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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Watching the clock is an important strategy for keeping betting in control

Keep track of time when betting or losing large sums can become a blur
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When Luca Cumani first uttered his now well-worn dictum “you only worry about time when you are in jail” it was aimed at race analysts who had denigrated his star colt’s performance on the stopwatch. More than 30 years on and we inhabit a much-changed world in which it is possible to gamble 24 hours a day without ever drawing back the curtains let alone stepping out through the front door, so a maxim for every punter should be ‘do worry about time and always keep an eye on the clock’. Time multiplied by continuous staking is an equation that can result in a speedy loss of financial resources.

That is one of the reasons why last week’s Gambling Commission report on FOBTs did not concentrate wholly on maximum stakes but had among its recommendations that the gambling industry must ensure methods for the setting of time limits by players are more effective.

In a betting shop environment the suggestion is to restrict punters on certain categories of machine to account-based play, probably through loyalty card schemes. This would allow punters to track their play and to make informed choices about whether to continue. It would also mean operators have no excuse if they fail to identify players who are showing signs of problem gambling.

If you are not a regular FOBT player you may feel this sort of constraint need not apply to you and that as someone who uses the Racing Post to work out their selections you are entitled to regard yourself as a discerning punter. That may well be true but it does also mean you are in the gambler category and we all need to take a look at our betting behaviour from time to time as our financial responsibilities alter. The habits we may have adopted when young and free of commitment may no longer be appropriate.

That is why, when wagering online, all bookmakers now offer the option of setting time limits and alarm calls. They recommend you take a note of the time you start a session and keep the clock on your computer or phone enabled to make sure you aren’t spending more time gambling than you intend.

Time for a reality check

Some offer what they describe as ‘reality checks’. These are reminders which appear on screen after a set amount of time chosen by the customer and which require action to be taken before the banner is removed. If the customer decides to continue playing a game after a reality check has been acknowledged, the next time the banner is displayed the accumulative time played will be shown. So, if the reality check is set at 30 minutes and the first prompt has been acknowledged but play has continued, the second prompt will say “You have been playing for one hour” and so on.

Of course, while time spent actually gambling should not be confused with time spent looking at form or working out whether or not you should place a bet, it can of course be detrimental to your life if it is done at the expense of relationships with family and friends, or when you should be working or studying.

The importance of self-discipline was highlighted last week by the Racing Post’s betting editor Paul Kealy in his Punting Masterclass. While stating that “the more time you have to study horseracing the more likely it is you will have all bases covered when it comes to striking a bet”, he emphasised “my policy is to find the highest-class race of the day with eight or more runners and move on to the next best if I can’t find a bet”.

The key words there are “move on”, not “strike a bet anyway”. If your analysis of a race leads you to believe there is no outstanding betting opportunity then leave it alone and try another race. If no bets present themselves then just give betting a miss that day.

Kealy reminds readers he is paid to study form all day and adds: “I know most people don’t have that luxury, so the suggestion is to limit how many races you intend to bet on.”

Some questions you should ask yourself

  • How much time every week do I spend gambling?
  • Do I gamble when I should be working or studying?
  • Do I gamble rather than spend time with friends and family?
  • Do I neglect taking care of myself in order to gamble?

If your answer to any of those questions has made you reconsider the amount of time you spend gambling and you would like to change your ways then you can find help at or in Ireland at

If you are interested in this, you should read: Never too old to get in trouble nor too late to seek help


When wagering online, all bookmakers now offer the option of setting time limits and alarm calls
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