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The SP Bookmaker
The term SP Bookmaker stands for Starting Price Basics which generally refers to taking bets with fixed odds or starting price.
This type of gambling was legal in Australia only for licensed bookmakers working on racetrack courses. In the 1930s with the radio and telephone in full swing, the races could be heard without going to the track. Many people liked to gamble on horse racing, but often couldn’t get to the track to bet.
The Melbourne Cup was popular with Australian punters and everyone wanted to make a small bet.
That being the case, it made it very difficult for most people to place a bet if they couldn’t get to the track.
Illegal bookmaker PS, it can be anyone. It can be a small timer operator run by a single person who takes minimum bets from one or two friends including neighbors, family members, co-workers etc.
Runners as they were known, who went around the neighborhood collecting bets from customers in their homes, the local hotel, back streets and so on. Cockies short for Cockatoos who would be placed in high vantage points and other vantage points to warn runners and bookbinders of approaching law enforcement.
Then there was the large-scale PS Bookmaking based phone call that involved people answering the phones all day taking thousands of bets worth thousands and thousands of dollars in just one day.
Of course this was all illegal, but the authorities were slow to act and did not realize the amount of money that was being generated by this activity in the racing industry. In fact, the police often turned a blind eye to this as it seemed innocuous and was actually the SP’s bookbinder providing a service to the public.
Finally, the government finally caught on and realized that something profitable was going on in this part of the racing industry. They also realized that it was not creating any tax and therefore a Royal Commission was set up in 1959.
In 1961, due to the Royal Commission, an off-course Totalizator Agency Board was introduced.
This has now resulted in some of the money being placed on race betting being returned to the racing industry. Players could now place bets without fear of the law.
Over time TAB Agencies were popping up everywhere, hotels, clubs, shopping malls and so on.
The racecourse bookmaker was still short. In Australia, legalized bookbinders were unable to operate out of course shops similar to other countries in the world. So most bookies were allowed to take bets from people at the track until the 1990s.
The death of the SP bookbinder and the final nail in their coffin is near.
Corporate bookmakers were then able to offer another alternative to the punter thanks to the new legislation. The Northern Territory Government can now issue Licenses offering telephone and online gambling to Bookmakers. Online bookmakers are now legal and can be placed with them by customers in Australia and overseas on all Australian sporting competitions and events in almost any medium.
With all this new legislation and control from Australian governments, SP slowly died out. They are no more.
To place a bet now, you can use your mobile phone to call your local legal Bookmaker at the track or their office if you wish to have a credit account with them. You can place a bet over the internet with one of the many online bookmakers, go to the local pub and use the TAB, place a bet using the TV remote while watching the race or do something else, go to racecourse and place a bet with a regular bookie.
Who’s going to die next, I hope it’s not the usual bookbinder.
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