Name: George Moakes
Roles: Advisor at independent operator Roar! Betting
How did you get into betting?
I left school at 16 and chose Brookes the Bookmakers rather than Barclays Bank. My older brother worked in the City for Sun Life Insurance and only stayed as long as he did to play for their football team. In 1962 he left the boredom of assessing insurance claims to work in the new world of High Street betting shops.
When did you decide you wanted to be in the industry?
Having been made aware of the exciting world of bookmaking through my brother’s experiences I applied to the local bookmakers and was offered a job that paid 50 per cent more than the banks were paying their new recruits. It was easy to choose this career.
How did you start out?
Being just 16 I was not allowed to work in a shop and was trained as a credit room settler. I progressed to become the racing manager at 21. Alf Brookes sold to City Tote and I left to join Don Bruce who had just one shop and a long established credit business. These days I am the advisor to Dominic Ford, CEO of Roar Betting. I advise on new sites, recruit and train new staff, promote the business, ensure service and facility standards remain high and oversee policy changes.
Who have been the key influences on you?
I worked with Don Bruce for 37 years. I arrived in my new company as a 21 year old and convinced that I knew it all. I soon realised that this third generation of bookmakers were the real deal. Don and his father Doug were a fountain of knowledge gained through decades of on-course and credit betting. They were real gentlemen bookmakers who took a view and paid out winners with good grace. Don Bruce became the BOLA chairman, a position he held for ten-plus years.He was also a teacher at The London School of Economics and my own personal tutor in philosophy and business. From 1995 to 2005 I ran the company with his son, Jamie.
What makes Roar! Betting different to the rest?
Roar! Betting is different to the rest of the High Street because we have retained the traditional bookmaking skills. By employing mature, experienced managers with vast experience we can train the younger members of staff in bookmaking skills. They know when to lay and when not to, they can settle the punters’ bets and explain to the customer how and why, and they learn to take a genuine interest in their customers and will serve with a smile, win or lose.
Do you have any tips for those setting out in the industry now?
Any new employee will know within three days if a career in retail betting is for them. If it is not they need to move on and find a career that suits them better. If it is, they need to learn how to serve with a smile, care about how they can make their customers’ experience better, work hard and learn all aspects of sport and betting. Learn how to avoid conflict and argument; turn a grumpy punter into a good guy who appreciates a chat over a coffee. To progress you must know more about the subject than your customer and be able to explain it.
Finally, do you have any amusing tales from your time in the industry?
One winter, many years ago, a regular called Snowy (in his 80s) arrived from the pub next door and proceeded to have his bets. I heard a cry from my cashier and on looking up from my pile of bets I saw Snowy hanging by his crooked arm over the bandit screen.
On closer inspection, Snowy appeared to have stopped breathing. As the manager, I delegated the two cashiers to un-hook Snowy and lay him on the shop floor. One protested: “I’ve never seen a dead person before and you want me to touch him?” I said: “Get on with it, I’m phoning for an ambulance.”
The cashier, not wanting any more contact with the dead, locked himself in the toilet. Suddenly, two paramedics burst through the shop doors. As they prepared to try and restart Snowy’s heart, the supposed dead body stirred and an eye opened.
As the paramedics wheeled him out of the shop past the results board, he weakly said: “I was going to back that winner!” Very fortunately, Snowy was only suffering from a mild case of hypothermia, made a full recovery and was soon back in the shop!