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Weblog: Betting Shop Manager of the Year

After a real grilling stand by for my '4thoughts'

A hectic few weeks of late, with staffing issues at work it’s been a case of all hands on deck. Six and even seven day weeks has been a regular occurrence in the district with everyone dropping like flies with one illness or another, but it’s amazing how people pull together  so a big thank you to all those who have been helping out, especially on district 83.

My Channel 4 debut finally came to fruition but not on the  Morning Line, I was asked to do an interview for 4thoughtTV, the theme for my particular week was about gambling.

I arrived at the studios near Tottenham Court Road at 9am, half hour early, I was met by a young Irish lady who took me to the waiting room and made me a cup of tea. I had seen the programme before it is shown on Channel 4 just after the evening news; it is a two minute clip with random individuals basically answering questions on whether they are for or against a particular subject. Obviously the subject I had been asked to comment on was gambling.

I was met by the producer who led me into the studio which was a room which had been painted white and shaped like a cube, in the middle of the room was a bright orange chair, I was asked to take a seat and they ran through the pro forma of the next hour.

The producer Eamon then sat on a sofa behind the cameras, his face appeared on the screen in front of me and the studio light was then switched on, it was pretty scary actually, the few interviews I had had, were a lot more casual and relaxed, this was totally different, I did feel a little bit out of my comfort zone, with the light pointing directly at my face it felt like an interrogation the words “Ve ave vays of making you talk” kept buzzing around in my head, I took a deep breath and tried to relax.

Eamon then eased me into the first question, I think he could see I was pretty nervous, “How did you get into the betting industry”, and I went onto tell them how it all started. How I was brought up in a family where going racing was a family day out, yes we had a bet on the horse, especially the Grand National, but it was a family tradition not the signs of a family of addicts. 

A lot of the questions did steer towards problem gambling and I answered as best I could, telling him that betting is a form of entertainment, retail outlets are the most highly regulated and social responsible parts of the industry, and in the local betting shops we have more chances of policing potential problem gamblers in shop then we do with other areas of the business. We have practices in place if we spot any one showing signs of problems gambling and we will do a staff led interaction, which is approaching a customer and offering a leaflet from Gamcare or ask them to think about self-exclusion.

They will always be addicts in the world, if you took away every betting shop in the country they will find somewhere or something else, the onus has to be on the individual to seek help if the think they have a problem, but we will help them as much as we can.

After an hour of interrogation, I had to do a take of introducing myself, who I was what I did and why I believed gambling was not immoral. It took me at least five  imes, you try saying “My name is Barbara Berki Britain’s Best Bookie” under hot spotlights,  too many Bs for my liking and a bit of a tongue twister, he wouldn’t let me say Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year so no points for advertising . . . sorry Mr Cremin.

I was a little tense after leaving the studios but amazed at what my title has led me to do. Not sure when it will be aired, good old Maggie had to take my limelight (bless her) . . . so possibly next week. Hope I did the industry justice. The retail betting shops get far too much bad press more so then the bingo halls and casinos yet, at the end of the day we all deliver the same product. Entertainment.

As well as a Channel 4 interview, I got an invite to the House of Commons for high tea with Philip Davies MP along with a couple of other colleagues, one of these is a friend of his, for me this was another fantastic opportunity. The building was amazing; you enter the building on one side of the river and you walk underneath a long corridors and end up over the other side of the building, very cloak and dagger, but a fantastic experience.

I didn’t dare mention to Phil (Conservative) I use to be a young socialist and participated in a few demo marches, to be perfectly honest it wasn’t the politics that I was interested in . . . it was a boozy weekend away in London with my friends. I was only 18yrs at the time, so it had to be done.

Martin, my former deputy, had a great opening day in Hemel Hempstead last week, Sharon and I travelled over early to help him promote his new shop. We both dressed up in our jockey and horse outfits and trailed the high street handing out leaflets to help him establish his new shop.

Derek Thompson was our special guest and as usual he was fantastic with the customers, we managed to get a good crowd in and gave away lots of free bets and goodies. It was a successful day and he is doing well which is great to hear, he has his work cut out as there is a lot of competition so Martin and his team must deliver outstanding customer service to make the shop a success which I am sure they will!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better The Nursery Parade team have been nominated regional winners for delivering outstanding service which means we go to the finals at the end of May. I was also nominated for ‘Most Inspirational Colleague’ in Retail and have reached the final. The finals will be held in Brighton and it is a red carpet affair so all our hard work has paid off. It is great to see William Hill recognise so many people from all over the business and all over the world so really looking forward to that. Thank you to all involved.

But before that I have got my trip to Singapore with SIS/Racing Post. This year so far has been absolutely unbelievable, three weeks today myself and my partner Dan will be flying to Singapore (YES . . . YIPPEE) so if anyone out there is given the opportunity to enter this year’s competition please do not hesitate to do so, this could be you this time next year.

Happy Days
Babs x