Pools And Other Rackets
There arc more rackets in the sport bt.siness than are used for playing tennis and its kindred games. Of course rackets are not sport; but then, according to Lord Ashburton's recent weighty utterance, " there are only three sports in these lands, Shooting, Fishing, and Hunting."
Ashburton may be right, but, if he is, men must this dear land of ours forgo its long-claimed title of being a sporting nation, unless it is that sportsmanship consists in doing what is not sport in a sporting way. Which brings us back to the rackets.
We have written a lot r..bout, and against, the " Football Pools " racket. So, too, have most other sports writers who are, as arc we, unembarrassed by advertisement " tie-ups." They have been exposed for the " sucker-bait " they arc. But, perhaps because " there is a sucker born every minute," perhaps because human nature is so constituted that only the exceptional man, or woman, can resist the temptation to give a little for nothing in the tiny hope of getting a lot for a little, the pools prosper and the " sucker " never stops to ask—who pays?
SINISTER .tat.FECTS Some time ago we talked about the sinister effect of the pools upon the game itself, of how the individual players are affected in the promoters' endeavour to ensure an upset of current form. We remarked how Scotland, the shrewdest portion of the realm, refuses to allow them to operate, except in a receiving capacity, within its confines.
The speculator's chances in a pool are more remote, and far more mysterious, than his chances in the Irish Sweep. He has a better chance of a return on the rankest outsider in the biggest field in any race than he has in a pool. The Stock Exchange to a tyro is like the Post Office Savings Bank compared with pools for security. And still they prosper.
No pool has ever made a complete declaration certified by a competent and disinterested authority of the amount deducted for expenses. The genuine expenses are obviously enormous; they flaunt them in elaborate advertisement " stills" and motion pictures of palatial headquarters and enormous staffs. They disorganise the postal arrangements as much as does the Christmas trade. What the salaries of the big men behind the pools amount to can only be conjectured from circumstantial evidence. Nobody ever lives cheaply on sucker money. The social consequences of the pools are deplorable and brought out daily in the police court stories in the newspapers.
The pools are a racket based upon the knowledge that " the fool and his money are soon parted." It is a mug's game and when you hear yourself saying, " I like a little flutter once in a while; somebody's got to win and, after all, you never know . . .," look in the glass and meet the mug.
THE " JOB " RACKET
Our second racket puts the boot on the other foot. It is a public racket on the vested interests. It tries, and sometimes it manages, to take a rise out of the racketeers. It is the telegram betting " job."
A reputable bookmaker will accept telegraphed bets on the evidence of the time stamped on the telegram irrespective of when it reaches his office. He pays out on such bets at starting-price.
" s fixed by the amount of money invested upon a particular horse up to the time of closing the book on the course.
In post-offices with small telegraphic staffs all telegrams handed in at the same time are stamped for that time, though, obviously, those at the bottom of the
...-st,nrit hr. rlicenotrhpri until cevPral
3 o'clock race, but must be too late to affect the starting-price.
Incidentally, if the batch is big enough, it is possible to learn the result of the race before the last wires in it are sent off. Sub-postmasters in sub-stations are often kindly obliging folk. They have been sometimes persuaded to return the wires unsent. The less said about that the better since we are writing about sport.
There is an effort on foot to stop the " job." The majority of the bookies are not in favour of stopping it. They say it would injure their business. They can afford to be " put on a spot." As yet there is no fund or flag-day for the relief of indigent bookmakers.
TICKET SPECULATION RACKET Our third, and for the present last, racket is the Ticket Speculation. You will be seeing it before the Petersen-Harvey fight despite herculean efforts on the part of the management and the promoters to prevent it.
It is the simplest of them all. Speculators buy up whole batches of tickets at the
advertised prices and, when the "sold out" notices go up, they are willing to sell them at a profit. They advertise them in the press, suckers even advertise for them, they tout them in the streets, hotel lobbies and restaurants. You can get into any sporting event if willing, and foolish enough, to pay for it.
The authorities in charge of such events are commendably eager and energetic in their efforts to stop this racket. They do everything they can apart from selling all tickets at the entrance. The abolition of all advance booking would stop it automatically, but it would cause so much inconvenience that it, would impair the success of the event.
If the public would refuse to pay more than the face value of the ticket the racket would die; but there are always mugs with money. If would-be patrons would buy tickets only from the proper authority the batch-holders would be forced to return their surplus or stand the loss. Too Many would-be patrons think they are being clever in playing up to a racket. " Leave it to me, 1 can always get a ticket!"
Rackets live only and entirely upon fools and cowards. If you are paying your money you can take your choice. It is not too late, however, to save both your money and your face.
None of these rackets would come within Lord Ashburton's idea of sport. Maybe you would exclude them, too. But would the public? Could you find a betting man, a pool gambler, or a ticket speculator who would not call himself, and be called by his fellows, a sportsman? So now what?