Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Placing A Bet: Balearics gaming

Persian Lancer was the horse's name. The jockey was Doug Smith, the race was the Cesarewitch. The year was 1966. It was the year when my role as betting oracle was well and truly confirmed. Persian Lancer won at 100-7. I don't recall ever getting any of the winnings, which may have been why I ceased to be a betting oracle. But I went out on a high, the disbelief that I had turned up yet another winner the subject of considerable discussion by my father, builder Sid and other mates as well as by my grandmother and her coterie of pensionable-age flutterers.

It had all started two years previously. Family friends owned horses. They went to the races. So did I. For the first and only time. Sandown Park. 1964. I would have gone through the card had Owen's Sedge not collapsed and died as it was making its run for victory in the Whitbread. From that moment on I was regularly consulted for betting oraclism. I rarely failed to deliver. God knows how. 

It would be nice to say, if only for rather romantic purposes, that my subsequent adolescence was thoroughly misspent on frittering away pocket-money. It wasn't. I had peaked early. I wasn't even a teenager when I gave up betting. It could only have gone downhill from the triumph of Persian Lancer.

I have absolutely no interest in betting and gambling. Yes, I can willingly throw away two euros a week on a Euromillions lucky dip, but that hardly counts, while I eschew the dubious attraction of the monotonous child chanters of El Gordo. My total lack of interest in betting makes it hard for me to get enthusiastic about changes to Balearics gaming regulations, but I appreciate that I am probably in the minority. Mallorcans, Spaniards are European champions when it comes to the money they're willing to part with on gambling, and not far behind them are the expats and their bets in bars, all illegal; but then it wasn't so long ago (1977) that pretty much all gambling in Spain was illegal, save for the lottery.

The Brit bar betting scene faces a threat. Under the new gaming law in the Balearics, upwards of a hundred "betting shops" are likely to be created. Placing betting shops in inverted commas is appropriate because they won't be standalone shops. They will be incorporated, for the most part, into existing gaming salons, of which there are getting on for a hundred at present. There may be others, such as at the Casino (and the second one, as and when it is finally decided where it is going to be). These "shops" will require investment of in the region of thirty to forty thousand euros in order to introduce the technology: screens and what have you.

Of course, it will all rather depend on what these "shops" will offer in terms of what can be bet on, but in theory there is no reason why some of them couldn't offer betting facilities for a market that is broader than just a Mallorcan one. In 2011, national legislation harmonised the situation on online betting and in the process not only established the requirement for .es domain names but also established betting on foreign sport as very much part of the gambling scene - the legitimate one. English Premier League football can be bet on online, so it will surely also be a feature of the "shops".

Horseracing, British Isles horseracing, is another matter. A canny operator should recognise that there is a market, but betting on the sport may be more confined to the Spanish variety, of which there isn't a huge amount and which divides into flat racing and trotting. This said, the local trotters in the Balearics are looking forward to a bit of a windfall from the new line of betting shop.

Money, and no surprise, has been at the heart of changes to legislation nationally and locally. When the Spanish Government reformed its law in 2011, foreign betting companies who came into the .es market were faced with handing over goodly amounts of back tax. That they did so with little fuss was an indication of the potential gains from what is supposed to be a gambling-mad nation.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the possibilities that the new legislation offers. Bingo companies aren't for one. They say they won't be integrating the "shops" into their halls for fear that they will take away from their core business. It might seem as they would suffer from "cannibalisation" of the existing product, but betting, as with anything else, is an exercise in good marketing. The bingo companies might benefit from being more open-minded.

Wherever these "shops" are located, I shall not be frequenting them. My betting career ended many years ago. But if you fancy a tip for the Cesarewitch, well, you never know.

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