian On-line Gaming Company, my perspective of the skulduggery Len describes, is one of ‘a bookmaker on the inside looking out’ – trying to do all one can to stop it happening. Whilst Len’s perspective outlines the exploits of sharp men with sharp minds, doing all they could ‘to part the bookmaker from his money’.
The 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s were days of great hardship where gambling was one of the few social outlets, which provided the masses with; a daily dose hope and entertainment. The backdrop of an industrial Chesterfield, with its ‘Twisted Spire’ overlooking a grey town, clouded in the smoke from coal fires, is a fitting scene to the gritty realism of the day.
Len’s book brings that era to life as he takes us through; his Mam’s ‘pin sticking’ highlights, his Dad’s development of a manual database of handicapping and timings and his neighbours ‘creativity’ in parting bookmakers and unsuspecting moneymen from their wealth.
The length’s that those on ‘the outside looking in’ go to and those ‘on the inside looking out’ trying to thwart them, was and still is an ongoing battle of wits. Where olden day bookmakers had to resort to the likes of ‘clock bags’ and being wary of strangers, whilst modern gaming operations have departments called ‘Fraud’, which exist solely to track; on- line money deposits, free bet abuse, collusion on poker tables and the like.
What is remarkable about Len’s look back at an era, which was more than a half-century ago, is that whilst the technology has changed beyond recognition to make everything ‘slicker and faster’, the same sharp people with the same sharp minds continue to ‘pit their wits’ against the bookies of today.
And long may it reign.