Last weekend saw one of the biggest betting bonanzas of the year for the bookmaking industry, confirming that Britain is gambling mad. Internet and betting exchanges apart, the likes of Ladbrokes and William Hill boast more high-street bookies than any other country in the world. The Grand National contributed a large chunk of the estimated ¤350 million turnover on Saturday – the Premiership, US Masters and a host of other sports attracting additional wagers.
The British ‘sporting’ public is also not averse to staking hard-earned money on anything else, rules only preventing a flutter on situations that involve human suffering such as wars. One punter has lodged ¤135,000 with William Hill on a Labour General Election win. At odds of 1-12 he stands to win about ¤12,000 in addition to the return of his ‘investment’. The Conservatives are rated only a 7-1 chance. Virtually nothing is holy. Irish players are displaying a ‘Papal Special’ on their screens – Nigerian Francis Arinze is the joint favourite to land the late Pope John Paul II’s job alongside Italian Dionigi Tettamanzi at 11/4! In my time in the industry, I came across a stack of ante-post slips at the back of the safe in almost every shop I managed which included serious money wagered on the likelihood that Elvis is still alive and that aliens would land on earth. To my mind, both prove that extra terrestrials are already amongst us. Personally, I would rather go out for a good meal than feverishly urge on horse, hound or indeed Tony Blair.