Racecourse Bookmaker, David Brewer, shares his experience of the lockdown and his thoughts on how it might impact the bookmaking game long term.
COVID-19 has certainly changed the world as we know it, at least for the time being. So, what is a bookie to do in lockdown? No racing, no football, no cricket; no live events from the equestrian, rugby, or athletics fields of sport. For the moment, the whole sporting world has ground to an abrupt halt.
For me, it feels a bit like Groundhog Day. I’ve no form to study; no opinion to formulate about the tracks and the racing that I would usually be attending at this time of year. Every day, I’m waddling around like a duck without a pond to play in!
I suppose the saving grace in all this is that no one is going through it alone – we’re all in the same boat, together. And maybe that’s what it’s all about. Maybe it is time for us all to look in the mirror and really think about the way that we spend our time, for work and for leisure (although leisure time is becoming increasingly rare!). Maybe we are supposed to be pressing the reset button…
I’ve been trying to make the most out of an unfortunate situation by taking some (albeit forced) time out. Discussing, planning, and preparing food has become a new obsession for me. Whereas my racing-oriented summer lifestyle is usually sustained by a quick breakfast on-the-go, skipped lunches and rushed evening meals in or out of the house, I’m now having (and enjoying) the recommended three meals per day. On a practical front, I’m staying fit by cycling 15 miles every morning, replacing my normal routine of driving one mile to the newsagent to pick up my Racing Post.
All the small jobs around the house have been, or are getting, done. The garden has never looked so good! Teddy, my miniature dachshund, is now pretty much the centre of my attention at all times. The poor dog is so tired of going for a walk in the woods that he’s started hiding from me whenever I call his name!
I have to say, Netflix has also been a bit of a saviour! I’ve never watched so many boxsets in my life (I’m particularly enjoying ‘Drive to Survive’ at the moment – well worth a watch!). Overall, I’m managing to find plenty of things to keep me entertained, replacing what would have been a busy racing season at York, Chester, Doncaster, and the other northern racetracks I stand at.
So, what of the future for our sport? Racing behind closed doors. Three centralised courses racing a week at a time, perhaps? Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Newcastle helping to create the minimum movement of people and horses? Who knows?
I’ve been asked, ‘when crowds are allowed back on the tracks, will the bookmaking game have changed?’. I wish I knew the answer! When I think about it, there are two trains of thought at the moment. On one hand, it may be that everyone is searching for a bit of a release when lockdown has been lifted, and racing/gambling may be that release for them. On the other hand, I’m very aware that people’s habits will have changed during lockdown, and a day out at the races may not be a part of the new world. Either way, the bookmaking game will be changed dramatically, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to predicting which way this will swing. I wish I knew!
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have some answers soon. When I’m not involved with races, I like to travel, and regularly visit my daughter who lives out in Australia. Who knows when we will all be able to visit our favourite foreign lands again? I’m waiting for the news with bated breath, as I imagine many are. For now, I hope everyone is staying safe. Hopefully I’ll see some of you at a northern racecourse sometime soon – come and say hello if you spot me!