Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year
Yet more ICE waiting for me in London next week!
AFTER one of the mildest early winters I can remember the cold snap finally arrived and with that our big day at Kelso races bit the dust.
The signs were there as a Saturday afternoon inspection was called for Sunday's event, but after passing that there was a sense of optimism for the day ahead. Hazel Peplinski, clerk of the course at both Kelso and Hamilton, stated that she was more optimistic than she had previously been having walked the track, but by 5pm on Saturday night it had already reached -3C in Selkirk, and the reality was there was no chance of racing after the mercury dipped to -7C through the night.
So all the organising that had been done, the numbers, buffet, two buses, deposits etc all had to be undone, and swiftly at that. It really brought home to me then just how frustrating it must be for racecourse managers and their staff when meetings are called off.
For myself as a betting shop manager it is a nuisance. We advertise any meetings off on our board, put it up on the walls too and spend the majority of the day telling poor punters who have spent all day studying that it's not going ahead. Yep, a nuisance, but nothing more. For guys like Richard Landale, MD at Kelso, it must be impossible. Then you have owners, trainers and jockeys who leave early finding out halfway there. I had to smile at Tom Messenger's tweet [follow him @thmessenger] which said "Nice 2 and a half hour round trip for a service station coffee, time to go back to bed".
That reminded me just how lucky I am, but back to bed was not an option for me. Nope, there were punters converging on the shop for 10am, and these guys expected to be entertained. Scotbet, Racing Post and SIS kindly chipped in subs to kick-start a kitty that was to help prompt a rip-roaring day for our local. It also led me to challenge my punters to show off just how talented they are.
We stuck togethera charity bet, and groups of our finest minds from the shop got together to pick four horses from the day's other meeting at Kempton.
Billy, who had indulged in a tipple or two already, promised a fortune as he strode confidently overthe road to the shop with our 'guaranteed' winners. I was looking forward to explaining to the bosses how a day out at the races had actually cost our shop thousands of pounds. Fast forward three hours and bleary eyed Billy felt awful as he slurred his hard luck story at the top of the bar. That's Selkirk for you, really great people, really terrible punters!
There will be a few reading this now that will be desperate to prove me wrong. Well guys and gals there will be many more opportunities for you to make the Special Care Baby Unit some much needed money in the near future, details to follow up on the board at the end of the week.
So all was not lost[other than our bets!], a great day was had by all who could make it and I've been assured by Richard at Kelso that the day will go ahead at a future meeting, with a few minor details still to be ironed out. Speaking to him you really can tell why Kelso was voted 'Britain's Friendliest Racecourse'; we do appreciate the stress you have been through. Judging by Sunday's performance, the good news is your bar profits will appreciate having us!
It proved a challenging week. I really enjoy my job and there aren't many downsides to it, but on Friday 13th I had two clients self-exclude themselves from the shop. A couple of great guys, really fun but over the past few weeks I had noticed a change in behaviour from them, particularly the second gent.
There are many different views on the current Gambling Commission legislation, but social responsibility is something I believe to be vital we get right in the shop. Around three weeks ago I approached the gentleman in question and had a private chat with him, about his attitude to gambling and whether it was something he was deriving any pleasure from. We spoke at length and he went away with a bit more knowledge about the options open to him if he felt that he needed assistance.
I have to be honest; it is an uncomfortable conversation to have with anyone. I suppose it's about the equivalent of someone who works for a big supermarket approaching an obese person and asking them if they really should be in the cake aisle. So if you are going to embark on this kind of conversation you really have to know your customer and how they are likely to react.
When the guy came back to me and told me of his decision to self-exclude I could not have been happier. The other customer who self-excluded was a friend of his and no doubt they will have talked this over before taking this mutual action. I know I will have my company's backing and I also know that these two guys will have a better quality of life now and will hopefully get help for the reasons they felt this was the correct course of action to take.
These guys did so for the right reasons, not a knee-jerk reaction to a bad day, and the relief I felt for them was mirrored by the obvious relief they too felt as we shook hands on their way out. The disappointment about losing these customers is tempered by the fact that you know what you have done is a good thing, but there is no getting away from it, it does leave a sour taste. If you are reading this guys, good luck to you and I'll see you around and see how you are getting on with things.
Good luck also to everyone else reading and especially to all those that will be making the return trip to Kelso. A group that may well now include 'Big Rog', who should have recovered from his New Year fall by then! As they say Rog, every cloud has a silver lining eh?
All the best folks
**GamCare provides support, information and advice to anyone suffering through a gambling problem