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Safer Gambling Week 2022

Following Aidan O'Brien's advice is a sound way to conduct your betting

By John Cobb

We all listen intently to every word that falls from the lips of Aidan O’Brien, striving to decode the meaning when he talks about this or that Classic prospect, so it was a pleasure to find clear enlightenment on a very different topic when he spoke to David Jennings for an interview in the Racing Post last month.

“I don’t think having a bet is a bad thing. I think having a bet is an interest,” O’Brien ventured. “Really, what you want is for everyone to have a little bet, because that’s an interest for them and it allows them to develop an opinion outside of their own jobs. Then, when you have an opinion, you have an interest. I think it should be encouraged.

“You have to feel the adrenaline. You form an opinion, then you believe that opinion is better than everyone else’s. You get up in the morning and you look forward to finding out whether your opinion is going to be right or wrong.”

O’Brien pretty much summed up how we view discerning readers of the Racing Post, as people who have an opinion on the potential outcome of horse races, greyhound races, sporting events and even the odd political race, and have sought additional clues, advice and data in our publication before testing that opinion in the form of placing a bet.

We hope that if you have shown the perspicacity to seek our advice you will also show the same sort of judgement in keeping your betting in control, but, of course, it would be naive to think every Racing Post reader behaves like that all the time.

And, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit there are occasions when we have got carried away with our gambling and bet too much, or for too long, or when intoxicated, or in an attempt to blot out life’s problems.

And we are the sensible ones, the shrewd punters, the ones who are well informed. We all know people who have no such discernment and throw away money they can’t afford to lose, whether it is in buying scratch cards at the local corner shop or in the plushest casinos, let alone the many who while away their nights playing online games alone.

When Safer Gambling Week comes around each autumn, it would be easy to shrug and say it has nothing to do with us, that it is just the betting industry paying lip service to the oxymoronic notion of ‘safer gambling’ in order to keep the government and those who are vehemently opposed to all betting off its back.

However, it would be unwise to scorn the rash of blue and orange posters that will adorn every high-street betting shop in Britain this week as just a facade.

If nothing else, it should make each one of us think about how we bet and whether or not we really do have our gambling under control.

And, if we are smart punters who simply enjoy the intellectual challenge and understand the risks, then we should pass our wisdom on to others who might be in greater danger of thinking that the way to solve their personal cost of living crisis this winter might be in betting their way out of trouble.

This week in the Racing Post many of our most experienced tipsters will be talking about their own betting and how they have kept it in control down the years. We will also be talking to some people who have been afflicted by gambling addiction and listening to those who are in the front line of trying to help them.

O’Brien is, of course, right: having a bet can be a hugely satisfying way of vindicating our opinion, particularly if we have little opportunity to demonstrate our judgement in our day-to-day working lives.

However, the temporary solace that brings should never blind us to the realities that lay beyond.