1.2 The betting shop.

What do you think people do in a betting shop? What will the inside of one of these places be like? How common do you think they are in Britain? Where else is gambling legal? What type of people do you think go to such establishments?

Betting shops (or betting offices, turf accountants, the bookmaker’s, bookies etc) are much more common than most foreign students think. You can find one in almost every high street or shopping centre. The reason that most foreigners don’t notice them is because they seldom write the words betting or gambling outside, for reasons of image more than anything else. In fact, most betting shops have their windows completely covered over, so that it is almost impossible to tell what happens inside. Modern betting offices are fairly respectable in appearance, at least from the outside. Neither are they synonymous with crime, the Mafia and corruption, as many foreigners think. On the contrary, as organisations, they are respectable, legal and well regulated businesses. As to the question about the type of people that you will find in these places, it’s worth mentioning that most betting offices are found in poorer or working class areas. The majority of the clientele are male, but apart from that, you will find a very colourful assortment of people inside. You should be warned; it gets a bit wild in there sometimes. People don’t always enjoy losing all their money, especially when the wife is waiting at home with the children to feed. Expect noise, and expect to improve your vocabulary with words that you won’t find in the dictionary.


The most famous betting offices are nationwide chains called ‘Ladbrokes’, ‘Coral’, and ‘William Hill’. These make most of their money on sports betting, the most popular being horse racing, greyhound racing, football, boxing etc. This is not all. A popular bet is if it will snow on Christmas day! Several of the bigger betting offices say they accept bets on anything at all. You can make a bet on whether they will discover life in outer space, or the sex of the next royal baby. A large amount of betting is done online, so for your homework, get on the Internet and put some of that new vocabulary into practice. Zak Washington, will, of course, expect the usual ten percent commission.