Lifelong jackpot quest in jeopardy if government proposals are carried through
Beautiful game has turned ugly
What's the point? I mean, what's the ruddy point, guys?
Don't worry – I'm not getting all heavy on you and posing the ultimate question of life. I just want to advance discussion of your punting motives. Why do you bet? What are you hoping to achieve?
These matters have been brought into sharp focus by the government's gambling review, which was launched last week, with the headline news being a potential £100 a month losing limit.
If your answer to my question is: "Just a bit of fun, Steve, you should try it some time. No wonder you always look so miserable you funless fungus," then you're in luck – any law changes will probably not bother you. The government appears keen to make every punter the same – only low-risk 'recreational gambling' would be allowed.
If like me, though, you have always aspired to significant betting success, these restrictions would be tantamount to having your betting dreams snatched away in the middle of the night and thrown heartlessly into the English Channel.
I got on the property ladder after a spell of particularly profitable punting. I have holidayed in a few amazing locations that only came on to my radar as a result of extremely healthy gains. My daughter met the actual Mickey Mouse courtesy of some wagers which could certainly not be categorised as 'Mickey Mouse'.
Of course, betting can go frightfully wrong – I have experienced the lugubriousness of the lows as well as the headiness of the highs – and I fully understand the desires of government to stop people getting into trouble. I admit that amid the 95 per cent of me which is horrified by this possible staking restriction, there is five per cent that would look forward to the invulnerability and initial peace which would come from my war with bookmakers essentially ceasing.
The government needs to realise, though, that the problems it is trying to solve with its actions will be replaced by many others, including a termination of genuine punting ambition and the morale-sapping long-term consequences of that. It would be staggering if Conservatives – supposedly passionate about minimal state interference, free-market participation, wealth generation, etc – meddle in these acutely personal, private matters to the extent being suggested.
My ambition has been well documented in this organ over the last 20 years – and that hunger remains. The week before last, for example, Thorbjorn Olesen finished 13th in the Golf in Dubai Championship, Wilco Nienaber was 11th in the South African Open and Harris English tied fifth in the Mayakoba Classic. A few shots difference here and there, and 13th, 11th, fifth could have become first, first, first – and I would be a millionaire.
In August, I had a £100 each-way double on Sam Horsfield for the Celtic Classic and Si Woo Kim for the Wyndham Championship that would have returned £100,000 if successful. Horsfield won by two shots, then Kim led by two shots going into the final round, before finishing third. Cripes, that was a jolly interesting Sunday, but it seems a bet of that size would not be permitted if these new proposals were given the nod.
With my lifelong jackpot quest possibly nearing an end, it seems I will definitely not be able to pay off my mortgage until I am older than the hills. Maybe until I am older than William Hill, who was born in July, 1903, and would be 117 years old if still alive today. Oh well, there it is. I am going to have one heck of a party in 2095.
Boris Johnson and his merry band of followers, however well-meaning their intentions, could be sentencing me to the certainty of another 40 years in the workshed. And it's chilly in the workshed at the moment. Either the world has got colder since last December or my shed has got holier. God help me, I've got a holy shed. Gosh, I hope somebody is kind enough to buy me a four-bedroom house for Christmas.
If part of the 'new normal' everyone likes banging on about these days is that we're not going to be granted the right to bet more than the equivalent of a round of drinks a week, then the punting community are going to have to accept the scope for placing retirement-clinching wagers has become minuscule. It will still be possible, but much more difficult.
The Gambling Commission's 'call for evidence on affordability' closes on January 12 next year while the government's Gambling Act (2005) Review closes on March 31, 2021, with decisions made thereafter. If Boris and Co wish to summon me to inspect the little twinkle of hope in my punting eye which they could soon be about to eclipse forever, I am more than happy to make the trip to Westminster.
Beautiful game has turned ugly
Going to a football match is not going to be the same as it was before until it is the same as it was before. The half-measures that spectators are getting in this transitional period between a total ban and what we used to have makes for a dismal experience.
I attended Weymouth's 3-2 defeat against Dagenham & Redbridge and was close to tears by full-time. Hardly anyone was allowed in, you must stick to your viewing spot like a statue (I ended up by a corner flag without shelter and it started raining after ten minutes), and no food or drink is available. I could have murdered a half-time soup or a Bovril. In fact, I was so cold I would have been pleased had someone poured several pints of Bovril over my head.
I suppose, once spring has sprung and there is vaccine among our lungs, songs can be sung and football will once again taste good on our tongue. Or something.
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