Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Racing can take pride in sorting out its own house
Mind-blowing . . . absolutely mind-blowing.
It's taken me about 15 minutes to think of an appropriate first line to start this blog, but that is the exactly the way the Scotbet Selkirk entire team and guests felt after our amazing trip to Ascot on Friday.
Now, I'm not going to lie, there were teething issues. Our Area Manager Isabelle Kelly started the journey South at 10pm on Thursday evening, just as I was finishing my 12 hour shift. The weather forecast was not fantastic for Ascot or Selkirk, but as I walked home all was well. We were all conscious of the fact that the corresponding fixture at Ascot had been abandoned for the past two years, and with an eight hour journey to come it would be easy to feel apprehensive, and then the snow started to fall just after midnight!
So when the mini-bus arrived we all boarded as quickly as we could and set off. Road conditions were horrendous and huge thanks have to go to our top notch drivers- as well as top notch punters - Brian 'Bones' Hunter and Struan Jack. Without them there is no way we would have made it.
Talk of not making it brings me on to the tickets, which didn't make it! My excuse that they were too valuable to risk in the weather conditions didn't wash, so I had to hold my hands up and admit I had forgotten them. As I said, teething problems.
A film of the trip would show superb banter and the journey flew by. There was too much excitement for sleep and everyone was in top form, so much so that during one of Jill 'Goldilocks' Gavin's legendary stories Colin laughed that hard that his false teeth came flying out his mouth.
And those type of giggles continued right up until we arrived at the fabulous new Ascot stand. It's not easy to laugh when your breath has been taken away, and that fantastic structure certainly does that. But even that was not as impressive as the welcome we got from all at Ascot and especially our hosts. Heartfelt thanks from all our team goes out to Helen Scott, Gill Heaney, Nigel Boardman, Charlotte Bracken, Jim Cremin and Mystery Shopper Number 1 ‘Charlie’. You couldn't ask to spend time in better company, and as the afternoon went on and drink flowed [Eleanor claimed tiredness] everyone got on famously. I promised Gordon I would mention him as the afternoon’s champion tipster as well. He had such a lucky afternoon, his one and only losing slip went into the raffle and was the ‘unlucky slip’that won the champers. I hope he has checked his lottery numbers! He is putting his success down to the fact it is the first time he has wore his late Uncle’s [also a massive racing enthusiast], ring to racing.
Gordon reallyis a bit of an unsung hero within the company, working in Scotbet's telebetting office but also being the unofficial IT guy. It doesn't matter what the problem is he always seems to find a way to fix it, and with cheery manner to boot.
We all loved our day and the Christmas party that followed so there were a few bleary eyes as we set off back to Scotland the following morning. That is not to say the bus journey back wasn't as lively. In fact if anything it was probably even more comical, but come half past 2 Saturday afternoon everything stopped and we all huddled round to listen to Big Bucks record win number 14 on the spin and go within two of legendary status. He really is a superstar horse.
Tradition is great, but new innovations are also exciting and this year has been good, with the inaugural Champions Day and this Friday afternoon sees the new Bags Track Championship come to a conclusion with the Grand Final at Monmore. Racing is having to compete with a wider range of betting opportunities than ever before, from all year round sports, in-running betting and of course Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. (FOBTs).
Between horse races the greyhounds were always a popular choice, but for a few years now that popularity appeared to be waning. The Bags/SIS 500 series kick started something of a revival, and certainly in my shop the Track Championship has taken that onto another level.
I think that extra competitive edge, with teams involved, has captured people’s imagination, but it has to be said that the coverage in the Racing Post has been exceptional. SIS has also done a fantastic job promoting the events, and the trackside interviews provide punters with insight into what is going on.
What we now have is a better product for punters, better incentives for connections and that all adds up to a better service that betting shop staff are able to provide.
In recent years FOBTs have been the choice most customers have made in-between racing, and from a personal point of view it's great to see the dogs battling back, long may that continue.
We have a busy festive period coming up, and it may not be very original but I really hope that Kauto Star can do the business on Boxing Day. It would be a fairytale end to a year that seems to be filled by horror stories connected to racing.
From whip bans to corruption everything we read seems to be all about the negatives. But in signing off for the holiday period I'd like to just point a couple of things out. Racing took it upon itself to review the use of the whip in the sport, and while we may not all agree on the implementation of these new rules, or even the rules themselves, in a changing social climate as to what is acceptable it was our sport’s governing bodies that got together to make these changes.
With regard to the recent action taken against corruption in racing, it should be remembered that once again it was authorities that investigated, and took decisive action against those involved, with over 66 years worth of bans handed out.
Now, obviously corruption in the sport is a bad thing, but let’s all try to remember that there is not some tabloid rag taking the credit for a sting. This has been internally investigated, in a proper manner, and racing should be proud that it is policing itself rather than relying on some ‘News of the World’ type spur to clean up its sport.
There are a few other sports that should perhaps be taking a lead from our core betting shop product, and that is something all involved in racing can be proud of.
So, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy (and profitable) New Year, and I look forward to updating you in the new year how things are going in the shop, and also preview what promises to be a fantastic Scotbet day out at Kelso Racecourse in mid-January.
All the best folks.