Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
BOS Trade Fair flies the flag for independents
The BOS Trade Fair, at Wolverhampton racecourse on Thursday, proved a big hit with visitors and exhibitors alike. Unlike the ICE Totally Gaming event held at its new Excel home next February, it doesn't come with glitz and showbiz glamour, but what it does have is an abundance of stalls and information that are all relevant to the everyday running of a betting shop. I really enjoyed the event.
It has been great to catch up with lots of familiar faces and meet new contacts also. The place has been buzzing with activity, a massive event for independent bookmakers. There had been lots of uncertainty in our side of the industry with the news that one of the major data providers, OpenBet Retail, were to cease providing their service to independents, in essence leaving many in limbo as to how information would be transmitted to each shops screens and tills. For those who don't know exactly what happens when a bet in struck I'll explain now and try to demonstrate just what upheaval this would cause. In almost all betting shops when you take your slip to the counter they process your bet and you receive a copy of your slip.
That is where the process ends for the punter until, hopefully, it is time to come and collect your winnings. It is just the start of the process for staff in the shop though. All the races and runners are fed into the till by companies like OpenBet so once you have given the customer a copy of their bet you must then tell the till exactly what their bet is by typing all that information in. You must enter in the correct bet type, what the unit and total stakes are and crucially the correct selection that the customer has pinned their hopes on. The results are then fed into the system and the bet is settled as a winner or loser. The data that goes into the tills is also replicated on the screens so the information in the tills matches exactly what is on the screens at any given time.
You can imagine the carnage if there were no prices on the screens and no shows or results available so this week's confirmation of a u-turn from OpenBet has been well received in most, if not all quarters. Some companies have already started looking elsewhere and being here you can see the huge amount of competition that has emerged to OpenBet.
Certainly my company, Scotbet, are delighted with OpenBet's decision to carry on and have confirmed that we will start replacing all our current equipment with state of the art technology, starting as early as next week. This will make a massive difference to our punters who have remained loyal despite seeing the big companies forging ahead with their updated equipment.
The fact that we still had carbon copies for football coupons was a major point of concern with our chairman John Heaton and it is something he has been looking to correct for a long time. With the uncertainty over data supplier this has taken longer that he has wished but having spoken to him at the Trade Fair I know he is delighted with developments on this front as well as the progress being made on the internet and casino sides of the business - customers will be seeing the benefit in the near future, the plan being for all our estate to be updated before Christmas.
It's hard to stay neutral being here and seeing all the things that will affect me but that is enough on how the BOS Trade Fair will impact on Scotbet.
There are representatives from all the big players from the independent scene here and the stops have been pulled out from the exhibitors to attract their attention. Times are tough just now, especially if you are not one of the 'big four', but it is massively encouraging to see that there are still people looking to progress and provide a service that is fitting of a modern day betting shop.
There was representation from Samvo, led by Dave Webb and although they have only two betting cafes (he keeps correcting me that they are not shops!) they have made a big splash with their plans for expansion. They may still have some way to go before they are matching the stunts of Paddy Power (cracking Ryder Cup messages in the sky promotion), but they are certainly a company that is thinking outside the box and their stall was busy all day.
The Racing Post have again had their touch screen technology on show and I really like what they have to offer, it would be amazing to get one or two for the shop. Hopefully that is something that you will find in a shop near you, it looks brilliant for both punters and staff alike.
GamCare had a stall, which was also busy. I spent some time chatting to Teresa Tunstall, Head of Development and Training with the charity, and the information was both informative and helpful. They do a magnificent job and she went on to explain about the support they offer, how self-exclusion helps people but how it is only the first step on the path for those who do lose control of what is a fun form of entertainment to most.
Again, SIS pulled out all the stops and their stand looked superb - they got my award (a bottle of The Macallan for Charlotte Bracken) as pick of the show. They had lots of people on hand to deal with enquires and they could not make you feel more welcome. Having relocated their main service to Media City in Salford you may of expected some disruption but other than a glitch with an afternoon 49's draw the process has been seamless, and they continue to provide the most expansive service to betting shops on the market.
TurfTV also had a stand and GTech kindly supplied free coffee, tea, muffins and pastries to the assembled visitors which went down well with everyone.
All in all this has been a brilliant event to see and I feel lucky, in my position as a betting shop manager, to see how these things pass off. The organisers, BOS, had reporters Chris and Mary Pitt in attendance and both were delighted by the turnout and enthusiasm shown for the event. It was nice to meet publisher Lesley Sharman as well as catch up with Cowdenbeath fan Chris, who described it as the Betting Show coming back to its roots. They have done a magnificent job here as well as with the BOS Magazine and the show continues to go from strength to strength.
Hopefully the drive back home will be a little easier than it was getting here, the rain and spray on the M6 was horrendous and traffic was horrible. You need to tip your hat to the jockeys that put themselves through it almost every day of the year.
I'll be back at work for the weekend and I'm really looking forward to the Arc on Sunday. It was such a shame to hear that Danedream could not try and defend the crown for Germany, a year worth of planning dashed by a rare equine infection.
The surprise news of the week was not that Camelot would be taking part, but that Frankie Dettori would be the jockey. Joseph O'Brien takes the ride on St. Nicholas Abbey and after the debate surrounding O'Brien's Ladbrokes St. Leger ride the conspiracy theorists will be disappointed to learn that it was an issue over riding at the correct weight rather than being dumped by his Dad that let to the change of riders! The Arc may not be on terrestrial TV this year but it will be available at your local betting shop, so get yourself down. It should be a cracker.